10 Days Until USCIS Furloughs Shutdown Legal Immigration System and Put Thousands in Washington, D.C. Out of Work

10 Days Until USCIS Furloughs Shutdown Legal Immigration System and Put Thousands in Washington, D.C. Out of Work

Local workers and union compare agency furloughs to recent USPS cuts


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Widespread furloughs in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including an estimated 2,000 employees in Washington, D.C., will effectively shut down legal immigration by the end of the month, warns the union representing these 13,400 workers.


According to Senator Leahy (D-VT), USCIS is now projecting a budget surplus – not a shortfall – for the year, with enough money to avoid furloughs, but the agency clarified that it’s still moving forward with the cuts unless Congress approves $1.2 billion of emergency funding. 


“I’m proud of the work I do, but for the past three years, our job has grown increasingly complicated, with new regulations and policies seemingly designed to discourage legal immigration to the country,” explains Danielle Spooner, President of the AFGE Council 119, which represents 2,269 employees in Washington, D.C. “These furloughs will be the final blow to our agency and to legal immigration. We’re talking about our mail system getting shut down due to lack of funding for the USPS – well, this is the equivalent for our immigration system.”


Outside of the effects this will have on the local workforce and economy of Washington, D.C., the impending furloughs of these 13,400 employees could decimate American businesses, cause our economy to lose billions in revenue, and throw millions of legal immigrants into limbo. AFGE 119 is calling on Congress to fund the agency before the August 30 deadline.


“With 70 percent of the staff furloughed, who will process the visas of international students, refugees fleeing war-torn countries, or researchers helping American businesses find cures for COVID-19?” asked Spooner. “These workers have always performed the necessary work that keeps the wheels of the legal immigration system turning, no matter who’s in office or what their party affiliation is. But these furloughs are an unprecedented, clear attempt to dismantle the legal immigration system as we know it, just like the cuts to USPS. We need Congress to act before August 30 – but with the Senate now in recess, it seems their priorities are elsewhere.”


In Congress, the bill to fund USCIS, introduced by U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), has received bipartisan support, including coauthor U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).


Last month, AFGE Council 119 launched Americans Agree, a campaign to draw attention to these furloughs and what they would mean to the American economy and immigration system. Though immigration is often a hot-button topic on the American political field, a recent Gallup poll showed that 84% of Americans agree that on the whole, legal immigration is a good thing.


The USCIS is traditionally self-funded, run almost entirely on the fees paid by legal applicants seeking naturalization and other immigration-related services. Union officials say recent anti-immigration policies, COVID-19, and rising agency costs for initiatives like fraud investigation impacted the agency’s initial budgetary woes.


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The American Federation of Government Employees Council 119 represents more than 13,400 experts and employees from across the nation who together serve the American public by operating the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which provides services to American businesses, the military, and non-governmental organizations pursuing legal immigration solutions for their workforces, while also supporting refugees and asylum seekers from across the world.

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