An ongoing backlog in the federal government's production of green cards and other documents was prompted by budget issues and a hiring freeze at the US agency that handles legal immigration benefits.
In June, US Citizenship and Immigration Services reduced its capacity to print secure documents, such as green cards and employment authorization documents when it ended a contract with an outside company, according to the agency’s ombudsman.
The agency planned to hire federal employees to fill the roles, but a budget shortfall resulted in a hiring freeze and slowed down printing of the cards, the ombudsman said in an announcement Wednesday.
“Currently, there is limited production” at the facilities that produce the cards, a spokesperson from USCIS told CNN in a statement, adding that USCIS is currently producing around 10,000 cards per day.
The Washington Post first reported that the administration scaled back printing of these documents without telling Congress.
The current production backlog is roughly 115,000 green cards and employment authorization documents, according to the spokesperson with the oldest pending card order in the queue from July 6.
Some background: The agency is bracing to furlough more than half of its staff next month — a move that could grind the US immigration system to a halt. USCIS, a fee-funded agency, says it's in the hole after having to close offices and put services on pause during the pandemic. The agency has asked Congress for $1.2 billion.
“Should there be a furlough of USCIS employees on August 3, 2020, card production backlogs will likely increase,” wrote the ombudsman.
In the meantime, legal permanent residents awaiting a card may obtain proof of their status by requesting a stamp of temporary evidence in a valid passport, according to the USCIS ombudsman.