Lawmakers ask DHS leaders to postpone USCIS furloughs

The immigration agency is now set to end FY2020 with surplus, and two Senate appropriators are asking for a pause on furloughs while Congress negotiates supplemental funding to offset 2021 shortfalls.

shutterstock  ID: 1569360250 By Sundry Photography U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office located in downtown San Francisco;

Despite predictions that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would require employee furloughs to make up for lost fee funding, the agency is apparently on track to end the current fiscal year a surplus of funding and enough money to pay its employees through the rest of the fiscal year.

In light of the revised forecast, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Homeland Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have asked USCIS Deputy Policy Director Joseph Edlow and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to postpone planned worker furloughs.

"You must not sit by as thousands of American jobs are on the line, particularly during a time of unprecedented unemployment." Leahy and Tester wrote in a July 21 letter. "We hope you will do everything in your power to ensure that the hardworking Americans carrying out the critical mission of USCIS do not go without a paycheck this fiscal year."

In June, USCIS said that it faced the prospect of having to furlough up to 75% of its workforce without pay beginning August 3 because of a shortfall in funding fees from decreasing numbers of immigration applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A deficit is projected for fiscal year 2021, which the lawmakers say can be addressed with supplemental funding in coronavirus relief legislation currently being negotiated in Congress.

The American Federation of Government Employees, whose National CIS Council represents over 14,000 USCIS workers, told FCW that as many as 13,400 impacted USCIS officers began receiving furlough notices in June and into July.

AFGE leaders told reporters during a July 14 press call that employees facing the possibility of furlough would not be eligible for backpay.

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