When Jorge Rivas cooks up a dish at Sammys Mexican Grill, he always pays special attention to its ingredients and the way he cooks it.

For Rivas, today is just another day hes glad hes living and working in America.

Being able to have a nice comfortable home is so rewarding, Rivas said.

He grew up in El Salvador and immigrated to the U.S. in 1984.

At that time the United States was giving political asylum to people that came from El Salvador because of the Civil War, he said.

After that, he sought to become a legal citizen, filing applications and forms and paying around $500 in fees.

Seeking asylum was a move that made it easier for him to become a U.S. citizen. He finally accomplished his goal ten years later, Rivas saying the legal process was worth it.

What you can achieve being in the United States is so much more than what it costs, Rivas said.

Becoming a citizen was a pathway that led him to open his lunch wagon, Tacos Santa Catalina in 1996 and then his restaurant Sammys Mexican Grill in 2005.

Both are goals Rivas said would have been a lot tougher to achieve if he had stayed in El Salvador.

Just because of the economy, the corruption, the system doesnt allow you to obtain what here in the United States is called the American dream, he explained.

However, that American dream is getting a lot harder for people to achieve.

Mo Goldman, an immigration lawyer in Tucson, is seeing a lot more immigration cases being delayed, saying Longer than weve probably ever seen before.

When describing why theyre being delayed, he said the COVID-19 pandemic shut down consulates, leading to a backup of applications waiting to be processed.

Its a backup that is leading him to get more calls and inquiries from potential clients and hes also taking on actual cases.

However, he said the backup is also being caused by more people trying to come to the U.S. from countries like Ukraine, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras

Its the perfect storm of a lot of civil strife going on around the world, Goldman said.

As for the time it takes, Goldman said in years past it usually took about six months for people to get a work permit and about a year to get a green card, but he said the landscape is changing for the immigration process.

Its hard to give anyone any sort of estimate that would be even close to accurate, he said.

When it comes to visas, he said the time frame depends on which kind of visa, saying some can take up to a month to process.

Thats not the end of the process. Thats basically the beginning of that process, he explained.

Its a process he said will take at least another six months or even longer.

That has prompted Goldman to sue the U.S. Department of State, so they can speed up their end of the work, Goldman saying, To basically force the government to do their job.

The Executive Office for Immigration says they finished about 9,600 cases per month on average in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2022, that number dramatically went up. They say on average per month they finished about 26 thousand cases.

However, in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, they have already finished more cases per month than in each of the previous two fiscal years’ monthly average, with just over 33 thousand 500 cases.

Its people like Rivas, who had to wait for years, who is hoping others can have the same chance he did.

If they can come in legally, Its better because theyre not going to suffer the consequences of so much danger, Rivas said when asked about his message to others seeking asylum like he did.

Nevertheless, he said its up to the U.S. government to pass more laws that hes hoping will improve the immigration process.

Passing laws that way people come legally, being processed properly, know whos coming in before they cross the border, he said.

While he waits to see if that happens, Rivas is just glad he got the chance to migrate to the U.S.

Im just so grateful to live in the United States of America, he said.