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Excessive Bureaucracy Is Making America's Broken Immigration System Worse

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Eric Boehm | 9.22.2021 3:00 PM

The chaos unfolding at the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas might be getting all the headlines, but arguably a bigger problem with America's broken immigration system has to do with a far less exciting topic: paperwork.

There is a lot of it. And, thanks to one of the lingering effects of the Trump administration, there is even more paperwork required to immigrate legally today than there used to be.

Yes, the Trump administration had a mixed-to-good track record when it came to deregulating various aspects of the federal government. But the opposite was true when it came to immigration policy. By demanding more information from would-be immigrants and mandating that immigration officials conduct in-person interviews before approving applications, the previous administration created new administrative burdens.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) spells out some of the consequences of Trump's efforts to slow legal immigration by tangling it in additional layers of bureaucratic red tape. Among other things, the GAO says that one of the major drivers of the immigration system's mounting caseloads—The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports a backlog of nearly 7 million applications and petitions—is the government's own, recently beef-up immigration bureaucracy.

"Policy changes resulting in increases in the length of USCIS forms and expanded interview requirements" are one of the main reason's why the USCIS' pending caseload has expanded by 85 percent since 2015, even as the number of applications and petitions remained relatively flat, the GAO reported last month. "Longer forms increased the amount of time it takes for staff to adjudicate applications and petitions, and resulted in longer interviews, since adjudicators were to collect and confirm additional information."

The GAO's review looked at seven of the most frequently used immigration forms and petitions—forms that account for roughly 70 percent of USCIS' pending caseload—and found that six of them had increased in length since 2015. In some cases, the increases were dramatic. The Application for Employment Authorization was expanded from one page and 18 questions to seven pages and 61 questions. Form I-130, which is the........

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