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Immigration agency pushes back 13,000 furloughs until the end of August

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US Immigration and Citizenship Services, the federal agency responsible for legal immigration processing, pushed back a planned furlough date for more than half of its workforce until August 31.

The immigration agency previously said it would have to furlough more than 13,000 employees at the beginning of August if Congress did not provide emergency supplemental funding.

The furloughs could grind the US immigration system to a halt and create a mass job loss at the agency.

The agency has blamed the pandemic for a decline in incoming revenue for the fee-based agency, but employees, lawmakers and outside experts have raised concerns that while the Covid-19 made the budget shortfall worse, it wasn’t the only cause.

“Due to recent assurances from Congress that they are working to provide USCIS with emergency funding, we are able to delay the effective date of the administrative furlough from August 3, 2020 to August 30, 2020 to allow Congress more time to act,” Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy, said in a memo to the workforce Friday.

Edlow said the change was due to improved incoming revenue since the workforce first informed of the furlough. However, he said the agency still requires funding from Congress to maintain operations into fiscal year 2021.

“USCIS’ funding request of $1.2 billion remains unchanged and the agency is depending on Congress to provide emergency funding to ensure agency operations continue uninterrupted,” agency spokesperson Jessica Collins said in a statement.

Earlier this week, two Democratic senators are called on the agency to postpone its planned furloughs. The request came after revised estimates showed the agency will end the fiscal year with a surplus, not the originally projected deficit, according to the lawmakers.

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