USCIS on Those Massive Staff Furloughs: "Never Mind"

By David North on August 26, 2020

USCIS has said for months that it needs an extra $1.2 billion from Congress to avoid furloughing 70 percent of its staff for the rest of the fiscal year.

At first the layoffs were to start on August 3, then that was postponed till the end of this month, and then on August 25 Joseph Edlow, deputy director of policy and interim boss of the agency said, in effect, "never mind," asserting that the agency had found some money and will muddle through while further reducing services and making "aggressive spending restriction measures", according to the Washington Post.

Among those service reductions will be slower processing of naturalization applications, thus preventing some immigrants from being able to vote in the fall elections, something that is not likely to upset the White House. The Edlow statement also suggested that some savings could be made within USCIS's contracting arrangements; much of the clerical work in the USCIS regional centers is done by contract workers rather than by civil servants.

Earlier in the month, the House of Representative voted for the $1.2 billion with few strings attached, but the Senate has not acted on the House bill and is now in recess. Law360 on August 24 speculated:

But attorneys and policy analysts worry that the absence of enforcement or oversight mechanisms in the bill lets USCIS off the hook too easily for what critics have called a mismanagement of funds, and could even render the expanded premium processing services ineffective, all while potentially driving away Senate Democrats who want more accountability from the agency.

Did DHS decide that the prospect of more "oversight mechanisms" could be avoided by finding more money in its coffers? Did the agency decide that it had been caught "crying wolf" about the lack of funds?