Here’s How the Shutdown Affects Immigration Services

What the shutdown means for the Department of Homeland Security.

October 1, 2013, 11:04 AM
PHOTO: citizen
Citizenship candidates attend a naturalization ceremony for approximately 150 citizenship candidates at Federal Plaza in Manhattan on August 23, 2013 in New York City.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Oct. 1, 2013— -- Federal agencies that deal with immigration will be impacted by the government shutdown. But that doesn’t mean the government’s business with immigration -- from paperwork processing to immigration arrests -- will stop.

Most of the employees in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration enforcement, are considered “essential.” So it’s a priority to keep them on the job. Only a small number of workers are considered “non-essential” and subject to furloughs.

Here’s how the shutdown will impact immigration agencies:

Immigration paperwork

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that processes immigration paperwork, will hardly be impacted at all.

Unlike some other government agencies, they’re almost entirely self-funded. The fees they charge cover 95 percent of their budget, according to spokesperson Christopher Bentley.

One of the agency’s services will be powered down, however. E-Verify, a federal program that checks whether employees are authorized to work in the U.S., is federally funded, and will go dark until funding is restored.

Immigration enforcement

The agency that handles immigration enforcement -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) -- will continue to operate, according to spokesperson Gillian Christensen.

"ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, as well as ICE Homeland Security Investigations will remain operational under a government shutdown because they have been deemed law enforcement necessary for the safety of life and protection of property," she said in a statement.

That doesn’t include spokespeople, though. At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the public affairs office will go dark.

Guarding the border

Like the rest of Homeland Security, most of the employees at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) -- 88 percent -- are viewed as essential. That includes Border Patrol.

Of the 59,561 CBP employees overall, 52,673 are expected to keep coming to work.

Visa and passport processing

The State Department will continue to process visas and consulates will stay open, but their operations may see a slowdown in certain buildings that are affected by the government stoppage, the Washington Post reported.

Just like USCIS, visa application processing with the State Department is funded by fees, so they can continue to stay open as long as they have funds left.

Immigration courts

The majority of immigration courts are still open after the government shutdown, but some cases could be shelved until funding resumes, according to the Washington Post.

Immigration attorneys and advocates told the Post that petitions for political asylum and non-emergency deportation cases could be "delayed for months if the shutdown lasts more than a few days."

You can read the entire DHS shutdown plan here.

Update, 6:45 p.m.: I added the section about immigration courts and the potential delays to cases.

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