How USCIS Staff Furloughs Could Impact Legal Immigration

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with U.S. flag

Although the Trump administration is unable to cease processing immigration applications, its mismanagement of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could still lead to furloughs that impact immigrants, international adoptions, and United States businesses.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with U.S. flag

Plans for the Furlough

USCIS is responsible for offering visas, green cards, and citizenship to immigrants in the U.S. According to USA Today, the agency intended to furlough about 70% of its employees at the end of August. This translates to around 13,400 out of 20,000 workers. Although the agency canceled the scheduled furlough, Congress must establish a long-term solution to provide USCIS with the financial assistance necessary to sustain the agency in the future.

Doug Rand, assistant director for entrepreneurship in the Obama White House and Boundless Immigration co-founder, spoke with Forbes to discuss the effects the furlough would have on legal immigration in the U.S.

“It’s hard to overstate how bad this would be,” Rand stated. “USCIS would be operating with a skeleton crew, and our legal immigration system would grind to a halt.”

The Effects of USCIS Furloughs 

According to Rand, the impacts of USCIS furloughs could include:

  • The disenfranchisement of nearly 300,000 out of the one million immigrants who apply for citizenship every year.
  • The inability of immigrants to work without a physical green card.
  • The prevention of renewals for Dreamers relying on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), leading to an inability to renew work permits and potentially deportation.

ISCIS staff furloughs would also affect around one million U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are sponsoring family members for green cards, more than 630,000 applications for green cards every year, and 156,000 married couples requiring final interviews before becoming permanent residents.

USCIS employees and individuals attempting to gain citizenship aren’t the only ones who would be impacted. Furloughs would also affect humanitarian immigration, international adoptions, and U.S. businesses. 

Impact on Businesses

Furloughs would be more chaotic for businesses in the United States. USCIS typically handles more than 160,000 employer sponsorships of worker green cards, over 230,000 temporary immigration status changes and extensions, and approximately 550,000 sponsorships of temporary workers.

Halting USCIS processes and, subsequently, immigration would hurt businesses that depend on immigrant workers. Businesses are already struggling to revive because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the inability to process paperwork for essential workers, vaccine researchers, and other healthcare employees would make it more difficult to recover.