When the solution is the problem

THE United States has virtually and physically reopened interstate travel and removed restrictive quarantine rules for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and expected overcrowded airports, railroads and roads.

A multi-state campaign has been set up to “monitor state and local government response to the coronavirus – https://www.multistate.us/issues/covid-19-state-reopening-guide -“ MultiState ”.

“MultiState” created a national and local Covid-19 policy dashboard in early March that provides a quick and easy reference to updates and information released by state and major local agencies to focus on reopening economy.

The phenomenon of the “Great Resignation” in the United States continues.

On October 18, the Washington Post said that a “record 4.3 million American workers quit their jobs in August” based on a US Department of Labor report – “a figure that rises to 20 million if it is measured until April ”.

“Many of these resignations have taken place in the retail and hospitality industries, with employees retiring from difficult, low-paying jobs. recovery – continues to fuel what Atlantic writer Derek Thompson has described as “a centrifugal moment in American economic history.”

This American problem could be solved by allowing legal immigrants to return – and quickly.

The solution, however, gets bogged down in its own problem.

Issue # 1: As of this month, the US State Department reports that there are 461,125 immigrant visa applicants awaiting interview notices at consular posts / embassies around the world. These are the remainder of the 490,089 applicants who were ready to make a visa appointment after 28,964 received interview notices.

Solution: Embassies should resume normal visa processing, interview visa applicants and issue visas to those who are qualified.

Problem # 2: Embassies around the world are not operating normally with the order to “resume routine visa services quickly, but only in a safe manner, even though the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the number of visas that our embassies and consulates abroad are able to process.

Solution: The lifting of quarantine protocols by the Philippine government allows almost unlimited mobility of people in areas below alert levels 1 to 3. In doing so, the Philippines is expected to earn an additional 3.6 billion pesos and generate 16,000 jobs per week in the national capital. Region (NCR) alone if the alert level is lowered from 2 to 1, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said in an Oct. 28 Rappler report.

NCR has been on Alert Level 2 since November 5.

The independent research group monitoring the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) situation in the country believes that the RCN or Metro Manila could move to the most lenient alert level 1 from December.

Issue # 3: The U.S. Embassy in Manila does not have a current count of the number of visa applicants scheduled in coordination with the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC relies on the embassies to inform them of the capacities and manpower of the post in Manila.

Solution: More staff should be allowed to return to work to support consular services and interviews. However, alert levels in RCN / Metro Manila and the provinces are not in sync.

Issue # 4: Visa operations at the US Embassy in Manila remain timid as the consular post can only offer “limited routine visa services due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Solution: lower the status from pandemic to endemic, that is to say live with the Covid-19 virus instead of opting for a zero-Covid-19 state. Vaccination rates and herd immunity are the key elements.

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Issue # 5: As of November 11, 2021, only around 30.8 million people had been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus in the Philippines. In contrast, around 36.9 million people were still awaiting their second dose of the vaccine (data from the Ministry of Health). Vaccination against Covid-19 in the Philippines did not begin until March 2021, aiming to vaccinate 58 million people by the end of the year.

Solution: Increase the immunization rate with vaccines available to those who need them based on priorities.

Issue # 6: Approved Covid-19 vaccines are not available for specific recipients. The government has announced that it is at an advanced stage of negotiations with various vaccine manufacturers and expects the first vaccine supply to arrive in the first quarter of 2021. We are now in the last quarter.

The government did not receive the 2 million Pfizer vaccines from the U.S. government until September 20, one of the 10 million doses, which were jointly purchased by the U.S. government with the Covax facility.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque 3rd said that “the government is recalibrating its strategies to deal with increasing cases of Covid-19 towards a more targeted program (and) local government units must also step up their vaccination against Covid- 19, especially for the elderly population. who are most at risk of contracting severe Covid-19 and even dying from it. “

In short, despite the NCR moving to Alert Level 1, visa applicants from outside of Metro Manila and the NCR will find it difficult to get to the embassy assuming the consular post. resume normal visa processing.

So, we come back to problem # 2, which prevents problem # 1 from resolving.

Long-term solution: Increase the number of visas available

The backlog is a function of annual visa limits mainly for family preference categories. If there were more visas available – and issued – the waiting list would disappear.

In a recent column, we showed the global allowance for applicants in family-based categories:

Each country has an annual quota of 25,620. Spouses, minor children, and parents of US citizens are not subject to number limits. However, they are privileged and interviewed before those of applicants for limited family visas.

The CATO Institute reported that for fiscal year 2021 (October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021), there were 2,208,857 unused family, employment-based immigrant visas; recovered employment visas; diversity and refugee visa allowances: family sponsored, 561,454; employment-based, 582,275; recovery of BB, 490,964; diversity visas, 150,759; and refugees, 423,415.

There are bills pending to recover and allocate these unused visas, which have been piling up since 1992.

1. House of Representatives HR1177 and Senate S348 – US Citizenship Act: The US Citizenship Act actively promoted by President Joe Biden that would “reclaim 1.6 million unused green cards for family, employment and life. employment from 1992 to 2021. If these visas were not used at the end of the fiscal year in which they were recovered, they would move from family to employment and vice versa from year to year until that time. let them all be used. Employment-based “clawed” unused numbers that had been clawed previously, but not used immediately. But the bill would not claw back any lost diversity or refugee numbers. “

This would not only increase and facilitate visa interviews, but would include all family preference categories for the Philippines in the “Current” column.

2. The House Budget Act (Reconciliation Bill): As passed by the House Judiciary Committee in September, this “narrower clawback provision” resurrects between around 221,000 and 911,000 cards green – still sufficient to advance priority dates and interview notices issued.

The House of Representatives passed President Biden’s ambitious $ 1.75 trillion social policy and climate bill last week (November 19). He now moves to the Senate where a 50-50 vote is the logical result, with Vice President Kamala Harris deciding.

The $ 2.2 trillion spending bill is at the heart of President Biden’s national agenda to tackle climate change, expand health care and reweave the country’s social safety net for the next decade . Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the bill, including filibuster.

Meanwhile, for the tens of thousands of people who are awaiting their immigrant visa interviews at the United States Embassy in Manila, adhering to quarantine protocols and security measures is highly recommended as this will help resolve problem # 4.


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