Thanks to AFGE members’ relentlessness in making phone calls and writing letters to members of Congress, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House to fund the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through 2020 and prevent the furloughs of more than 13,400 USCIS employees.
Specifically, the bill, introduced by Reps. Jeffrey Fortenberry of Nebraska and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, would provide $1.2 billion in emergency supplemental funding to the agency through December 2020. The money would be repaid through extra user fees – a 10% surcharge on USCIS expedited filings.
“As millions of American workers and small businesses continue to feel the economic devastation of COVID-19, it’s imperative that Congress come together to prevent over 13,400 unnecessary job losses and allow USCIS to continue processing legal immigration applications that have been waiting for months or longer,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Although I want to see policy changes made at USCIS, during the compounding public health and economic crises, preserving jobs and processing applications for workers and companies that have been waiting for months must be the first step.”
"The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has a quiet but important presence in Lincoln,” said Rep. Fortenberry, who represents the Nebraska district that includes Lincoln. “Hundreds of its hard-working employees, through no fault of their own, received notices of possible furlough due to coronavirus. We’re working on a bipartisan solution to fix the problem."
AFGE CIS Council 119 thanks Reps. Fortenberry and Cleaver for introducing the bill and urges the House and Senate to pass it.
“The council is grateful to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri for co-sponsoring the bill that will loan USCIS the funds it needs to continuation operations,” said Danielle Spooner, president of AFGE Council 119. “Without the leadership and effort of Vice President at Large Ruark Hotopp to bring this to the congressional representative within his local, this would not have become reality.”
Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is funded by user fees. Due to a funding shortfall partially attributed to the coronavirus outbreak, the agency will have to furlough 75% of its workforce starting Aug. 3 if Congress doesn’t provide emergency funding.
More than 13,400 employees have received their furlough notices. Without congressional intervention, employees will be furloughed for anywhere between 30 to 90 days.