Hispanic Caucus Demands Reduction in Immigration Case Backlog

The leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) have requested a meeting with the head of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. In a letter sent on April 4 to USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna, the CHC requested a meeting due to the “various concerning policies that have been implemented since your appointment at [USCIS]." "Specifically, we are concerned that actions under your leadership may be hindering the ability of our constituents and others throughout both our country and world to receive fair, efficient adjudications," wrote CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro.

Democratic representatives who signed the letter include Ruben Gallego, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Veronica Escobar, Linda Sánchez, and Adriano Espaillat. In a statement to The North Star, lawmakers wrote that the backlog of immigration court cases has skyrocketed to 830,000 cases, which could mean that migrants would have to wait longer to receive a hearing about their immigration status.

The representatives believe the USCIS “now functions as an extension of Trump’s immigration enforcement regime instead of a service-oriented agency devoted to processing immigration benefits for those deserving of them.” The letter alleged that Cissna and the agency’s policies are "unnecessarily compounding delays for families, vulnerable individuals, and US businesses.”

USCIS grants green cards to prospective US citizens as well as visas to individuals who are visiting the country. CHC representatives also noted that the USCIS has contributed to processing delays and pushback for visa applicants, which harms families and US businesses.

"Your 'Notice to Appear' policy for those whose applications and petitions are denied as well as your new policy against foreign students and visitors who unintentionally commit minor status violations will lead individuals eager to contribute to the United States socially and economically into deportation proceedings instead," wrote the lawmakers.

The CHC stated that they are prepared to find ways to end the backlog of cases and help the individuals who have been affected. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stands ready to find and recommend ways to make agency processes more efficient and to reduce the case backlog. We will not, however, stand idly by as we watch deserving constituents and others throughout this country be systematically excluded from immigration benefits in the United States for which they qualify,” Castro wrote. “We hope you will find time in the coming weeks to meet with our members and collaboratively discuss what your agency is capable of thinking.”

The North Star has reached out to USCIS for further comment on the letter but did not hear back in time for publication. Cissna has been the director of USCIS since 2017 and has come under fire for his policies. During an interview with the Center for Immigration Studies in August, he said USCIS should act quickly when it comes to applications.

“We must act efficiently and fairly. The last one is important, I think. I believe I did include that in the mission statement as well because I don’t think – I have always believed this just as a – as a citizen, not just as an immigration professional – that all immigration benefit applications or petitions or requests of whatever they are should be treated the same,” Cissna said during the interview.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced the resignation of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The USCIS is part of the DHS and the changes were reportedly made by presidential adviser Stephen Miller, The Washington Post reported. Miller is reportedly also considering removing Cissna from his position as director of the USCIS, according to the publication.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.