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Impending USCIS Furloughs Will Contribute to a Historic Drop in U.S. Immigration Levels

Impending USCIS Furloughs Will Contribute to a Historic Drop in U.S. Immigration Levels

Want to dramatically reduce legal immigration?  One way is to defund U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the paperwork of legal immigrants.  Researchers for the Migration Policy Institute explain how the Trump administration may be doing exacting that.

In one of the largest ever furloughs by a single government agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) leadership has announced its intent to temporarily lay off 70 percent of the agency’s staff beginning August 30, citing budget issues. 

The move would dramatically slow the adjudication of a long list of immigration processes, ranging from naturalization to the grant of green cards, nonimmigrant visas, and work permits, among others. Coming on the heels of a series of immigration-related pauses and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 will mark a precipitous—and likely historic—decline in the flow of new arrivals.

The administration’s post-COVID policy decisions—including proclamations to ban the entry of certain categories of foreign nationals and suspension of visa processing—were clearly intended to reduce immigration levels. 

The USCIS furlough, though perhaps not a planned policy, will effectively achieve the same goal. The agency originally cited a looming $1.2 billion deficit as the reason for a furlough originally anticipated to begin August 3. Agency leaders later said there would be no deficit, yet still intended to continue with the furlough. Under pressure from Senate Democrats, who noted the agency’s changing financial picture, the temporary layoffs were delayed until August 31.

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