What Happens If The Government Shuts Down?

Posted On: April 8, 2011

The following information has been provided by AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

As Congress continues its budgetary deadlock, the possibility of a government shutdown looms larger by the minute. If Congress is unable to reach accord on Friday, the government will close at midnight, Saturday April 9.

In general, if the government shuts down for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" government are furloughed and not allowed to work. So what does this mean for immigration agencies?

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services): A couple of shutdown threats back, a USCIS official stated at a stakeholder engagement that USCIS (other than the human touches on E-Verify) would not need to shut down, since all of the agency, other than E-Verify, is funded by fees. However, it is not clear that this is the case, and at least one local office has indicated that it is working on its shutdown plan. AILA will update this information as they get more information.

DOS (Department of State): If there is a shutdown, the result for DOS will likely be the same as it was in the 1996 government closing. Then, the only visa issuance being done was for some diplomats and for "life or death" situations. As DOS is wont to say "a really, really important business meeting is not life or death."

CBP (Customs and Border Patrol): Inspection and law enforcement are considered "essential personnel," though staffing may be more limited than usual. The borders will be open, and CBP is unsure of how the shutdown will affect the processing of applications filed at the border.

EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review): EOIR has been advised to "put its shutdown plans in place." As with other agencies, personnel who are not considered "essential" will be furloughed. EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue in operation.

DOL (Department of Labor): DOL is making plans for a possible shutdown. If there is a shutdown, DOL personnel will not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. AILA does not know at this point whether iCERT/PERM would continue to function. However, because the systems require funding to run, practitioners should assume that they would not be available.

Other agencies will be added, and the above updated, as AILA obtains more information.

Source of Information - AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11040730 (posted Apr. 7, 2011)