On January 23, 2023, Washington D.C. immigrants filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The parties are looking for accountability from the government over the increased and unreasonable delays in processing unlawful presence waivers – a reality that has left many immigrants seeking lawful permanent resident status stuck in a tangle of red tape.
Bureaucratic delays have real-world consequences
An unlawful presence waiver makes it possible for immigrants who may have overstayed their visas or entered the U.S. unlawfully to remain in the country while their green card application is processed. Most applicants are the spouses of U.S. citizens or immigrants with lawful permanent residency and have built lives and families in this country.
Unfortunately, processing times have been escalating, resulting in years-long struggles and trauma for many. As Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) explains, “As of this month, USCIS is taking more than 31 months to process these applications, up from 4.5 months in FY18. AILA is actively involved in this lawsuit, stands with these families, and amplifies their call for immediate action.”
The devastating truth is that these unconscionable delays have real-world consequences for these individuals and their families. Kate Melloy Goettel, Legal Director of Litigation at the American Immigration Council said, “As processing times climb month after month, applicants are trapped in bureaucratic limbo. Our plaintiffs are unable to move forward with many areas of their lives—from employment and healthcare to family unity.”
For the plaintiffs and their families, the fight goes on for accountability and a restoration of reasonable waiting periods for unlawful presence waivers. On a more far-reaching level, it’s indicative of the need for changes to our immigration processes and justice for the humans involved.