Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has joined 77 of his Democratic colleagues to urge congressional leaders to provide emergency funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the next coronavirus package.
This comes soon after USCIS announced in June the possible furlough of 13,400 of its employees, following the sharp drop in the agency’s revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late July, the agency announced the delay of the furloughs to the end of August.
Sablan said in his e-newsletter that these furloughs would delay the processing of employment visas for foreign workers in the CNMI. With the number of businesses on island depending on foreign workers, services could also get delayed.
According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report last February, a total of 11,093 CW-1 permits were approved in the CNMI in 2019, mostly from the Philippines at 7,379, followed by 2,408 from China, and then 447 from South Korea.
In the letter addressed to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as other leaders, it said, “While the agency’s financial status has improved significantly since its initial estimate of a $1.2-billion requirement, supplemental funding is still needed to ensure USCIS continues to fully operate through the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.”
The lawmakers also stressed that alongside appropriating for an emergency funding, it is equally critical for them to establish firm parameters that would ensure that the funds will not be used to intimidate or discourage immigration.
“A direct appropriation may help keep fees from rising again. A direct appropriation in the next relief act will also keep USCIS from furloughing some 13,000 of its employees. That loss would delay processing of employment and family petitions and green card and refugee applications,” Sablan said.
In their letter, the lawmakers also provided recommendations on USCIS’ operations, including the prohibition on the use of USCIS fee resources to fund enforcement agencies, addressing redundant anti-fraud programs, and for authority to be provided to the agency to conduct swearing-in ceremonies immediately after a naturalization interview.
Just recently, USCIS implemented fee increases, such as from $460 to $695 for CW-1 permit applications, and from $710 to $945 for employers applying for a CW-1 permit.