Earlier this month, the USCIS requested over a billion dollars from Congress for what they assert is Coronavirus related deficits. The USCIS has submitted the request with the promise to repay the US Treasury Department. They plan to institute a surcharge for certain visa applications to repay the loan.
The USCIS claims it will run out of money by June. Without emergency funding, they will have to furlough over 10,000 employees by the end of July. The USCIS blames the Coronavirus for the stark drop in application and petition receipts. In addition, the USCIS has closed its doors to any non-emergency physical appointments, which has slowed processing times. When these factors are combined with travel restrictions, it’s feasible that the agency would see a drop in revenue. However, mismanagement of the agency might be a larger factor.
A dramatic increase in vetting and restrictions to immigration policy under the Trump administration cannot be ignored. A philosophical shift from an immigration benefits agency to a vetting agency has caused a host of issues and backlogs for the USCIS. New policies, such as the Public Charge Rule, have made it harder than ever for immigrants to enter the US. In addition, anti-immigration rhetoric by the administration could be seen as a deterrent for potential immigrants, as well as a signal to immigration officers to be harder on cases. While the Coronavirus might be the tipping point for the agency, the trend of immigration policy throughout the administration could also be a factor.
I was a former litigator prior to working as an immigration attorney. Sometimes, people or agencies fight for the sake of fighting, and this is inefficient. Everyone has to scramble, but the results are the same. It’s just more work is all. This administration has been sued to stop questionable practices more so than any other president I can recall. It’s a pugilistic approach to running a government and does not promote good governance. The USCIS is supposed to be a review agency and not a litigious one. ICE is an enforcement agency.
The USCIS proposed a plan to pay back the bailout by instituting a 10% surcharge on all immigration benefits and visa applications. However, nothing has been approved. The bailout draws attention to larger issues in the management of the agency.