By Esther Lee
November 9, 2015
The only thing that the government has to show for a years-long, half-billion dollar project to digitize 95 different immigration forms — an effort intended to upload the documents online and make them easy for users to navigate — is a single electronic form. The project, run by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, was “mismanaged” from the start and is now two years behind schedule, according to the Washington Post.
The initiative was meant to upgrade the nation’s immigration system, like handling the applications of legal permanent residents (green card holders) and detecting national security threats. But basic plans weren’t developed until three years after IBM was awarded the project and the approach was outdated even before work began, the Washington Post reported. Now, the project is expected to reach $3.1 billion and won’t be completed until 2019.
Pressure from the Obama administration to overhaul immigration policies resulted in three digitized forms, two of which were pulled offline “because nearly all of the software and hardware from the original system had to be junked,” according to the publication. But at least 200 immigrants using the third form — meant to be used to renew or replace a lost green card — have run into issues like waiting for a year or never receiving their cards, resulting in a disruption in work, school, or travel plans.
As it stands, immigrants still send paper forms to various intake processing centers around the country based on the location that they’re sending their documents from. But that process is tedious, and any minute error could result in additional delays for applicants already dealing with long visa processing backlogs.
At a time when the current process isn’t working, the 2016 election year ahead may be marked by fresh challenges from a new president to document — and potentially deport — the undocumented population here and to prevent legal immigrants from falling out of status.
In a tweet, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) expressed his frustration, stating, “94 forms are still available only in paper. In 2015. DC incompetence in a nutshell.”
Still, Congress had a chance to clear some of the delays in 2013 when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Within the bill laid a measure for the State Department to “recapture” and reallocate unused green cards due to bureaucratic backlogs, which could have eased the application process for about 200,000 to 250,000 immigrant workers and spouses receiving permanent residency.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com