Under the Biden administration, pathways to legal immigration have fallen behind, including green card approvals and refugee admissions. Meanwhile, illegal entries have increased across the Mexican border. These shortcomings have developed despite the Biden administration’s decision to increase the refugee cap to 65,000, with a mere 6,246 admitted as of July 2021.
Why Legal Immigration Has Struggled
Initially, White House officials claimed that the pandemic’s limiting of consular services across the globe contributed to issues with processing immigration applications. However, the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan complicated refugee admissions as the government continues to work to help more than 70,000 Afghan citizens who assisted the U.S. during the war in Afghanistan. These citizens have attempted to escape the Taliban as the organization has taken over the country.
In addition to other types of immigrants, employment-based visa applicants have seen slower processing times, putting as many as 100,000 green card slots at risk of expiring by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. One of the main reasons for this issue is the inability of many Diversity Visa lottery winners to schedule consular interviews.
The Impact of the Pandemic
One of the biggest reasons for the lagging legal immigration efforts is the backlog created amid the pandemic. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief of staff Felicia Escobar, employees have continued to try to catch up with the backlog that developed due to closures during the Covid-19 outbreak.
According to Escobar, many immigrants have been unable to submit certain biometric details that would enable their applications to proceed. On the other hand, the Biden administration has attempted to improve the efficiency of processing by eliminating the need to resubmit this data.
While the Biden administration tries to continue reducing the backlog and expand legal immigration pathways, Homeland Security officials have anticipated the highest number of illegal crossings through the Mexico border. Despite this, White House officials argue that as legal immigration pathways continue to increase in number, illegal entries will decrease over time.
Employers are particularly concerned regarding the delays in application processing for highly skilled immigrant workers, who may seek employment outside the U.S. as companies struggle with employee shortages.
It’s unclear how long it will take to relieve the current backlog, but the Biden administration claims it’s continuing to open more legal immigration pathways in an effort to overcome the effects of the pandemic and withdrawal from Afghanistan.