As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are seeing a number of long-term implications for immigration policy. Here are some emerging issues you should be aware of.
One of the biggest developments was the President’s proclamation from April, which effectively suspended immigration for many classes of applicants, citing the need to protect American jobs. We wrote about the proclamation a few weeks ago.
The proclamation was initially valid for 60 days, through the end of June, but it has been renewed through the proclamation released late June which is now valid until December 31, 2020.
With elections nearing in November, it is not out of the realm of the possible that the president will use immigration policy as a flagship issue for his voter base, most of which is decidedly against both legal and illegal immigration.
We have also seen some major slowdowns in processing of other immigration-related applications. USCIS closed a number of their offices on March 19th due to worries about COVID-19. Offices reopened on June 4th, but due to new stricter regulations on visitors, they are expected to operate at limited capacity. As recently as late May, USCIS said they will have to furlough a portion of their 19,000 employees due to a budget shortfall of $1.2 billion. If any of this comes to pass, it is likely we can expect even more delays to application processing.
In a worst case scenario, the president’s proclamation and resulting lower application volumes, combined with the budget shortages, could be used to permanently shrink the size of USCIS, leading to long term decreases in the number of applications accepted and processed.
To deal with the budget shortage, USCIS has proposed a 10% surcharge on application fees to reimburse taxpayers at a later time. As of now, it is estimated that USCIS will run out of money by the end of fiscal year 2020 over the summer.
In a way, this outcome was inevitable. Since USCIS’s income is primarily fee based, and this administration has done everything in its power to curb both legal and illegal immigration, it is hardly surprising that the agency’s revenues are down.
Where will all this go?
At this point, we all have eyes on the November elections. If the Democratic party manages to win the presidency or even gain a stronger foothold in Congress, we could see a rapid reversal of some of these disturbing trends. If this does not happen, it is hard to predict where we may end up over the next four years.
In any case, we at the Law Office of Christine Contreras are here to help you through and keep you posted on the latest developments in immigration policy. If you have any questions for us, do not hesitate to get in touch!