A note to our readers: To simplify the letter below, we are US Citizens married to foreign spouses, and have applied for their permanent residency - the 'green card'. In 2012-2013, the federal government changed its policies, with the result that we are facing waiting times of two years to be reunited with our spouses! And, due to another set of odd federal policies, it is more difficult for our spouses to even visit us, than if they were not married to us.
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October 13, 2013
President Barack Obama
Mr. Rand Beers, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Ms. Brandi Blackburn, Assistant Center Director, Division 8, National Benefits Center, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Overland Park, KS
Dear President Obama, Secretary Beers, Director Mayorkas, and Assistant Director Blackburn,
We are loyal US Citizens who have followed the law and petitioned for our foreign spouses to gain legal residency in the United States. We and our spouses are a diverse group, representing a wide variety of ethnic and national origins, cultures, political affiliations and religions.
Due to management and policy changes within our government that have been adverse to us, we have formed this Committee to respectfully but firmly redress our grievances to our government. You may gauge the growing size of our Committee by the increasing number of page views posted below.
This letter is addressed to you, because we know that your offices are responsible for our predicament, but are also key to our relief. Other stakeholders, copied herein at the bottom, are reading this letter. So are the American people.
On the average, we have been separated from our spouses for many months, and unless USCIS takes swift action now, we will remain apart for an unbearable length of time. The USCIS is now reporting that the average national processing time for our petitions for our spouses' green cards, the I-130s, is 16.6 months. We understand that this length of time does not include the US Department of State’s processing time for a visa. Adding that time, we are now facing separation from our spouses, for two years.
We anticipated this disappointment months ago, despite frequent denials from USCIS. Since June, 2013, we have learned, independently of our government, that our wait was probably extending and would extend further. As our awareness of this grew, we made frequent, fruitless inquiries with USCIS.
When we presented what we knew, USCIS personnel alternately denied what we knew, giving us inaccurate information, or would not, or could not acknowledge our concerns. Often, our inquiries met with condescension and insults. That was when we began to organize and research together.
We have suspected that I-130 petitions routed to the new NBC Division 8 facility, in Overland Park, Kansas, have been stockpiling, with few exceptions. We knew that adjudications of our petitions slowed considerably since the beginning of this year.
We knew this because many hundreds of us have reported our petitions' filing and adjudication dates (NOA1s and NOA2s) to each other. At least until our cohort of January 2013 filers, the median number of days between an NOA1 and NOA2 for adjudicated I-130s, had consistently been 90 days. Our data showed that something significant had changed after January. By June we saw that fewer and fewer of our petitions were being adjudicated within those 90 days. As of today – seven months since March – a vast majority (around 88%) of our I-130 petitions filed in March remain un-adjudicated.
We read the published memo of the May 10, 2013 meeting between AILA and USCIS National Benefits Center, in which USCIS claims that I-130 petitions would be routed to field offices until the Division 8 facility began adjudicating petitions at the end of the 2013 fiscal year, which is September 30, 2013. And, on the rare occasion that USCIS personnel were willing to answer our questions, we were sometimes told that our petitions were being sent to field offices for adjudication. But a statistically insignificant sample of us, who filed I-130 petitions since March, 2013, have reported field office adjudications.
We have sought every means to ascertain when the Division 8 facility would begin adjudicating I-130s in earnest. The spring, 2013 AILA-USCIS memo does not say, for example, how many FTEs will be dedicated to adjudicating I-130 petitions alone.
But worst of all are the reasons for why our government is making us wait.
Our government’s present administration decided to broaden the grounds for individuals who came to the US against our laws, to have legal status here. We refer to the programs called, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”(DACA) and “Provisional Waiver”. This has opened the floodgates of USCIS to applications, including I-130 petitions for legal residency, from them. We have discovered, for example, that the slowdown of green card (I-130) processing corresponded with the January 2 announcement, and March 4 starting date of the “Provisional Waiver” program.
It is not our purpose here to comment on the wisdom of these policies. We have not formed this Committee to engage in policy debate, but to plead for our families.
On the surface, our government appears to support family unification. We note, that upon announcing the “Provisional Waiver” program, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano said,
This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that US citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa. (January 2, 2013)But in fact, the policy that she announced has produced an effect opposite to the goal that Secretary Napolitano proudly cites. Those who are here illegally, and are invited to apply for legal residency, are relatives of US citizens, and already with their families. In contrast, we followed the law, and subsequently, are separated from our spouses who are abroad, while we wait for our petitions to be approved. The slowdown in the green card processing, due to this influx of immigration forms from those who did not follow the law, keeps us separated from our spouses longer. This does not support the principle of family unification, but rather undermines our family unification in favor of those who arrived here and remained illegally.
