What the government shutdown means for immigration

As the government goes into its first shutdown in over a decade, confusion continues over which departments are working and which programs will be put on hold. When it comes to immigration, The Department of Homeland Security will not be operating its E-Verify program.

What does that mean for immigrants living in the U.S.? The E-Verify program allows businesses to check on the status of potential employees. While it is not operating, businesses will not be able to use the service.

Most passport agencies with The State Department will remain open to review and process visa and passport requests. If, however, a building where one such agency is housed is not supported during the shutdown, then it will not continue processing those applications, leading to longer wait times.

Although E-Verify has stopped, Border Patrol will stay on the job. The number of workers will decrease, however.

Since it is funded through user fees – which is money collected at a U.S. port of entry – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will stay open to process green card requests. As with visas, green card applications will take longer to review. Immigration courts will also take a while to run cases, as The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will cut 70 percent of its employees during the shutdown, adding to an already large backlog of cases.

The ICE will still be able to detain, arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

The way the shutdown is organized is that excepted and non-excepted categories of federal workers are created. The excepted will continue working, though eventually without pay. Non-excepted programs and workers will cease operations. Until Congress can decide on a bill to fund the government, these changes will remain in effect.

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