US immigration services at breaking point

The US government is struggling to deal with an enormous increase in asylum cases in the middle of a worldwide refugee crisis. Over the last five years, the request backlog has soared by as much as 1400 percent. There were over 128,000 cases still pending at the close of last year, according to Maria M Odom, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman. However, on Wednesday the watchdog of the United States immigration agency admitted that the situation is likely to get worse.

Last year the Obama administration made a pledge to accept 85,000 immigrant refugees from all over the world in 2016, increasing from just 70,000 in 2015, with the figure expected to increase again to 100,000 next year. The great majority are from Syria, with many others coming from South and Central America. Despite the 2015 pledge, by April this year, the United States has taken in as little as 1285.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services is also short of staff, having lost many agents to the Refugee Affairs Division, and it will take some time to replace them.

The report by Odom criticized US Citizenship and Immigration Services for failing to process asylum applications for Central American minors, and for long application delays in the naturalization of US military members and their families. However, the report also assigned blame to several other agencies, including the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.