We wonder, how can it be that we, who followed the law, should bear the painfully high costs of this privilege granted to those who did not follow the law? We ask you, is this equitable?
We remind you, that many of us were aware that we, too, could have broken American law to our private advantage. Rather than marrying abroad, our current spouses could have visited us in the US; then, we could have pretended that we did not have any intention to marry until they were safely here. Finally, we could have filed an I-485 to keep them here, while their green card was pending. This would have broken the law, and we knowingly chose not to do this.
• That due to new federal immigration policies, the USCIS adjusted their workloads, and knowingly burdened our spouses and us with much longer I-130 processing times, in preference to other groups of potential beneficiaries;
• That the USCIS discontinued its prior practice of processing I-130 petitions, before adjudications of I-130s were underway under the new plan (the plan that included the new Division 8 facility), and thereby knowingly and unnecessarily slowed I-130 processing for us. The prior plan was, by our measures, successful, regularly producing I-130 adjudications within 90 days;
• That to accommodate I-130 petitioners and beneficiaries while the Division 8 facility was being prepared to adjudicate I-130s, the USCIS either deliberately put into place an ineffective provisional plan, or did not execute that plan, evidenced by the small percentage of I-130s adjudicated at field offices;
• That the USCIS has misled us, and concealed important facts from us, when we directly asked USCIS representatives about suspected changes in USCIS policies and plans.
Had the USCIS not concealed its decisions from us, and not misled us, we might have made better plans for our families. For example, we might have applied for K-1 visas, so that our current spouses could have come here as our fiancees and married us here, and then our spouses would have been able to stay with us here, while we awaited their green cards. Or we might have applied for K-3 visas at the time when we filed I-130 petitions, so that they could obtain visas as our spouses. We did not, because I-130 processing times had previously been reasonable. Misleading statements like the following, from USCIS, falsely led us to believe that applying for the K-3 would not be necessary:
The K-3 visa was intended to reunite families separated due to a backlog in I-130 adjudications. However, I-130s are no longer backlogged and are currently being processed in under 6 months. Therefore, USCIS does not, at this time plan to implement a new policy on the K-3 visa petition process. (pp. 8-9, “USCIS-AILA Meeting”)This statement was made on April 11, 2013 when USCIS had already drastically slowed I-130 adjudications.
Our government should know that while our I-130 petitions are pending, it is more difficult to be together with our spouses, than if we were not married. For example:
• If our spouses visit us, their married status to us magnifies their exposure to the risk of denial of entry by Port of Entry officials, and those discretionary decisions cannot be appealed. Then we will be billed for their return plane tickets, if they are sent away.
• While we wait for our I-130 petitions to be adjudicated, our spouses cannot obtain student visas, because they cannot honestly say that they ‘do not intend to immigrate’ – which is a requirement of a student visa.
As a remedy, we propose that USCIS speedily re-allocates its resources to increase the rate of I-130 processing. We also propose that the USCIS immediately change its practices so that K-3 visas are approved quickly, with the result that we can enjoy the same privilege that "Provisional Waiver" beneficiaries and their spouses can enjoy - unification of our families, while they wait for their I-130 petitions to be adjudicated.
Our committee is determined, by all lawful means, to receive a fair hearing and to induce our government to treat us with justice. Bear in mind that our lives are not abstract figures in a database. From a greater, sometimes tragic extent, to a lesser extent, the suffering of our families is real.
Mr. President, Secretary Beers, Director Mayorkas, and Ms. Blackburn, your policy is allegedly directed at uniting families. We urge you, prove it, and
ADVOCATE FOR US!
We welcome a statement from you.
US Citizen Green Card Petitioners' Committee
cc: American Immigration Lawyers Association; American Bar Association Commission on Immigration; Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Committee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; ASSISTA; Immigrant Legal Resource Center; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild; The Advocates for Human Rights; Evangelical Immigration Table; Huffington Post; The New York Times; US Rep. Tammy Duckworth; Chicago Tribune; Chicago Sun-Times; Daily Herald; Senator Mark Kirk; Senator Dick Durbin; US Vice President Joe Biden; Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Senator Bob Menendez; Senator Jeffrey Chiesa; Senator Lisa Murkowski; Senator Harry Reid; Senator Dean Heller; Houston Chronicle; KPRC-TV (NBC-Houston); KHOU (CBS-Houston); KTRK-TV(ABC-Houston); KRIV (Fox-Houston); Occupy Democrats; Bill O'Reilly; Michelle Malkin; Sean Hannity; Glenn Beck; Joseph Cotto, Washington Times; Patrick McGreevy, LA Times; Center for Immigration Studies; William Gheen, ALIPAC; [more coming]