A very disturbing article came out last Thursday that perhaps accounts for the interminable delay some individuals are experiencing in waiting for their green cards. According to the article which appeared in The Washington Post, USCIS has apparently cut back on the physical production of green cards due to budgetary strain. In June, the agency’s contract with the company that was producing the cards supposedly lapsed, and operations have since slowed down to a crawl in the wake of news that nearly three quarters of its workforce stand to be furloughed next month.
This is a significant and pernicious problem that needs to be addressed immediately, considering that lawful permanent residents are being impacted. There are thousands of permanent residents whose renewal applications are currently languishing due to this problem and who, as a result, do not have physical proof of their status here other than expired cards, which to the uninformed, means practically nothing. This is especially so given that application support centers for fingerprints were shut down for the last three months, and it has been nearly impossible to book an in-person infopass appointment to visit a District Office to secure an I-551 stamp. As a result, several permanent residents have been unable to renew their licenses, travel outside the country, or even furnish proof of their status to employers. The other large segment of people affected are arguably even more affected. These are individuals whose adjustment of status applications have been approved. Although they are considered in lawful status in USCIS’s database, they have no physical proof to carry about them. Some of these people were out of status prior to their cases being approved, and now, as a result of this operational snafu, remain practically “illegal” in terms of documentation.
If this is not alarming enough, few are aware that it is technically a federal criminal offense not to carry proof of one’s permanent residence. Under 8 USC 1304(e), “every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him….Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.” While this statute has not been enforced heavily in years past, we may see an uptick given recent policy trends and the Administration’s efforts to ramp up expedited removal.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.