US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency responsible for visa and asylum processing, is expected to furlough part of its workforce this summer if Congress doesn’t provide emergency funding to sustain operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
By Geneva Sands and Phil Mattingly
“Unfortunately, as of now, without congressional intervention, the agency will need to administratively furlough a portion of our employees on approximately July 20,” USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow wrote in a letter sent to the workforce on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the agency — which has 19,000 government employees and contractors working at more than 200 offices — requested $1.2 billion from Congress due to its budget shortfall.
Since then, the agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has been working with members of Congress and their staffs to educate Capitol Hill on the agency’s finances and operations.
Communications from the agency to Congress have grown more urgent as the threat of potential rolling furloughs could number in the thousands, according to one source familiar with the discussions.
The goal would be to attach the needed funds to the next coronavirus relief bill, which lawmakers plan to negotiate next. Still, with both parties far apart on any resolution, there is currently no clear pathway for lawmakers to fulfill the emergency request.
The immigration agency is primarily fee-funded and typically continues most operations during lapses in funding, such as last year’s government shutdown. However, during the pandemic the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies.