DACA Creates Bottleneck for Immediate Relative Green Card Applications

When President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the summer of 2012, many supported it on the grounds of fairness: it didn’t seem right to deport undocumented immigrants who came here as children, through no fault of their own – especially if this meant sending someone back to a country they barely knew. The program was designed as a stopgap measure, in the expectation that Congress would soon provide a pathway to citizenship for these and other undocumented immigrants. The aim was to provide, if not citizenship, at least a stable immigration status: work authorization and a two-year deferral of removal proceedings.

According to a recent New York Times article, implementation of DACA has created unintended problems of its own – problems of fairness: a crush of DACA applications has left fewer USCIS personnel to handle green card requests for spouses and immediate relatives of American citizens, which – predictably – has created significant delays. In the wake of DACA, the Times reports, wait times for these green cards have stretched to as many as fifteen months, three times longer than usual. [See Program Benefiting Some Immigrants Extends Visa Wait for Others, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 08.Feb.2014.]

The sheer volume of DACA applications is staggering: as of early February, the Times reports, “521,815 youths had received deferrals, with the agency handling more than 2,000 applications a day.” Though this surely is a hardship for the USCIS employees who are scrambling to close the gap, it’s immeasurably worse for families forced to endure long periods of separation while they await their turn in the immigration line – a fact made clear by the many personal stories recounted in the Times article.

USCIS officials told the Times that they hoped to have wait times back down to five months for immediate relative green card applicants, though not until the summer, at the earliest. We will keep our readers posted as the situation unfolds.

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