The U.S. government is undergoing one of the most contentious arguments surrounding immigration in our nation’s history. Many of our clients and future clients are wondering how a government shutdown impacts their immigration cases. The Landerholm Immigration team is here to guide you through these challenging moments.
In late December 2018, the government shut down partially due to disagreement over border wall and appropriations funding. Over a month later, the government reopened for a couple weeks to try and come to some agreements by a February 15th, 2019 deadline. On February 14th, an appropriations fund with border security was passed in the Senate and signed by President Trump.
While it appears we are safe from a second government shutdown, for now, let’s take a look at how the first shut down impacted the immigration system and what you might need to know about your status.
How The Shutdown Impacts You
There is no single answer for everyone since individual cases are unique. Many of the immigration-based agencies continued to operate through the shutdown having little to no impact on immigration services. Some, however, were affected and here is a look at the agencies and organizations that saw disruptions.
U.S. Immigration Courts and Cases
The court systems seem to have been impacted the most in California. While many courts remained open during the shutdown, the event nonetheless halted the work of some judges and their support staff who were furloughed. This meant that judges couldn’t process immigration cases delaying many waiting for appointments like merit hearings.
At the California immigration courts, 9,424 hearings were canceled. Many immigrants were unable to have their cases processed while others who were trying to leave the country voluntarily had trouble doing so.
The E-Verify System
This program allows employers, Homeland Security, and the Social Security Administration to confirm the employment of their employees including immigrant workers. The system has over 750,000 registered employers which are funded by the appropriations bill. As a result, anyone using this system saw a disruption in their services and would likely see similar disruption in any future government shutdowns.
United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS)
This department is primarily a fee-funded organization that processes various benefits for immigrants; it was mostly not affected by the shutdown. All persons who work through this system are encouraged to continue to attend interviews and appointments as scheduled.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Most, but not all, Border Protection Personnel are exempt from a government furlough to maintain safety and security at the border. Roughly 6,000 technical staff will not be paid during that period. Furthermore, the U.S. Customs website is not managed during a shutdown and may offer only partial or inaccurate information about immigration procedures.
U.S. Department of Labor
While not always the case, the Department of Labor was not impacted by the government shutdown due to previously approved funds for the department. This agency processes employment-based applications for immigrants.
According to Clearinghouse records at Syracuse University, there are over 800,000 immigration cases that are backlogged in the immigration system. Of those, about 146,800 are in California. If you have found yourself in a complicated situation due to the government shutdown, please contact Landerholm Immigration, APC at (510) 488-1020 or visit us online to schedule an appointment with our legal team immigration lawyers, paralegals and other professionals – we are here to help!