USCIS cancels furloughs for the rest of the fiscal year

A massive wave of employee furloughs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services planned for Aug. 30 has been cancelled, the agency announced less than a week before such furloughs were scheduled to go into effect.

The initial plan to furlough more than 13,000 employees — nearly three quarters of the agency’s workforce — was first proposed in response to significant revenue losses at the agency, whose budget is funded largely by citizenship and immigration application fees rather than appropriations.

“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment. Their resilience and strength of character always serves the nation well, but in this year of uncertainty, they remain steadfast in their mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and protecting the American people, even as a furlough loomed before them,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow in a news release.

“However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs. A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.”

According to the release, the money to keep employees paid through fiscal year 2020 was found by “descoping” certain contracts that provide support activities for the agency. USCIS therefore anticipates increased wait and processing times for many of its services.

Employees at the agency warned that furloughs would have significantly delayed cases and resulted in backlogs anyway.

Proposals in the Senate’s COVID-19 relief bill would also authorize USCIS to borrow up to $1.2 billion from the Treasury to offset revenue shortfalls, but negotiations on such legislation have stalled between the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate.

According to the news release, naturalization ceremonies will continue in spite of the spending cuts.

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