75% of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) workforce likely face an involuntary pause in employment this summer.
The Washington Post reports that the budget shortfall, caused by coronavirus, has put the agency in a tough spot. USCIS says it will need to furlough over 13,000 workers starting Aug. 3 unless it gets a “cash infusion” from Congress.
The lack of funding is reportedly caused by a drastic drop in revenue typically generated by visa and citizenship application fees as well as other services.
The Washington Post reports that officials with the American Federation of Government Employees say USCIS informed them this week that furloughs will be sent between now and July 3. The impregnated pause in employment is forecast to span 30 days or more.
“We got the distinct impression that they didn’t want to do the furloughs but if they didn’t get money from Congress they’re going to have to,” Danielle Spooner, president of AFGE Council 119 told the Washington Post. Many of the potentially affected employees are immigration services officers who make determinations on applications for various types of immigration benefits, she said.
The USCIS reportedly stated that it needs an extra $1.2 billion over the course of 2020 and a 10% surcharge on application fees to cover the cost of COVID-19.
“With a loss of nearly three-fourths of its workforce, work, student and visitor visa petitions, asylum and citizenship/naturalization applications, green cards, and refugee applications will not be processed,” said AFGE National President Everett B. Kelley during a House hearing last week. “We recognize the enormous economic pain that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused throughout our nation and the world. But the United States should not and need not discontinue its capacity for administering legal immigration processes. But without this supplemental appropriation, that is exactly what will happen,” he said.
The prospective furloughs at USCIS would be the most extensive department shutdown since mid-2013.
Norma Gallegos of Wenatchee-based Hand In Hand Immigration Services says over 200 people across Grant, Douglas, Chelan, and Okanogan counties are in the process of trying to become American citizens.