Rep. Cleaver, Bipartisan House Members Join to Introduce Emergency Stopgap Bill to Prevent USCIS Furloughs
USCIS is Currently Scheduled to Furlough 67% of its Employees on August 30th
Yesterday, United States Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), and Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act to temporarily prevent the need for furloughs by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by immediately increasing the agency's premium processing revenues.
USCIS is currently scheduled to furlough 13,355 (or 67%) of its 19,881 employees, including over 3,100 in the Greater Kansas City Area, on August 30, 2020. If such furloughs are implemented, they will have a devastating impact on the agency's ability to provide immigration and naturalization services to American businesses and families for many months, if not years, to come.
The Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act would allow the agency to halt the immediate furloughs, while providing more reliable and expanded services for premium processing applicants. The fees collected by USCIS may be used to address backlogs and adjudication delays for other applicants.
"For the sake of more than 13,000 American workers, small businesses seeking temporary employees, and local economies that will be devastated by these furloughs, it is absolutely vital that the United States Congress come together to pass this temporary fix for an immediate crisis," said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. "Since May, these employees and thousands of individuals seeking to realize the American dream have been left in limbo. It's time for us to put politics aside, pass this legislation, and ensure the USCIS continues to operate at full force."
"This bill is not a complete solution to USCIS's current fiscal challenges. But it will provide the agency with quick access to additional revenue that will eliminate the need for immediate furloughs. At a time of record unemployment and with increasing delays in immigration adjudications, we must do everything we can to ensure that USCIS can sustain its current workforce and keep operating at full capacity," said Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren.
"This measure --though not a long-term solution to USCIS's budget problems--will provide much-needed revenue to the agency and sustain the employment of more than 13,000 individuals across the country. Too many Americans are already struggling under the weight of unemployment. As we continue to fight COVID-19 and rebuild our economy, we must ensure that this agency can continue to fully operate," said Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
"I'm proud to introduce this legislation with Rep. Lofgren that offers a bipartisan solution to address U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' current funding shortfall," Ranking Member Ken Buck said. "This emergency stopgap bill authorizes USCIS to collect a premium processing fee to expedite benefit processing, which will provide the agency with additional revenue from the applicants themselves."
"Here's the bottom line: Without a quick bipartisan effort, an essential federal agency will be demoralized, legal immigration will be backlogged, and illegal immigration will surge," said Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"The planned USCIS furloughs are an unnecessary disaster for Vermont workers, their families, and the local economies that rely on these jobs. This bill is an important emergency stopgap measure to protect the over 1,100 Vermonters and the more than 13,000 USCIS employees nationwide who currently face the risk of furlough. We will continue to work to change and reform the USCIS to ensure it fairly meets the needs of our immigration policies. But during this critical and challenging time, we must first prevent the furloughs which would be a devastating blow to the livelihood of Vermonters and USCIS employees across the country," said Rep. Peter Welch.
"I'm pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation to stabilize USCIS. Unfortunately, USCIS is facing serious budget shortfalls that could soon require the furloughing of thousands of dedicated employees and seriously affect the essential work of the Service, such as immigration adjudication and naturalization services. Our bill will provide immediate relief to help avoid these costly furloughs and disruptions and help ensure that USCIS continues to fulfill its mission," said Rep. Jamie Raskin.
Since USCIS first announced it would furlough nearly 70% of its workforce in May, Congressman Cleaver has been working vociferously to ensure these workers remain on payroll. In June, Cleaver and Rep. Davids called on the USCIS to put forward a plan demonstrating these jobs would remain should funding be secured. In July, Cleaver and Fortenberry introduced separate legislation that would directly appropriate $1.2 billion in emergency supplemental funding to USCIS through the end of 2020. This month, Cleaver called on Speaker Pelosi and congressional leadership to ensure any coronavirus relief package include language that would keep USCIS operational through the current fiscal year.