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Immigration Law

USCIS: Marooned on ELIS Island?

"If there’s one thing politicians of all stripes can agree on, it’s this: The immigration system is broken.  What’s less obvious is the extent to which that’s physically true.

An online system that was supposed to automate the processing of green cards and other immigration benefits has struggled to function properly since at least 2009.  When President Obama in November 2014 announced a series of executive actions that would expand the population of immigrants eligible to remain in the United States, he placed a highly vulnerable technology program center stage in a major policy fight.

Welcome to the Electronic Immigration System, or ELIS, a nod to America’s gateway.  Originally slated to cost $536,000 and be completed by 2013, the program designed to improve immigration processing has ballooned to a price tag of $2.6 billion and isn’t expected to be fully operational until 2018 or 2019.

The long-delayed website has burned through more than a billion dollars, mainly from refugees, asylum seekers and other foreigners who fund the system through application fees.  It now faces an influx of more than 5 million petitioners under Obama’s executive actions on immigration—if ELIS ever becomes capable of handling the relevant forms." - Aliya Sternstein, NextGov, Mar. 13, 2015.