Congress Plays Russian Roulette While Immigration Slows Down

As of midnight Friday, the federal government has shut down. Congress is in a stalemate. During this shutdown, all but “essential” personnel will be furloughed and are not permitted to work until a new deal is adopted by Congress. The law firm of Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP provided a good summary of the impact of the shutdown on immigration-related government agencies as follows:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): USCIS will continue to operate as usual except for E-Verify services, which will be suspended.

Department of Labor (DOL): The Office of Foreign Labor Certification, which processes Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) and PERMs, will cease operations during the government shutdown.

Department of State (DOS): Visa and passport operations should not be impacted by the shutdown.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP officials are considered to be “essential.” Ports of entry will remain open; however the processing of visa applications filed at the border may be impacted.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will not be affected.

EB-5 Regional Center Program: The Program will be suspended. USCIS and DOS will be unable to process any petitions related to the Regional Center Program until the Program is reauthorized and extended.

In short, the government shutdown will impact six U.S. government agencies dealing with immigration. The most important of these impediments appears to be the EB-5 program that will cease functioning until the dispute in Congress is resolved. That program involves overseas investors who are applying to immigrate to the United States based on their investment of $ 500,000 U.S. for a period of five years for which they will obtain a green card for themselves and their immediate family members. The benefit to the U.S. of this program is the injection of new capital as well as the creation of at least 10 new American jobs for each investor that is approved. The other important agency that will be shut down is the Department of Labor which means that anyone applying for employment based green card status will be delayed until a resolution is reached. The benefit to the United States being delayed here is that of keeping the best and brightest workers happily contributing to the U.S. economy.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote for 1 a.m. Monday on the only proposal on the table as of now: a three-week spending bill. It’s unclear if the measure will have the 60 votes necessary in the Senate. The Senate is where the bottleneck is and agreement appears hard to reach. A prolonged shut down of the government is a source of concern not only because of the cost, but also because of the credibility of the government in the eyes of those outside the United States, not to mention its impact on the average American citizen. Previous government shutdowns only had a marginal impact on immigration. The longer this shutdown lasts, obviously, the greater impact it will have on the U.S. immigration program.

This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes. 

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