The U.S immigration agency responsible for processing visa and asylum request has requested $1.2 billion from Congress due to lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
US Citizenship and Immigration Service, a part of Homeland Security department, informed Congress of its projected budget deficit on Friday, an agency spokesperson said.
Furthermore, the agency is proposing a Ten per cent surcharge on application fees to reimburse taxpayers.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic reduction in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency requests for funding,” the spokesperson said in part.
The U.S immigration agency is essentially fee-funded and normally continues most operations during lapses in funding, such as past year’s government shutdown. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremony.
USCIS estimates that application and petitions receipts will drop by a sixty-one per cents through the end of the fiscal year, running down funding this summer.
The department’s depleted funds are the inevitable result of the administration’s policy that reduced the number of petitions — and thus fees — received by USCIS, said Sarah Pierrce, a policy analyst for the US Immigration Policy Programs at the Migration Policy Institute.
Between the end of fiscal years 2017 and 2019, USCIS received almost 900,000 fewer petitions, according to Pierrce, who added that the reductions was largely driven by the administration’s own decision, such as ending Temporary Protected Status for citizens of several countries or drastically reducing the number of refugees admitted to the United States.
Last week, the agency moved to make it easier for some certain temporary foreign workers who are “essential to the US food supply chain” to remain in the country by temporarily revising visa requirements.
Workers already in the United States will be allowed to stay longer without first returning to their countries of origin and can start right away without waiting for full approval, making it easier for U.S employers who can not employ workers from abroad to pick from the pool in the country. In April, DHS made similar changes for temporary foreign workers directly working in the agriculture sectors.
Meanwhile, the Trump government has been planning for increased immigration restriction. In April, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation stopping green cards for people outside the United States for at least Sixty (60) days.
The move came after President Trump posted via his twitter handle that he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.” Among many changes to the immigration system in recent months, the administration also implemented a public health law, citing the COVID-19, that allowed for the swift removal of immigrants apprehended at the border.
Chad wolf, Acting Homeland Security Secretary has hinted at coming restrictions in the coming weeks, particularity related to student visas.
“There are some student visas that we are taking are examining. We know that there’s fraud, there’s abuse in the visa process and it’s time that we deal with that,” he said during an interview with fox last week.
Recently, Chad wolf has installed Joseph Edlow to lead USCIS amidst a shakeup at the agency. Immigration hardliner Ken Cuccinelli, who was USCIS boss, remains the number two man at Homeland Security headquarters. USCIS has been without a head Chief since last year.