The IELCE Program: Understanding Its Design and Challenges in Meeting Immigrant Learners’ Needs

Jacob Hofstetter and Alexis Cherewka
Date of Publication: 
February, 2022
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This article reports on the magnitude of immigration case backlogs that have developed at USCIS, the State Department, and in the immigration courts. While backlogs were rising prior to the COVID-19 pandemic—largely due to policy changes adopted in the previous administration—office closures during the pandemic and public health precautions taken when offices re-opened have greatly increased backlogs. At USCIS, for example, application backlogs went from 5.7 million at the end of Fiscal Year 2019 to 9.5 million in February 2022. The number of persons waiting for State Department consular interviews had risen to more than 500,000 by July 2021, up from an average of 61,000 in 2019. Funding constraints—USCIS is a fee-based agency and a recent proposal to raise application fees was blocked by court order—have limited the ability of USCIS to hire more staff to process more applications. The authors argue that the backlogs hinder the ability of the Biden administration to implement its immigration vision. For example, extension of Temporary Protected Status to nationals of Venezuela and Myanmar, and extending existing protection for nationals of other countries increases demand for work authorization, which can only be extended for 18 months at a time. While the administration has begun to implement some administrative changes to increase processing efficiency, the authors argue that reducing the backlogs will take substantial new resources. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

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Hofstetter, J. & Cherewka, A. (2022, February). The IELCE Program: Understanding Its Design and Challenges in Meeting Immigrant Learners’ Needs. Migration Policy Institute.