More than 13,000 employees of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) could be put on the street by the end of this month, and AFGE has an important role in keep up a sense of urgency in Congress to provide emergency funding to stop the furloughs.
AFGE National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119 President Danielle Spooner said the urgency of approval of the funding to eliminate the threat of furlough is the most important issue at hand. Without the funding, 13,400 USCIS employees will go on the unemployment lines. As backlogs in adjudications of applications will continue to grow, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will not move forward, and the legal immigration system will come to mostly a full and complete stop.
“The union and the agency both agree that our main objective is to guarantee that no employee loses any pay from his/her pocket,” said Spooner.
“The urgency for a resolution of this matter cannot be emphasized strongly enough. This is not the time for folks to argue about who asked for what from whom, when -- or whether the request was made in the proper format. The need for relief is clear, and the emergency nature of that need is obvious,” testified AFGE Local 1924 President Michael Knowles before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship July 29. “Despite the many assurances we’ve received that the administration and Congress are working earnestly to find a solution to this problem, I must tell you quite frankly that our workforce is deeply concerned that time is running out, their confidence shaken by the public controversy and political posturing between the White House and the Hill over this matter – with no end in sight.”
Local 1924 represents 2,500 bargaining unit employees who in the National Capital Region and abroad and is affiliated with the USCIS Council 119, which represents about 14,500 employees at USCIS.
Thanks to the hard work of AFGE, Council 119, and our members from across the federation, USCIS last month announced it would postpone the planned furloughs of 13,400 employees from Aug. 3 to Aug. 31. Even though the delay is a step in the right direction, it does not erase the need for a permanent funding solution.
Knowles acknowledged there are concerns about what contributed to the USCIS funding crisis, but said Congress needs to act now to keep our country’s immigration services agency functioning and allow its dedicated workforce to carry out the work that is expected of them by the American People. It has been reported that USCIS emergency funding may be tied to the larger COVID-19 relief package – which itself is the subject of fierce partisan debate.
“This matter cannot wait until after all of the many demands and interests of all concerned parties are met in passing a larger COVID-19 relief bill,” he added.
Knowles told the committee that with the furlough threat and the uncertainty of emergency funding, USCIS employees’ morale is at an all-time low with many worrying that temporary furloughs could turn into permanent reductions-in-force. He urged that Congress consider reforms of the agency separately from stopping the furloughs and act now to provide emergency funding to USCIS.
AFGE members have made more than 45,000 contacts with Congress since our union learned about the planned furloughs. Encourage your USCIS colleagues and your friends and family to contact their lawmakers on this important issue through www.afge.org/SaveUSCIS.
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Watch the hearing video here.
Read Knowles’s testimony here.