The federal agency charged with providing immigration benefits canceled the furlough of more than 13,000 employees Tuesday, a move that had been scheduled for later this month and would’ve brought the immigration system to a halt.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, told Congress in May that it expected to furlough more than half of its workforce amid a budget shortfall. The agency asked for $1.2 billion.
USCIS had initially anticipated furloughs to begin the beginning of August, until deciding to push back the date. But stalled talks in Congress over the next coronavirus relief bill, the anticipated vehicle for funding, diminished the possibility of providing the funding anytime soon. Over the weekend, the House unanimously passed legislation that would’ve temporarily kept the agency afloat.
USCIS attributed the decision to cancel the furlough scheduled to begin Aug. 30 to “unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.” The agency said it expects to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020.
“However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs. A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow in a statement.