After Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians came to the United States as refugees. However, many of these individuals are still waiting for their work authorization documents. Two senators have stated their concerns about the long delays at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They cited how the delays prevent Ukrainian refugees and other individuals from working, worsening the labor shortages.
These two senators wrote to the USCIS concerning reports that thousands of Ukrainians who came to the U.S. in the Spring still had not received work authorization documents. A number of these Ukrainians are in the U.S. under temporary humanitarian protections.
In the letter, the senators asked the USCIS director what steps would take to deal with the delays and shorten the processing times for those seeking work permits. The senators also sent inquiries to Congress, questioning how it could help the agency improve its processing times. A suggestion to expand the agency’s electronic processing also appeared in the letter.
The letter also mentions the belief that the delays prevent the refugees from enriching their communities, hurting them and their families. Additionally, the senators expressed their appreciation for the President’s goal of accepting more refugees. Furthermore, the senators emphasized how the USCIS must have sufficient resources to decrease the backlogs and process work authorization requests for individuals on humanitarian protection. Finally, they also referred to the continuing labor shortages businesses are facing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 11.2 million jobs available on the last business day of July but only 6.4 million hires. These two senators are only the latest members to express concerns over the delays in processing. The processing times for work permits and other visa requests have increased over the last few years. The significant increase occurred at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and hiring freeze, though the struggle with delays already proved problematic before the pandemic.
A spokesman for the USCIS claims the agency replied to the correspondence from Congress through official channels. The spokesman further explained how the agency reiterated a previous statement about promoting policies and procedures to break down barriers. The agency intends to reassert the country’s humanitarian values and “uphold America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”
Due to the current labor shortages, businesses would benefit from accessing more available workers. Therefore, processing the Ukrainian refugees will be a benefit for everyone. Hopefully, the two senators’ letter will encourage the USCIS to do more to improve its processing time and deal with its current backlog.
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