In a letter urging Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Consular Affairs Ian G. Brownlee to immediately address the unprecedented passport backlog plaguing Americans around the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, rendering countless Americans unable to obtain passports with wait times ballooning to upwards of 20 weeks.
“During the height of the pandemic, people were deeply concerned about losing jobs, housing and loved ones. After 15 months of isolation, people looked forward to traveling internationally to attend postponed weddings and events, reconnect with family members in other countries, and study abroad. Unfortunately, for many, obtaining a passport has been rendered almost impossible due to staffing issues at State Department Passport Agencies and an overwhelming yet foreseeable spike in demand,” the members stated in their letter.
“Given this foreseeable trend, it is unclear why more than a year later there was not more forethought put into the inevitable wave of passport applications as travel restrictions eased and the world opened back up. As a result of this backlog, our district offices have been receiving hundreds of calls and casework requests per week, and they have been told the current processing time is upwards of 20 weeks, nearly five times as long as the usual wait time. Even emergency appointments have been impossible to arrange in some of the most dire circumstances,” the members continued.
The constituents that come to our office are desperate, and in many cases, poised to lose hundreds of dollars on unused plane tickets and hotel reservations or miss important family events like weddings and funerals.
Because our offices are unable to receive reliable updates, we are unable to assuage our constituents’ concerns,” the members added.
“In all this confusion and desperation, bad actors have obtained sought-after passport appointments and are auctioning them off on social media. We have heard of constituents so desperate for appointments that they have paid upward of $200 to obtain one. This shortage is creating a black market and we have heard reports that State Department Passport Agencies are allowing appointments that do not match scheduled names […] We urge you to reexamine your plan to reopen, adequately staff and supply Passport Agencies, and provide a timeline for reducing this outrageous backlog,” the members concluded.
The letter was signed by 51 other Members of Congress, including: Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Rosa DeLauro, Dina Titus, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Bill Johnson, Jared Huffman, Thomas Suozzi, James McGovern, Jerrold Nadler, Joaquin Castro, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ed Perlmutter, Bobby Rush, Marie Newman, Ted Lieu, Susan Wild, Jackie Speier, Tim Ryan, Albio Sires, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Joyce Beatty, Grace Meng, Bill Foster, Ritchie Torres, Eric Swalwell, Dwight Evans, John Larson, Lizzie Fletcher, Steven Palazzo, Mike Doyle. James Himes, Jahana Hayes, David Price, John Yarmuth, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Norma Torres, Teresa Fernández, Mark DeSaulnier, Chrissy Houlahan, Charlie Crist, David Cicilline, Tony Cárdenas, Jan Schakowsky, Katherine Clark, Grace Napolitano, Mondaire Jones, Gerald Connolly, Julia Brownley, Jimmy Gomez, and Pramila Jayapal.
Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the northwest Bronx.
First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.
He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.
Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/