Reminder: Green Cards For Millions of Illegal Immigrants Means Longer Wait Times For Legal Immigrants

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Nov 24, 2014 2:00 PM
Reminder: Green Cards For Millions of Illegal Immigrants Means Longer Wait Times For Legal Immigrants

By now you know that last week President Obama announced the legalization and prioritization of five million illegal immigrants who will eventually receive Green Cards and work permits thanks to his executive action. During his announcement of this plan at the White House, Obama essentially argued his move was necessary to make the "broken immigration system" more fair and to keep families together, but as usual, his rhetoric doesn't add up to the reality. 

When illegal immigrants are prioritized by the federal government and given a spot at the front of the line, millions of individuals going through the proper legal channels to become American citizens or to obtain visas are pushed even farther back in the process and given longer waiting periods. In most situations, this means legal immigrants spending longer periods of time away from their families. 

My colleague Conn Carroll reminded us of the numbers and harsh reality of executive action has on legal immigrants last week:

At current staffing levels, USCIS issues about 1 million green cards per year. And when Obama enacted his first executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, wait times for legal immigrants to get their visas tripled from under five months to over 15 months. 

Only about 1 million illegal immigrants were eligible to apply for DACA amnesty and only about 600,000 were given amnesty. Obama's next amnesty, however, will reportedly allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to apply and no one knows how many will take him up on the offer.

But assuming the turnout for Obama's next amnesty is bigger than DACA, we can safely assume that legal immigration delays will get much much worse.

The New York Times published an extensive piece in February detailing the consequences of prioritizing illegal immigrants before individuals engaged in the legal process.

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data.

The trouble that American citizens have faced gaining permanent resident visas for their families raises questions about the agency’s priorities and its readiness to handle what could become a far bigger task.

With his recently announced amnesty plan, President Obama has given USCIS the "far bigger task" previously warned about and has made the system more unfair, not less. It's unfortunate President Obama's focus isn't on prioritizing the people who want to do things legally or on reforming the legal immigration system before rewarding millions of individuals for breaking the law by putting them at the front of the line.

Meanwhile, people who waited for years to get through the legal process want their money back: