AFGE’s Nation Citizenship and Immigration Services Council has expressed optimism over the budget and staffing increases in President Biden’s first budget proposal. The council views these changes as a way to rebuild the agency badly damaged by the previous administration’s policies and threat of furloughs. The agency is projected to add 1,250 full-time equivalent employees to its rolls under this budget proposal.
The FY 2022 budget proposal provides $469.5 million in discretionary funding for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an increase of $341.7 million above the 2021 budget. This includes $345 million for USCIS to address the backlog of naturalization and asylum cases. It also increases the budget of the Executive Office for Immigration Review by 21%, which will reduce the backlog of cases by providing funding to hire 100 new immigration judges and support teams.
The USCIS budget was one of the programs highlighted in the administration’s budget overview as part of the Biden team's larger efforts to rebuild the country’s immigration system.
AFGE National CIS Council President Danielle Spooner is optimistic about the budget and agency operation. She said the council was just briefed on the 2022 budget, and it had been some time since the council had a preview of the budget.
“We still have some work to do to be financially secured, but we are in a much better place and continue to recover,” she said. “I believe that President Biden’s budget will make a big difference in the mission of USCIS. The transparency alone will give the workforce a sense of being a part of the recovery.”
Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is funded by user fees. Due to a funding shortfall partially attributed to the coronavirus outbreak, the agency announced it would furlough 13,400 employees for anywhere between 30 to 90 days at the end of August if Congress didn’t provide emergency funding. The planned furloughs were later cancelled, but the damage to the workforce was done.
“The threat of furloughs cost USCIS some very good employees,” Spooner said. “USCIS leadership will have to show that there is security in USCIS jobs, and that there are advancement opportunities for workers across the board.”