A growing number immigrants applying for visas are turning to the court system for a solution to their extended wait times concerning benefits such as work permits. According to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the federal civil courts received 647 immigration-related lawsuits for writs of mandamus. This record number of cases represents the most filed in a single month since the organization began tracking such data in 2007. In addition, this is almost triple the number of cases filed only two years ago.
A writ of mandamus is a type of lawsuit which seeks to compel the government to take action. Writs of mandamus rarely came up in immigration cases before the 2019 fiscal year but have steadily increased since. If this rate continues, TRAC estimates a total of 6,276 writs by the end of the fiscal year 2022.
According to professional immigration attorneys, this increase is due to the growing wait times and poor service that applicants are facing from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Those who have waited years for applications to be processed may feel there is no alternative option. For these applicants, an inability to receive work or travel authorization can cause significant disruption to their lives and ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Filing a writ of mandamus can provide an attractive option for both applicants and attorneys, as it can often result in a settlement with USCIS over the processing delays rather than a protracted legal battle. However, due to the explosive growth in these filings, some believe this may not last. This concern is because the USCIS may reduce the feasibility of this option.
USCIS has stated that this increase in litigation is one of many factors the agency has taken into account in its attempt to address backlogs. The agency has already responded to reduce some backlogs by extending automatic renewals of work authorization documents and setting new backlog reduction goals.
USCIS is also attempting to expand its premium processing options. It has just introduced its second phase of premium processing, which includes certain pending EB-1 and EB-2 petitions. Finally, the agency has set broad hiring goals to address backlogs which, at the start of the year, numbered almost 4,000 openings.
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