Politics

Immigration Services Remain Open as Government Shuts Down

| by Dominic Kelly

The looming government shutdown became a reality as of 12 a.m. this morning, leaving many to wonder how this would affect their lives. Well, as government employees wake up this morning, they are very aware of what this will do.

As of right now, many government employees have been furloughed and have been sent home without pay for as long as the shutdown stands, national parks, zoos, and tourist attractions are closed, and nonessential government programs have been temporarily disbanded.

The White House announced, however, that essential services will remain open, and one of these essential services includes deporting immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, employees, as well as Customs and Border Patrol, or CBP, agents are still required to work because they are necessary to ensure the safety of American citizens.

Think Progress outlined the immigration services that will be directly affected by the government shutdown, shown below.

The border will stay open. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “front line staff” and officers that screen passengers and luggage will remain on the job. They will likely not be paid until Congress passes their bill. Though limited in the number of staff, CBP agents will have to keep the border open.

Green card applications will be processed. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will remain open since it is mainly funded through user fees, so applications will still be processed.

But employers won’t be able to hire people with E-Verify. For more than 404,000 employers who use this service, the internet-based system that allows businesses to verify the legal status of potential employees will not be operating.

And passport processing will be delayed. The Department of State (DOS) will only process diplomatic visas and visas for “life or death” situations. During the last government shutdown, between 20,000 to 30,000 visa applications by foreigners and more than 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed.

Immigration courts will take a long time to process hearings and cases. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will likely furlough 70 percent of its 1,339 employees, including those working in the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Only 153 attorneys will continue to work, meaning that the processing time for immigration cases will be significantly delayed. There is already a 560-day backlog to process immigration cases.

Worst of all, immigrants will still be deported.
ICE agents will still be able to detain, arrest, and deport immigrants. On average, 1,120 undocumented immigrants are deported every day.

The government shutdown happened after House Republicans refused to pass a six-week budget unless President Obama placed a year delay on the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate, as well as President Obama, refused to give in to Republicans, with Obama saying that the ACA is already law, it will definitely happen, and that Republicans, “don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway ... just because there's a law there that you don't like.”

As of this morning, Congress had yet to reach a compromise, and an end to the government shutdown remains to be seen.