Massive Backlog, Long Waits for Green Cards
While I want us to screen out Islamacists, MS13 members and other undesireables, this country thrives on the energy of good immigrants. The feds need to get their act together on this. If you don't want jobs going overseas - or if you want us to remain the most competitive country for the best of the best - support the integration of good people into our economy here.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers trying to stay in the United States find their journey halted somewhere along a maze of boxes, filing cabinets and cubicles of government contractors.
The backlog of foreign workers seeking green cards, which allow immigrants to live and work in the United States permanently, numbers more than 330,000. In September, the Department of Labor set up a center here and another in Dallas to quicken the first step of processing for employment-based green cards.
But while the federal agency said it has spent time and money to ease a complicated traffic jam, immigrants, their employers and lawyers have been growing impatient.
"It's too long," said Rajesh Poudyal, who emigrated from Nepal 15 years ago on a student visa. His employer, a contractor for NASA in Greenbelt, applied for his green card in November 2001. "You don't know if it's going to be another three-year wait. You keep thinking, 'It's gonna happen. It's gonna happen.' "
And yet it hasn't.
Government officials say the wait has been too long for most of the immigrant workers hoping for their green cards. The oldest case is from August 1998. Jebus. On March 28, the Labor Department introduced a computerized fast-track processing system to handle new applications, doling them out to two centers. Between the backlog centers and the new sites, labor officials said, they have streamlined a multi-layered process that could have had some waiting as long as six more years. Now, they say, the backlog should be cleared within two years. Okee dokee ....
In employment-based green card applications, the Labor Department essentially certifies that the employer exists and that the immigrant is being paid the prevailing wage for the job described. In most cases, employers must also prove that they sought to hire U.S. workers for the job but could not. As proof, they provide classified advertisements, competing rÃ©sumÃ©s and summaries of their recruitment methods.
From this stage, known as labor certification, the application travels to the Department of Homeland Security, which conducts its own review and decides whether to allow the immigrant to petition for residency status.
Before the backlog accumulated, immigration attorneys say, labor certification generally took 30 to 90 days.
Under the new fast-track system, labor officials say, the process should routinely take up to 60 days.
But there is no such expectation for the 174,000 people awaiting processing here from about half the states, including Maryland and Virginia, and the District. reminds me of the Italian post office that just dumped a huge backlog of undelivered mail Besides 10 federal workers, the remaining staff of 100 work for Exceed Corp., the company that successfully bid for the backlog contract.
Starting last year, all 50 states sent boxes upon boxes to one of the two backlog sites. Officials said that they hope to act on the applications on a first-in, first-out basis and that they have entered about 80 percent of the applicants' data into a computerized system over the past year.
"In government terms, that has been quite a short amount of time," said Emily Stover DeRocco, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.
The backlog stems from the passage of legislation that allowed undocumented immigrants or immigrants who had overstayed their visas to apply for green cards if a family member or employer sponsored them -- but they had to do it by April 2001. The result was a surge of green card applications.
The result has also been some resentment of workers who have not been in the United States legally from workers who have.
Posted by: too true 2005-07-23