USCIS postpones furlough of 13,400 employees

U.S. Rep. Gonzalez: Furlough would cripple agency’s services

With only 10 days before 13,400 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees were set to be sent home, the agency announced in an email to employees Friday it would postpone the furloughs until the end of August.

The announcement comes the same week members of Congress implored the agency to delay the furloughs after the agency said in June it would be forced to reduce its staff by as much as 75% due to lack of funds to pay employees.

Additionally, in a letter Friday, members of the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded House and Senate leadership put in place a supplemental funding bill before the end of the month to help the USCIS.

Local U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, signed the letter urging the funding the agency would need to pay its employees.

“A simple review of the data and the Administration’s immigration policies make it clear that much of the agency’s current financial crisis is due to mismanagement and policy choices,” the Hispanic Caucus members wrote. “While we should appropriate any needed emergency funding, it is equally critical that we establish firm parameters and sideboards to ensure the funds are not used to intimidate or discourage immigration and to encourage the agency to develop procedures that will prevent a funding shortfall in the future.”

Gonzalez additionally said he was stunned to learn that no one in government had requested funding for the essential agency already.

“The administration claims to support a much-needed immigration workforce but consistently turns its back on them. Thousands of USCIS employees being furloughed will cause our system to be crippled and affect many in our community and throughout the country. Congress must take action to appropriate emergency funding, but with guardrails to ensure funding does not deter legal immigration or allow for further financial collapse of USCIS,” Gonzalez said.

Tasked with administering the country’s naturalization and immigration system, the agency cited the pandemic as one reason for the shortfall, as well as policy changes from the Trump administration with regard to legal immigration.

The agency further said it would need an emergency $1.2 billion to avoid furloughing up to 80% of its workers for an extended period of time.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 14,500 USCIS employees and several hundred thousand other government employees, called the news positive, but added something more permanent needed to be done for USCIS employees.

“We hope this delay will allow time for Congress to pass emergency funding legislation to prevent these furloughs from ever taking place. Congress and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration must address this issue once and for all so we do not find ourselves in this position again,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.