By Atty. Crispin Caday Lozano
Approximately 13,400 employees of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services woke to find out they will be furloughed beginning in August, a move that will effectively bring the U.S. immigration system grinding to a halt.
In the early hours of Monday morning, USCIS employees received emails telling them the furloughs would begin on August 3 and last for at least 30 days, with the potential to last three months or longer, according to sources within USCIS. Employees were told last week that around 73% of the agency’s entire staff would be put out of work temporarily.
Why are USCIS employees being furloughed?
USCIS has nearly 20,000 employees total. Unlike most other federal agencies, a significant amount of the USCIS’s $14.8 billion operating budget — nearly 97%, according to congressional testimony from 2019 — comes from immigration fees. The reasoning given to employees for the furlough was declining revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
“USCIS has seen a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees starting in March and estimates that application and petition receipts will stay well below plan through the end of Fiscal Year 2020,” the USCIS spokesperson said. “This dramatic drop in revenue has made it impossible for our agency to operate at full capacity. Without additional funding from Congress before August 3, USCIS has no choice but to administratively furlough a substantial portion of our workforce.”
Are there any other reasons why employees are furloughed?
“What they aren’t saying is that in addition to COVID-19, Trump keeps canceling visa categories that make us money, like H-1B [visas], certain J1s, and green card applications,” an officer furloughed within USCIS told media News. H-1Bs alone usually cost thousands in fees, usually paid for by the employer.
“We’re left with a skeleton crew, and we’re trying to keep as much adjudicative and administrative work as possible to keep the lights on,” Jennifer Higgins, the RAIO division’s associate director, told staff in a Monday morning meeting, according to sources who attended.
In May 15, USCIS requested a $1.2 billion cash infusion from Congress “to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people,” the spokesperson said. USCIS would pay the money back to the Treasury via a 10% surcharge added to applications.
What are the impact of furlough to cases in Immigration Court?
Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president emerita of the National Association of Immigration Judges who has been serving as an immigration judge in San Francisco for over 30 years, said “the impact on the courts will be significant.”
“There are individuals who are put in the removal proceedings who have a qualifying relative or other basis upon which they are able to regularize their status to become eligible to be granted permanent resident status,” Marks said. “And yet the immigration courts cannot move forward in some of those situations without a USCIS decision on a preliminary application.”
- For the month of May 2020, we received approvals from USCIS for three green card renewals, two adjustment of status, and one naturalization application.
- For the month of April 2020. we received approval of one adjustment of status, three removal of condition on residence and one renewal of green card.
- For the month of March 2020, we received six Adjustment of Status and three Naturalization approvals from USCIS.
- For the month of February 2020, we received approvals from USCIS of five Adjustment of Status application andthree Naturalization application.
- For the month of January 2020, we received approvals from USCIS of five Adjustment of status applications,three N-400 applications for naturalization and three fiancé visa application.
- For the month of December 2019, we received four approvals of naturalization applications, five approvals of Adjustment of Status applications, two approvals of Petition to remove condition on residence, one renewal of green card approval and one green card application at the U.S. Embassy.
- For the month of November 2019, we received approvals of one naturalization application, one renewal of green card, one Petition to remove condition on residence and one adjustment of status.
- For the month of October 2019, we received five naturalization application approvals and two renewal of green card and one DACA approval.
- For the month of September 2019, we received approval of two naturalization applications, one adjustment of status and one application to remove condition on residence.
- For the month of August, 2019, we received approval from Immigration Court for a waiver of misrepresentation for a client who has committed marriage fraud.We also received approval from USCIS of two naturalization applications and two fiancé visa petition.
- For the month of July 2019, we received approvals of three N-400 application for Naturalization, one I-751 Petition to remove condition of residence with interview and two I-90 renewal of green card.
- For June 2019, we received approvals of four adjustment of status, six naturalization applications and two certificate of citizenship applications, and one Removal of condition on resident.
If you have immigration problems the Law Offices of Crispin C. Lozano can help you find a solution before your problem gets worse which could lead to deportation and family separation.
Crispin Caday Lozano, Esq. is an active member of the State Bar of California, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and San Francisco Trial Lawyers. He practices immigration law, bankruptcy and personal injury law since June 1999. His contact phone is 1-877-456-9266, email: info@CCLlaw.net