Comment: Processing A Million Applications - The commotion and excitement produced by the June 15 announcement from the White House on deferred action for undocumented youth is slowly dying in mainstream media, silently falling behind the Supreme Court's decisions on the anti-immigrant SB 1070 and the Obamacare legislations. Yet the hope that this announcement ignited in undocumented youth and their families is vibrant and palpable on the ground. We have heard from many lawyers who are already receiving inquiries and getting engaged by undocumented immigrants seeking to benefit from deferred action. However, USCIS has not outlined any procedure yet to process the more than one million deferred action applications. USCIS has only stated a warning that "if you submit now, your application will be rejected" and that immigrants need to wait until August 15 to find out how to apply. We would like to suggest a solution to USCIS that can help the agency process the hundreds of thousands of applications they will be receiving very soon.
According to official sources, USCIS processes about five million applications every year, including I-130, I-140, I-145, and N-400 petitions. To process all these applications, USCIS has a staff of 18,000 members. In order to process the one million deferred action requests of eligible undocumented youth, USCIS would need to increase its staff by at least 3,000 members to complete processing in one year. How does USCIS find this additional capacity when the agency most likely does not have the authority to raise fees? With only 18,000 staff members, USCIS, which rests under the umbrella of DHS, has a pretty small staff compared to its sister agencies like TSA and CBP, which have 58,000 staff members each. With the deputation of only 3,000 CBP and TSA agents, USCIS will be able to process the one million deferred action applications. Even better, if President Obama is keen and still stands by his statement that providing an opportunity to innocent and hard-working undocumented youth is the right thing to do, he can depute 12,000 CBP and TSA agents to swiftly process the one million applications in only 3 months. If this option is not feasible, USCIS also has the option of deputing 8,000 Coast Guard reserve members, also part of DHS, to process these applications. The deputation of these agents will not detract CBP, TSA or the Coast Guard from their mission since reducing the nation's undocumented by a tenth is a step forward in enhancing our country's security.
USCIS has no excuses to keep delaying the processing of deferred action applications for undocumented youth. President Obama must follow through his policy announcement with concrete plans for processing a million applications, and thus show that his announcement is more than mere political posturing.
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