An Overworked System

Although the individuals who staff the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) work hard for the benefit of asylees and immigrants, their organization is understaffed and overworked. Lacking the necessary funding to hire additional officers and legal workers, their office’s dense paperwork and lengthy court cases can take weeks or months to fulfill. What’s more, due to the complexity of their work, employees make mistakes from time to time, and because immigration legal work does not occur in a vacuum, applicants must wait long stretches while their paperwork or case proceeds. Even something as minor as a clerical error could cost someone their legal right to live in the United States. Thus, our Just Neighbors attorneys must proceed with this knowledge in mind, guiding their clients through the difficulties and hang-ups that can occur.
The arduous case of the Vande family is a perfect example. Mr. Vande, originally from Africa, had become eligible for a U.S. visa through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, which offers a set number of visas annually to potential immigrants from countries with low rates of U.S. immigration. Mr. Vande applied for the program several years before his selection, and during the intervening period he had married his second wife. She was expecting their first child when her husband was offered a visa. Having not known her when he first applied, Mr. Vande’s Diversity Visa application did not extend to her too; by taking his opportunity for a life in America, he would have to separate from his wife and child for a time. But the opportunity to receive his green card was only available for a matter of months, and so Mr. Vande decided to move with two sons from his first marriage (who were on his original application) to the U.S. and then petition for the rest of his family once arrived.
Three years passed before the Vandes reunited. Mrs. Vande and her young child traveled to the U.S. on temporary visas, acquired after she requested green cards for herself and her infant, and joined Mr. Vande. Within a year, the family welcomed another child into their family. However, even though both parents worked, keeping their large family out of poverty (in an unfamiliar country) was a formidable challenge, and when USCIS required medical exams for their green card applications, the Vandes turned to Just Neighbors for help. Our volunteer staff helped the family search for low-cost doctors to complete the physical exams; despite this, and through no fault of their own, the Vandes were soon in an even more precarious position. A bureaucratic error within USCIS resulted in Immigration paperwork, meant for the family, being sent to the wrong address, and though Just Neighbors immediately reached out to USCIS to correct the error, they could not prevent the rejection of Mrs. Vande’s and her son’s green card applications on account of missing their interviews. #JustNeighborssuccessstories

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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