Immigration agency to furlough nearly 70 percent of its workforce

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to furlough nearly 70 percent of its workforce as the agency faces budget shortfalls amid the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson for the agency said Wednesday. 

About 13,400 of the agency’s 20,000 employees will receive notice that they will be furloughed starting Aug. 3 if the agency does not receive additional funding from Congress, the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The agency is primarily funded by fees from new immigration applications, but has suspended in-person services amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

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The spokesperson said USCIS has seen a 50 percent drop in receipts and incoming fees since March, and estimates that application and petition receipts will drop by about 61 percent through the end of fiscal year 2020. 

"This dramatic drop in revenue has made it impossible for our agency to operate at full capacity," the spokesperson reportedly said in a statement. "Without additional funding from Congress before Aug. 3, USCIS has no choice but to administratively furlough a substantial portion of our workforce."

Last month the agency notified Congress of a projected budget shortfall due to the pandemic and requested $1.2 billion in emergency funding, the spokesperson said. 

The official said that USCIS continues “to have productive conversations with Congress,” but also wants to give employees who may be furloughed time to prepare and are legally required to give employees at least 30 calendar day notice prior to an expected furlough. 

The agency, in charge of processing immigration applications, is at the center of many of the policies put forth by the Trump administration aimed at limiting immigration to the U.S. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE has again made immigration policies a focus of his presidential campaign. 

Most recently, Trump signed an executive order Monday to suspend the issuance of certain temporary worker visas through the end of 2020.