Federal Employees News Digest

Union pleads for USCIS funding as furloughs loom

The union that represents many of the 13,000 immigration employees facing furloughs backed the agency's push for emergency supplemental funding.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service says it's in financial freefall because of the coronavirus pandemic. On July 24, the agency said it would delay plans to issue furloughs to employees, but that without a $1.2 billion supplemental appropriation, the agency will begin sending employees home at the end of August.

"I'm a little concerned that some of the dialogue today seems to not recognize the urgency of this situation," Michael Knowles, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1924, testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. "The plight of 13,000 federal employees is not merely their own plight. The entire immigration system of the United States is hanging in the balance."

Joseph Edlow, deputy director of policy for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship of the House Judiciary Committee that the COVID-19 pandemic was largely to blame.

"Prior to COVID we were operating at a deficit. Frankly we've been operating at a deficit for the last several years, but we were no way in a budget shortfall that was going to cut into our mission and potentially bring about furloughs," Edlow told lawmakers.

The agency is seeking, with the support of the White House, a $570 million supplemental for the current fiscal year and $650 million to begin fiscal 2021, Edlow said.

USCIS is largely funded by fees. While fees have gone up over the last two administrations, under the Trump administration, costs have risen in part because of an influx of new employees brought on to investigate potential fraud in applications for citizenship and residency.

"Our agency certainly is broken – it needs to be fixed," Knowles said, but added that an immigration policy deal was unlikely to be struck in time to prevent furloughs.

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