Only five days before the deadline, USCIS canceled employee furloughs that would have cut back nearly 70% of its workforce. Such drastic measures would have ground legal immigration in the United States to a halt. Although the scheduled furloughs were avoided this round, long-term solutions are necessary to sustain USCIS in the future. While President Trump cannot legally ban immigration, he can mismanage U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to such a degree that immigration processing is halted.
Who Would Be Impacted by USCIS Staff Furloughs?
The Trump Administration was planning on furloughing approximately two-thirds of the USCIS staff since Congress could not reach a compromise on additional COVID-19 stimulus assistance. In early August, USCIS notified about 13,400 of its 20,000 workers that furloughs would be issued due to anticipated budget shortfalls.
According to experts with experience in U.S. immigration policy and operations, cutting the USCIS staff by this much would have forced the agency to operate with a skeleton crew, bringing immigration to a halt. The USCIS estimates that the furloughs would have affected approximately 1 million immigrants applying for citizenship. These figures do not include the 300,000 aspiring Americans who were already disenfranchised due to changes in immigration policy earlier this year.
The furloughs would have affected another 3 million applicants for temporary work and another 760,000 permanent residents who need to reapply for residency or renew their green cards. If people are unable to renew their green cards, they are prohibited from working, which also damages the economy and shrinks the workforce. The issues are compounded further; about 400,000 DACA renewals would have been delayed, which could have subjected people who have been in the U.S. most of their lives to deportations and prohibited them from working. The furloughs would have also delayed about 156,000 married couples from completing their final interviews to secure permanent status and delayed green card applications for 630,000 applicants as well as over 1 million relatives of U.S. citizens.
The Trump Administration furloughs would have also severely limited international adoptions by U.S.-based parents, refugee admissions, asylum processing, humanitarian grants, and other programs. In short, the furloughs could have impacted several million people a year until they were ended. Moreover, these figures obscure the fact that the vast majority of people who rely on USCIS to function are U.S. companies, American families, and citizens.