United States immigration agency prepares to suspend more than half of its workforce

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service notified Congress of its projected budget deficit last month. While talks with Hill are ongoing, according to the agency statement, preparation is ongoing for permits.

Approximately 13,400 employees will be notified if they will be laid off starting August 3, an agency spokesperson said. The agency has almost 20,000 employees.

USCIS is funded primarily by fees, and generally continues most operations during funding lapses, such as last year’s government shutdown. But during the pandemic, the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies.
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“This dramatic drop in revenue has made it impossible for our agency to operate at full capacity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Without additional funds from Congress before August 3, USCIS has no choice but to administratively suspend a substantial part of our workforce.”

The immigration agency is at the center of a series of administrative policies aimed at reducing asylum and reducing legal immigration to the United States.

This week, the White House issued an executive order imposing new restrictions on employment-based visas and preventing thousands of immigrants from coming to the United States. The administration also seeks to prohibit asylum seekers who illegally cross the border from obtaining work authorization, with some exceptions, and delay when permits can be granted.

The agency’s depleted funds appear to be the result of administration policies that decreased the number of petitions, and therefore fees, received by the USCIS, said Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program. United States at the Institute for Migration Policies. As fees decreased, costs increased for background screening and fraud detection, according to Pierce.