Partial Government Shutdown 2019: Implication on US Immigration

The debate over border security funding continues as we enter the fourth week of 2019. There has been little to no sign of compromise or resolve between President Trump and Congress. Approximately 25 percent of government functions are currently shut down.

How does this affect future and existing immigration cases? While the answer still remains largely unclear, there are some things we do know.

A recent report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse revealed that more than 40,000 immigration hearings were canceled due to the shutdown, adding to the record-setting backlogs already in place.

One of the most prominent effects of the shutdown is the ceased operation of the E-Verify program, making it impossible to enroll in E-Verify, create an E-Verify case, or reset passwords. Additionally, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, Conrad 30 J-1 Program for Physicians, and Immigrant Visas for Non-Minister Religious Workers are also shut down due to lack of continued funding.

Based on the effects of previous shutdowns, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement will likely continue operations as usual and ICE attorneys will focus on the detained docket during the shutdown.

It’s not all bad news, however. USCIS is largely unaffected since it is funded by user fees. The agency remains open and interviews and appointments are continuing as scheduled. Some programs, however, will expire or suspend operations until they receive proper funding.

Since the DOL’s funding had previously been secured until later in 2019, LCA and PERM cases will not be affected. Employers are being urged to refrain from taking action against employees with open E-Verify cases as E-Verify and related services are generally suspended for the time being.

In regards to social security, as per the SSA Contingency Plan for 2019, during a shutdown the SSA would “except” 53,000 employees in order to maintain key functions. These functions include the issuing of original and the replacement Social Security number cards.

Additionally, the U.S Department of State has taken steps to secure more funding to be able to pay employee salaries in this trying time. All state department employees have been ordered back to work starting as early as January 20, 2019 and as late as January 22, 2019 per an announcement on the DOS website on January 17, 2019.

The effect on some agencies is yet to be seen.

If you have specific questions about the impact of the shutdown on your case or need assistance with an immigration matter, please reach out to one of our immigration attorneys. You may also call us directly at (212) 686-3838

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