On July 9, the Washington Post reported that U.S.Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has shut down printing of documents evidencing legal status and work authorization for immigrants and nonimmigrants, including green cards and employment authorization documents (EAD). USCIS blames “financial concerns,” for their failure to renew the contract with the printing company despite never alerting Congress. According to a USCIS, approximately 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other employment authorization documents promised to immigrants and nonimmigrants haven’t been printed.
The administration claims that its reduction in printing capacity is due to a USCIS budget shortfall that it has blamed on a reduction in fee revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, USCIS is facing a $1.2 billion funding crisis. While COVID-19 has had a significant impact across our immigration system, USCIS has been on a path to financial ruin for years due largely to its own fiscal mismanagement.
The people impacted by these printing delays have already had their petitions and applications approved by USCIS. They have paid the often-exorbitant filing fees, completed the necessary paperwork, and gone through extensive background checks. Despite this, the agency says it “cannot speculate on future projections of processing times.”
This leaves hundreds of thousands of people without the documents needed to support themselves. These documents are important in normal times—but are even more critical during a worldwide pandemic.
USICS plans to furlough over 13,000 employees as of August 3 at a time when its own data confirms that the agency has a backlog of over 5.7 million pending cases. While the agency has asked Congress for emergency funding, the White House has yet to submit a formal request. It is unclear if Congress will be able to step in before the long August recess. Congress should step in to provide enough funding to allow the agency to continue its operations. But Congress also must also exercise its constitutional oversight authority to create and boost meaningful accountability, transparency, and productivity within USCIS.
For more information on green cards and employment authorization documents,
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