Editor’s note: This sponsored article by Charles Kuck is published as part of Kuck Baxter’s annual sponsorship of Global Atlanta.
Thousands of immigrants were given the green light in late February by the Biden administration to resume their applications to come to Georgia to live and work.
But the resumption of employment- or family-based immigrant visa processing is severely back-logged, and inefficient and incompetent action at the federal level is still preventing Georgia from receiving needed immigrant workers.
The lifting of the ban theoretically enables candidates for various skilled job-based green cards and parents or siblings of U.S. citizens to begin or continue their applications for permanent residence.
But the reality is very different.
Immigration applicants who had been waiting for their employment- or family-based immigration interviews, or those who had won a green card lottery for 2021, should have started being interviewed the minute the ban was lifted on Feb. 24.
However, few people been interviewed or issued a visa. Many posts cancelled interviews altogether for March.
If the Biden administration is set on resuming lawful entry of multiple types of visas, then why are they making it so difficult?
Part of this has to do with the State Department not making COVID workplace accommodations for consular staff to go back to work, even when most other parts of government are working. Rumor has it that consular services may not resume until all State Department employees are vaccinated.
So, while the ban is now gone, the reality on the ground is that it still exists.
This reality is most harmful to the thousands of 2021 diversity lottery winners who must have their visas issued by Sept. 30 before they expire. None have been issued since the beginning of the fiscal year, Oct. 1. So, now, the State Department has only six months to issue all 55,000 of these visas.
Worse, according to the priorities established in the prior administration, diversity lottery winners are at the end of the line for visa-processing. Just as bad, the full number of family- or employment-based visas approved will also not be used in fiscal year 2020, costing hundreds of thousands of families their long awaited right to enter the United States.
This incompetence and inaction has devastating decades-long effects, as thousands of immigrants are headed for Georgia. Our state is one of the top 10 destinations for immigrants to the U.S. We are not California or Texas, but there are thousands of employees, future workers, mothers and fathers of citizens who are being delayed from coming here – now, not by former President Trump, but now by President Biden.
Applicants for employment-based green cards, like EB-1 (senior managers at major companies in Georgia like Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia), EB-2 (people with master’s degrees) and EB-3 (software engineers, journalists and other specialists) are waiting in limbo, precisely when Georgia companies need them.
These skilled immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans; they are bringing jobs here. Their would-be employers have already demonstrated that there are no qualified U.S. workers for their jobs, so there is no reason to keep them out.
The State Department had used Proclamation 10014 in efforts to block visas, and, accordingly, our law firm has sued five times to force their issuance. But delays continue despite the proclamation’s rescission and the court orders for visa process.
We also just learned that as of March 3, U.S. consulates around the world now have a 460,000-case backlog. This is a seven-fold increase from the number of backlogs this time last year. And these are just people who are waiting for an interview, not those who are already in the pipeline.
Many – some 200,000 – are stuck in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for up to three years, waiting to have their visas approved. These include many people trying to come to Georgia.
Hundreds of our own clients are stuck in this line. And we are just one law firm. Thousands of Georgia families and employers are being affected by this.
We believe this visa backlog is an intentional failure and violation of the law by consular and State Department officials.
Georgia doesn’t need this enormous backlog – we need legal immigration to help bolster our economy.