With the Trump administration on a continued anti-immigration tear as a campaign-hedge for November 2020 elections, and as the COVID-19 pandemic rampages on, the American immigration system—largely funded by visa and green card applications—is basically running out of money.
Now, it may have to temporarily lay off thousands of workers, and thus potentially bring immigration to a near halt from its already painfully slow crawl.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now finds itself in a situation in which it desperately needs emergency funding. If it doesn’t get it by August 3rd, it will have to furlough 13,000 employees for several months.
The USCIS squarely blames the pandemic for the massive decline in visa and green card applications, but others will also blame the Trump administration’s policies proceeding and during the pandemic.
According to a USCIS spokesperson cited by BuzzFeed News, the agency has seen a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees since March, due to the pandemic. The agency also “estimates that application and petition receipts will stay well below plan through the end of Fiscal Year 2020”.
“This dramatic drop in revenue has made it impossible for our agency to operate at full capacity. Without additional funding from Congress before August 3, USICS has no choice but to administratively furlough a substantial portion of our workforce,” the spokesperson said.
Applications are expected to drop by over 60% through September.
Others, while recognizing the clear decline in applications as a result of the pandemic and the near-lockdown on international travel, note that the Trump administration’s policies, have rendered a decline a foregone conclusion.
In May, Trump imposed a 60-day ban on new green cards. Just last week, Trump signed an executive order to suspend several temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year.
The order applies to H-1B visas, which are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in the tech industry and researchers, as well as L-1 visas, which are meant for executives who work for large corporations.
The agency is asking Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding, but that’s a big ask that is a tricky one for Democrats who are now torn between saving what’s left of immigration and trying to use the budget crisis as leverage for concessions.
Trump supporters may be happy to let immigration drown in its crisis since legal immigration has already been under relentless attack since 2016. That leaves Democrats with little negotiating power.
The only potential leverage they have is the administration’s need to stop directly butting heads with pro-business republicans, especially those focused on the tech industry, who need legal immigration to work efficiently and effectively. But even that seems less than urgent to Trump.
Only election prospects will ring any urgency bells, and a new Gallup poll suggests that Americans are fed up with the immigration battle that goes too far beyond tackling illegal immigration issues.
A new Gallup poll released on July 1st shows that 34% of Americans would prefer to see immigration to the U.S. increased—up from 27% a year ago, and the highest level of support since 1965. That could resonate in November.
By Charles Benavidez for Safehaven.com
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