Friday, March 8, 2013

Sequestration Update: How will the immigration agencies be affected?

Details are still coming in about the full impact of the sequester on the immigration agencies.  The agencies are working on implementation plans for mandatory budget cuts and we can assume that normal processes are likely to slow down.  Here’s some more detail about what’s going on at the various agencies.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Since USCIS gets most of its budget from fees, the impact of sequestration might not be felt as immediately as it is at many of the other agencies.  However, there has been speculation about a “spillover effect,” meaning that, as many USCIS processes are dependent upon documents and processes from other agencies like CBP and ICE, the agency will be affected indirectly from the sequester.  

Customs and Border Protection & Transportation Security Administration

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano say that the sequester is already having a major effect on travel time at airports, with lines increasing to 150% or 200% of their normal size.  This is due to cutbacks on overtime at CBP, and could be exacerbated as furloughs or changes to overtime kick in for TSA. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE has received considerable attention in light of the sequester, after 2,000 undocumented immigrants were released from detention.  In recent days, however, Napolitano has said that the release was part of the “normal ebb and flow” of detention, not an immediate result of the sequester.  Still, as Napolitano says the agency does not have the budget to meet the detention expectations of Congress, it appears the sequester will have a significant impact on the agency.

Department of State

Secretary of State John Kerry has said that “[r]eductions in funding would jeopardize the Department’s efforts to provide secure, error-free travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible. Reduced funding would also undermine progress made in ensuring that visa requests are processed in a timely fashion.”
Patrick Ventrell, the agency’s acting deputy spokesperson, expanded upon Kerry’s remarks, saying “[O]ne of the things we are very concerned about is we’ve done – we’ve had a huge influx of hiring of new consulate officers we sent out to hotspots like India, China, Brazil, where you have lots of middle class folks who are trying to come to the U.S. for the first time and visit and spend their money. It’s good for the American economy. And so we are concerned that . . . we could have major setbacks in really the herculean effort we’ve made to reduce wait times.”  He noted the huge impact this could have on the economy, stating “We estimate that for every 65 visitors to the U.S., that creates one American job.”

Department of Labor

It is unknown exactly what budgetary cuts will be made at DOL, but the possibility exists that both PERM and LCA processing will slow down. 

Source: American Council on International Personnel, 03/07/2013