Could the U.S. immigration system come to a grinding halt shortly? There are concerns that’s exactly what could happen due to a budgetary crisis that has arisen at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The full impact of a shortage of money and a shut down of service is hard to imagine, but it is likely to be huge. Congressional wrangling over what to include in the next major bipartisan pandemic response legislation – assuming Republicans and Democrats in Washington are able to eventually reach agreement – does not seem to include any reference to the USCIS problem so far.
Background on the current problem
In May 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) notified Congress of a massive projected budget shortfall that was threatening the agency’s operations and the financial well being of thousands of USCIS employees. The USCIS asked for a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress to keep the agency afloat. Without this funding, the USCIS claimed that it will not have sufficient funds to maintain its operations through the end of the fiscal year, or to fund its operations during the first quarter of FY2021. The USCIS fiscal year ends September 30th. The USCIS therefore began issuing furlough notices to its employees and anticipated that the agency would need to furlough approximately 13,400 employees starting August 3rd, 2020 if the agency did not receive funding from Congress. A new announcement delayed the furlough by one month, until August 31st. But the delay does not overcome the essential problem that a furlough of that magnitude would still shut down the agency’s operations through the end of the fiscal year and into the first quarter of FY2021, bringing the immigration system to a grinding halt.
By Andy J. Semotiuk for Forbes
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