The Bureaucratic Waiting Tolls: New Article in American Behavioral Scientist

The Bureaucratic Waiting Tolls: New Article in American Behavioral Scientist

Dr. Michelle S. Dromgold-Sermen, Assistant Director of the Institute for Immigration Research, has recently published research in American Behavioral Scientist.

The article, entitled "The Bureaucratic Waiting Tolls: Social Consequences of Uncertain and Prolonged Waiting in U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence Processing" highlights the tolls of waiting for a green card in the United States among employment-based immigrants. These "tolls" include unexpected tolling of immigration status updates; financial tolls; and every day and longer-term tolls that are consequential for migrant well-being.

As detailed in the abstract:

"This study expands existing sociological and immigration scholarship on waiting, governmentality, and U.S. immigration bureaucracies by introducing the concept of the bureaucratic waiting tolls. Research has identified costs of uncertainty and waiting within the enforcement, judicial, and legislative arms of federal immigration bureaucracies, particularly for vulnerable migrant groups. The consequences of prolonged waiting in U.S. federal immigration bureaucracies’ service branches are less well understood. I examine the consequences of waiting for an adjustment of legal status to lawful permanent residence (LPR) within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureaucracy among temporary nonimmigrants in the United States on visas. While the outcome of waiting for an adjustment of status—receiving a green card—is typically framed as success, I question whether the process of waiting is also one that primes migrants for success. Drawing on qualitative textual analysis of posts on an online immigration forum between 2007 and 2021, I identify multifaceted tolls of waiting in the USCIS bureaucracy. Updates from USCIS toll unexpectedly and disrupt everyday lives, financial tolls and opportunity costs—particularly in employment—directly impact life trajectories, and waiting introduces every day and longer-term damage that marginalizes this immigrant group. Exacerbated by uncertain and prolonged bureaucratic waiting, these tolls are consequential for migrant well-being. I conclude with policy suggestions to reform existing immigration caps to reduce long wait times and thereby alleviate the consequences of waiting and strengthen integration pathways throughout and following the LPR process."