Visa appointment wait times  

How long the wait to get an interview. As of June 2022

India: tourist 291 days, student 43 days

Kenya: tourist, 664 days, student 405 days

Indonesia: tourist 50 days, student 4 days

Saudi Arabia: tourist 133 days, student 43 days

South Africa: tourist 238, student 29

Thailand: tourist 180, student 21

Uruguay: tourist 604, student 165

Venezuela: office closed

From here.

Humanitarian parole for Ukraine refugees

Per the Niskanen Center, the Biden administration implemented today (4/21/22) United For Ukraine, an innovative approach to rapid refugee intake – authorizing households to directly accept Ukrainian refugees, bypassing the conventional channel of central intake and then assignment to one of the many resettlement organizations in the United States. In effect it is a private sponsor-based program, though it might not be formally stated as such.

This is a potentially explosive change in refugee acceptance. Enormous pressure will be put on Washington to expand a privatized refugee system to many comers. For instance, there are today in the United States about 5,000 Banyamulenges from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These people are under threat of genocide. We can expect that many of these people here will privately sponsor their relatives and others for refugee status.

This scenario can apply to any population experiencing refugee characteristics and linked to a population in the United States ready to sponsor. A refugee is one who has suffered “persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Go here for an overview of the sources of refugees.

Per the Center, Humanitarian parole is part of the U.S. policy toolkit long used to address emergency situations. Parole gives the administration the authority to admit any individual for a temporary period — up to 2 years — if their admission provides significant public benefit or satisfies an urgent humanitarian need. Beneficiaries of the Ukraine program will be welcomed by a supporter who will help facilitate their transition in the U.S. By tapping fiscal sponsorship as a formal pathway for displaced Ukrainians, the U.S. can welcome refugees into the U.S. in a quick and orderly manner while linking them with Americans who want to help them settle and support them financially.

Parole lasts for a maximum of two years. After it expires, individuals who want to remain in the U.S. must apply for asylum (which may be tricky in its own right), but the current asylum backlog stands at more than 1.6 million cases, meaning these Ukrainians could remain on temporary status for many years while they wait for a decision from the backlogged immigration courts. A more expeditious approach is for Congress to pass legislation that offers permanent status to Ukrainians — similar to the Afghan Adjustment Act now pending in Congress.

New fast track asylum system

Within 60 days the Administration will implement a new policy of having asylum cases handled by asylum officers instead of immigration judges. The policy was submitted for public review in mid 2021. It will take some time to hire up in order to have an impact, as there are 670,000 pending asylum cases. In FY 2021 perhaps 60,000 cases were resolved.

This new system is supposed to resolve an application within six months, as opposed to years. I have noted before that the backlog problem is similar to the border control problems on the Mexican border and the Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan translators: the growth of an elephantine mass of legal processes which top executives in the State Department and DHS don’t really care much about compared to other priorities. (here and here.)

The expected elimination of Title 42 removals from the border will further add to the asylum application backlog.

Arguing for more immigration court judges

The Bipartisan Policy Center testified on January 20 to the House Judiciary Committtee subcommittee on immigration and citizenship. The immigration court backlog was 1,596,000 in December 2021. While Trump was in office, the backlog soared from 542,000 to 1,290,000, then rose by about 300,000 in Biden’s first year. (backlog data from TRAC).

In 1998 there were about 200 judges. In 2016 there were about 400 judges. There are about 500 immigration court judges today. Between 2016 and the end of 2021, the case backlog rose by over 300% while the number of judges rose by 25%

Summary of the testimony: A pattern emerged in 2014 in which border crossers did not try to, but rather, sought out being arrested and seek asylum. This led to Homeland Security releasing many rather than hold them in detention awaiting their asylum court hearing. Making the judges work faster, which was the Trump approach, demanding faster court processing, is not the answer. The Center recommended in 2019 hiring 375 more judges, which would cost $400 million vs $25 billion for Trump’s border wall. Hiring 100 more judges would reduce detention costs by close to one billion dollars.

Biden State of the Union Address: open citizenship up to over 10 million persons

President Biden called for Congress to “Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers.”

The proposal will effectively legalize 90% of unauthorized people in the U.S. Consistent with Democratic proposals, no mention was made of verification of employable status (e-Verify) without which immigration law enforcement will remain gutted.

In December 2021 I estimated that (1) about 2.3 million persons will be legalized through Dreamer legislation, (2) 5.5 essential workers and 1.7 of their spouses and children will be legalized through essential worker legislation and (3) about 300,000 farm workers (at a minimum) will be affected.

About 750,000 persons are now in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status category, including over 300,000 Venezuelans and a quarter million from El Salvador. Here and here are backgrounders on TPS.

Adding all up comes to about 9.8 million persons who arrived un authorized, and 750,000 persons here legally but on a temporary basis.

Here and here are backgrounders of Dreamer (DACA) legislation, including bills filed in calendar year 2021.

Republican Immigration proposal of February 2022

Some Republican House members, led by Freshman Maria Elvira Salazar, filed on February 8 a Dignity Act bill for immigration reform. The bill is summarized here and here. The bill highlight a labyrinthian process of normalization of unauthorized persons which includes levies on most, a kind of reparations, admitting to having committed a felony. Legalization can be held up if a political committee decides that more than 10% of persons crossing the Mexican border escape apprehension (apparently ignoring visa overstays).

Salazar was one of nine House Republicans who voted in March 2021 for the Democratic-created The American Dream and Promise Act. Democratic legislative proposals for immigration reform in 2021 included Biden’s Citizenship Act of 2021, the Farmworker Modernization Act, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, and the Dream Act of 2021 (go here for them all).

