Impending Furloughs Could Grind U.S. Immigration to a Halt

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced its plans to temporarily lay off 70% of agency staff beginning August 30 citing budget shortfalls.

The looming deficit will bring immigration services nearly to a standstill, the agency says, and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that for each month the USCIS furlough lasts, 75,000 applications for various immigration benefits will go unprocessed.

Services affected could include naturalization processes, and the granting of green cards and work permits among others.

Application fees are used to fund 95% of the USCIS’ budget but a slowing of new applicants due to the Covid19 pandemic has drastically reduced agency revenue. The agency was already facing budget woes because of a shift of staff resources from processing to enforcement initiatives, as well as reserve mismanagement.

The halt in immigration may reduce the foreign-born population of the United States in the long term. After trending upward since 1970, the U.S. foreign-born population in 2017 and 2018 registered the smallest growth since the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

The disruption of immigration levels in 2020 will not only exacerbate that trend but could begin a historic reversal in it.

Photo by The Department of Homeland Security

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