US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could stop running by the end of the summer if it doesn’t receive a bailout from Congress, and its operations have already been significantly affected by a sharp decline in revenue.
The agency asked for a $1.2 billion bailout back in May, citing a decline in immigration caused by the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months, but it still hasn't received an answer, as thousands of legal immigrants see their lives affected by the agency's crisis.
Democrats have shared concerns about providing the agency with emergency funding, arguing the Trump administration has previously used the agency to tighten its grip on immigration.
USCIS’ funding depends almost entirely on fees from filing applications for green cards, visas, work permits, US citizenship and asylum, receiving little to no taxpayer funds.
Because of factors such as the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Trump's administration's recent moves to limit legal immigration, there has been a sharp decline in these requests. The agency has seen a massive drop in revenue, and it is only expected to get worse, as applications are estimated to drop by 61 percent through September.
Acting USCIS chief Joseph Edlow told BuzzFeed News’ Hamed Aleaziz back in May that to help mitigate the financial crisis, the agency was would add a 10 per cent surcharge to application fees, which currently can cost hundreds of dollars.
Without a congress bailout by August, the agency has said it will have to furlough as many as 70 per cent of its workforce - 13,400 employees.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration has shut USCIS offices, implemented a 60-day ban on the issuing of new green cards and practically stopped processing asylum requests at the US-Mexico border.
In June USCIS's contract with the company that prints documents such as green cards and work permits, so about 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other work permits haven't been printed, leaving thousands of legal immigrants in limbo. The agency told the Washington Post this was due to “the agency’s financial situation" and that it it could not "speculate on future projections of processing times.”
Moreover, hundreds of thousands haven't been able to take the citizenship oath, and thus could be left out of the November presidential elections.