To add to the confusion, Salazar was a co-sponsor of a Republican reform bill in early 2021 which was also called the Dignity Act. 

The last congressional reform bill which had bipartisan co-sponsorship was likely one introduced in 2018 (go here).

And, the 2020 Republican Party platform ignored any serious effort to normalize legal status and focused on the border wall and draconian measures.

How Australia, Canada and US abandoned race based immigration

From the 1960s continuing through the 1970s Australia (1966), Canada (1962) and the United States (1965) abandoned race base immigration laws.  Within ten years, Australia and Canada developed an employment-oriented immigration system. This 2020 Bipartisan Action Committee  report by Cris Ramón and Angelina Downs explains how this happened there and not in the U.S. Key to an employment-based system, the report says, is centralized policy making in the executive branch and heavy involvement of economic elites.   This political culture allows for drastic changes on policy based on evolving facts, and with the acceptance of the public. This is not present in the U.S.

In the United States, the die was cast in the 1965 immigration reform act, which conservatives in Congress tilted towards family based immigration expecting that this would allow European-heavy immigration to persists. Also, there was no investment in the Executive Branch towards creating a power to devise and manage an employment-oriented points system – as was the case in the other two countries.

In the United Kingdom, the open-ended immigration policy for Commonwealth members was shut down by acts during 1962 – 1971.  The “hostile environment policy” of recent years sought to extirpate Caribbean immigrants from the years before 1971.

Biden’s immigration actions: three themes

Pew Research has published a comprehensive summary of the Biden administrations actions on immigration. Three themes stand out.

  1. The Trump administration took some 1,000 executive actions many of which Biden has been reversing.
  2. Desire to increase employment based immigration. One of the initiatives is the filing of a comprehensive reform bill.  Green card volume would go up to around 1.5 million, compared to one million pre-Trump and about 500,000 at the current rate.  Biden’s bill has gone nowhere. But during 2021 the administration sought to reverse Trump’s efforts to curtail economic immigration (which in part was forestalled by courts) and in January 2022 opened up more opportunities for foreign students and temporary visa holders to stay in the U.S. and work.
  3. Retain the highly controversial Trump Mexican border policies. For a depiction of Biden’s handling of Stay in Mexico policy, I posted here. For Biden’s Title 42 expulsion policy, I posted here.

How immigration policy degenerated into unilateral action

For some ten years, immigration policy has lost any serious bi-partisan character and has become a weapon wielded by the parties. This happened as popular partisanship on immigration become much more severe.

Immigration legislative and executive branch actions have not been logically corelated to the facts, such as overall trends in unauthorized persons and enforcement. Total unauthorized population as declined since before the financial crisis. Illegal immigration: arrests rose under Obama (mainly by aggressive targeting persons with criminal records); declined under Trump. The immigration court backlog surged under Trump. No serious initiative was made to improve workforce enforcement through mandatory verification of legal status (e-Verify).

DACA was introduced in 2012 by Obama executive order. (see history since initial Executive Order of June 15, 2012).

A thousand descreet executive actions were taken by Trump to curtail immigration, from attempting to destroy the refugee resettlement infrastructure in the country to increasing fees for Green Card holder eligible for citizenship to naturalize. (Each action tracked and Biden reversals).

This year, various bills were submitted (go here) but there was no seirous attempt at bipartisan agrement (as has been tried in 2007, 2013, 2017 and most recently in 2018). Democrats instead have tried to legalize the majority of unauthorized persons through a simple majority reconciliation bill, without any Republican votes in the the House and Senate. This has involved exploiting old obscure provisions in immigration law.

The Senate parliamentarian opined in September about the initial effort. Dems then considered a “registry” strategy, and then attempted a parole provision. The Senate Parliamentarian’s opinion on December 16 nixed the parole approach. Excerpt from her opinion:

“The proposed parole policy is not much different and in its effect than the previous proposals we have considered. In order to effectuate the policy, the parole proposal changes the contours of the current parole in place program, making it a mandatory award status for qualifying applicants rather than the current discretionary use of the [Homeland Security] Secretary’s authority and assessment, which the USCIS website states that the Secretary grants ‘only sparingly.” The grant of parole will be accompanied by mandatory issuance of work authorization, travel documents, and a deeming of qualifications for real ID….”

How Immigration reform bills will affect immigrants

The Center for Migration Studies made estimates, based on over six independently reform initiatives proposed in 2021, of many persons currently in the United States would have their illegal or legally vulnerable status adjusted to permanent legal status. The CMS analysis does not address the proposed recapture of unused visas nor the “parole” provisions in the Build Back Better (reconciliation) bill. There is a lot of overlap among the initiatives.

It is not clear to me what would be the total maximum number of persons positively affected were all the provisions of all the initiatives done. The U.S. Citizenship Act, Biden’s bill of early 2021, which in effect is a kind of omnibus bill, would affect 10.3 persons. It would likely make unnecessary the parole provision in the reconciliation bill.

The Dream Act of 2021 would legalized 2.3 million persons (compared to about 900M persons under the administrative program initiated by Obama).

Citizenship for Essential Workers Act: 7.2 million (of which 5.5 million are workers, the others are spouses and children).

Farm Workforce Modernization Act: 300K.

Temporary Protected Status adjustments to permanent status: over 1.5 million persons from many countries at least 100,000 of whom from El Salvador, Haiti, Venezuela, and Honduras. Currently, TPS status persons are from 10 countries.

U.S. Citizenship Act: 10.3 million. (Go here and here.)