House committee passes DHS spending bill, boosts USCIS funding
- By Lia Russell
- Jul 16, 2020
A day after union workers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services highlighted the potential impact of furloughs on national security, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Homeland Security Fiscal Year 2021 funding bill, 30-22.
The appropriation would set aside over $50 billion in discretionary funding for DHS and its various agencies, with an addition $5 billion provided for disaster emergency relief. USCIS would receive $183.9 million, an increase of over $51 million from FY 2020 levels.
In May, USCIS asked Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding due to declining revenue from immigration applications and other associated fees, which fund a large part of the agency's operations.
The following month, the American Federation of Government Employees said the agency had begun issuing furlough notices to its members, with impacted personnel set to begin a 30-day furlough period on Aug. 3.
The number of furloughed workers was expected to make up to 75% of the agency’s total workforce.
AFGE National President Everett Kelley told reporters during a July 14 press call that the agency had seen a huge reduction in the number of visa applications it received, slashing the agency’s revenue by 50%.
Other AFGE leaders said that a large number of impacted workers performed duties such as background checks, fraud detection investigations and examining applicants who applied for citizenship, work authorization visas or travel documents.
“Our background check and fraud detection units are most heavily hit by furloughs,” AFGE Local 3928 President Ruark Hotopp told reporters.
“We’ll see a lot of background checks not get done, which directly impacts all Americans and our national security.”
AFGE USCIS Council President Danielle Spooner said her union planned to file a grievance due to the agency’s handling of the furlough notices.
“We heard USCIS directorate managers were trying to dispute who [was] furloughed or not, and that the dispute may delay the furlough start for some,” she said during the call.
Despite the grim financial prospects, Hotopp said unions leaders were optimistic that Congress would step in.
“The things we’ve heard on [Capitol] Hill have been very good so far,” he said. “We’ve seen some movement. We still need more work from our congressional allies and friends, but we’re hopeful."