USCIS Informs 13,000 Federal Employees of Potential Furloughs Without Emergency Funding

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), the agency in charge of administering the nation’s immigration benefits, formally notified the American Federation of Government Employees that nearly 70% of its employees could face extended furloughs starting as early as August 3 unless Congress provides $1.2 billion in emergency funding.

The agency is largely funded by application fees – which the agency has claimed have decreased substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, immigration advocates such as American Immigration Lawyers Association president Marketa Lindt argue that the global pandemic alone is not responsible for the agency’s budget shortfalls:

“Congress should appropriate temporary funding to USCIS only if it includes safeguards related to transparency, accountability, and efficiency. It is clear that USCIS, an agency that only a free years ago had significant budget surpluses, has run itself into the ground through its own policies and inefficient processes. Without providing guardrails around such appropriations, the agency’s mismanagement will continue.”

Since the beginning of the Trump Administration, USCIS has rolled out controversial policies that have done more to actively discourage eligible immigrants from applying for immigration benefits than the current pandemic. These policies include the public charge rule as well as a broader policy to refer any denied applicant to removal proceedings in immigration court.

USCIS had already proposed fee increases to many applications last year, some by as much as 83%. Any potential furlough could lead to a significant increase in wait times for immigration benefits for many who have already waited years for immigration relief. At Bighorn Law, we carefully examine any possible application for immigration relief considering these latest policies and will update the community on any proposed fee increases or furloughs.