Would Legalization Backlogs Delay Other USCIS Applications? Probably

By David North on April 7, 2010

An interesting question has arisen as a result of a congressional hearing: would a massive legalization program, as many advocates want, slow the processing of applications filed routinely by citizens and legal aliens wanting immigration benefits?

The numbers are daunting. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently faces six million applications a year according to one news story. The estimates of the number of illegal aliens in the nation runs to 11 or 12 million.

Could USCIS handle both these multi-million caseloads with its current paper-based systems? There are many complaints that the backlogs are currently too long on the normal collection of six million cases a year.

The government's expert on such things, Frank W. Deffer, Assistant Inspector General for Information Technology in the Department of Homeland Security, told a congressional committee on March 23: "adding 12 million more people to the system would be the mother of all backlogs. Clearly to us the systems could not handle it now."

His testimony was before the immigration subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary (formally, it's the "Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law").

Deffer said that the needed electronic systems would not be ready for a few years; he spoke in detail of what USCIS is doing, what it has accomplished, and what it has not accomplished in this field.

On the other hand the new director of USCIS, Alejandro Mayorkas, told reporter Stephen Dinan after the hearing that "We will be ready for comprehensive reform when it is enacted."

"He said his confidence stemmed in part from the agency's ability to respond to the earthquake in Haiti," the article continued, citing USCIS's handling of 1,000 Haitian arriving orphans and some 33,000 applications for temporary legal status for Haitians who were illegally in the U.S. at the time of the earthquake.

How the prompt handling of documents dealing with 34,000 people related to the challenge of dealing with 12,000,000 people was not discussed.

Nor was the inherent conflict between handling the millions of applications filed annually by legal residents, on one hand, and the pressure to process as many as 12 million additional applications from illegal aliens, on the other. That appears to be one immigration issue that the open borders advocates do not want to debate.