Press Releases

Chairman Nadler Statement for the Subcommittee Hearing on "Policy Changes and Processing Delays at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services"

Washington, July 16, 2019

Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing on "Policy Changes and Processing Delays at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services:"

"Today’s hearing examines a critically significant issue:policy changes and processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. It is important to remember that the immigration debate in this country does not start and stop at the Southern border. Although the Trump Administration has focused most of its attention on curbing the rights of asylum seekers and threatening mass enforcement sweeps, the legal immigration system is not immune from dramatic policy changes as well—changes that have significantly diminished the ability of individuals to enter and to remain in the United States legally.

"Most of the policy changes that have been implemented by this Administration appear to be intended to make adjudications more complicated and, therefore, more time-consuming and more difficult for individuals to obtain legal status in this country. From my perspective, these policy changes seem to fix things that were not broken to begin with, and only serve to create unnecessary obstacles to legal immigration.

"For example, last August, USCIS suddenly announced that it would impose harsh penalties on nonimmigrant students who violate their status, even if the violation was not knowing or intentional, was based on a technical error, or was de minimis. Thankfully, the courts stepped in and this policy is now on hold.

"Another example is the USCIS’s termination—without any justification—of its long-standing policy of waiving the in-person interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants. Most of these individuals have been in the United States for years on temporary visas and have been screened and vetted repeatedly. Waiving the interview, therefore, except in cases where fraud is suspected or there is some other issue, was a smart way to make the process more efficient. Now interviews are mandatory for everyone and backlogs are growing exponentially.

"And let us not forget the public charge rule, which would dramatically heighten the standard for determining whether a person is likely to be reliant on public services and is, therefore, ineligible for a visa or green card. Basic services like Medicaid, SNAP, and Section 8 rental housing assistance that millions of working Americans use to supplement their income would suddenly render someone ineligible. Although the rule has not been finalized yet, it will likely be finalized soon.Setting aside the fact that it is clearly unlawful and morally repugnant, if finalized as proposed, there is no doubt that this rule will make immigration adjudications infinitely more complex.

"Over the past few years, we have seen significant increases in processing delays and case backlogs at USCIS.The backlog of citizenship applications nearly doubled from 367,000 in late 2015 to about 740,000 in September 2018. In my district, most applicants for citizenship now must wait at least a year for their application to be processed, and sometimes even 2 years.

"USCIS has said that increased receipts, staffing issues, resource shortages, and other operational factors have led to the current net backlog of 2.4 million cases. As of the end of Fiscal Year 2018, it appears that processing times for most applications and petitions equaled or exceeded near record-long averages.

"But it does not stop with processing delays. Denials of immigration benefit requests—such as citizenship, permanent residence, and work permits—are also on the rise.

"New policies, longer delays, and increasing denials have only added to the palpable confusion, fear, and uncertainty that permeates immigrant communities. I look forward to hearing from our USCIS witnesses about how the agency plans to bring processing times back down to reasonable levels and from our non-government witnesses about how USCIS policy changes and case delays impact individuals and businesses alike.

"I thank the Chair, Ms. Lofgren, for her leadership on this issue, and for holding this important hearing. I yield back the balance of my time."