On the 25th of August, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would cancel the scheduled furlough of about 13,400 of its employees. USCIS justifies this decision by citing “unprecedented spending cuts” as well as a “steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.” The agency expects to maintain operations through the end of the 2020 fiscal year. In a recently published announcement, USCIS notes that aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations and agency contracts.
The USCIS deputy director for policy, Joseph Edlow, said in a statement that, “averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.” The deputy director emphasized that congressional intervention is still crucial to sustain the agency through the 2021 fiscal year, particularly since USCIS averted the furloughs scheduled for August 30th. This furlough was delayed numerous times before the final cancellation.
These furloughs would have drastically halted the immigration system. Not only would they have caused a standstill to essential services, but they would also have adversely impact millions of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. This would be a detriment to the already-stalled U.S. economy. As USCIS has received fewer immigration applications filed over the past few months, USCIS’s revenue has also decreased. This budgetary restraint has led to a pause in the printing of 50,000 green cards and 75,000 worker permits.
Previously, the slow-moving pace of Congress’ plans about the next COVID-19 relief bill discouraged USCIS, as this funding has yet to be obtained by the federal agency. Notably, USCIS originally requested $1.2 billion in funding from Congress.
Fortunately, this past weekend, the House of Representatives unanimously introduced the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, which would have temporarily kept USCIS afloat, although this legislation has yet to be passed by the U.S. Senate. This provides some hope that USCIS has caught Congress’ attention, and that subsequent funding may be allocated to USCIS with future bills.