Possible federal government shutdown looms

24 Sep 15


The possibility of a government shutdown looms over Washington, as Congress continues to wrangle over the federal budget and spending priorities.

If no agreement is reached, a number of government functions would be suspended Oct. 1. As with past shutdowns, nonessential programs would be suspended, while those that are self-funding or deemed essential would continue operating.

The following is a department-by-department breakdown of the impact a shutdown would have on key immigration-related services:

Department of Labor

In the Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) workers would be furloughed. This means OFLC would be unable to accept or process applications, including Labor Condition Applications (LCAs), and applications for Prevailing Wage Determinations, Temporary Employment Certification and Permanent Employment Certification.

Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) judges would be unable to hear or decide cases, and previously scheduled hearings would be rescheduled.

Department of Homeland Security

Fewer operations would be affected in the Department of Homeland Security than in DOL.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and enforcement operations would be unaffected, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would continue processing applications and petitions. USCIS applications requiring an LCA, however, could be affected because of the DOL furloughs.

E-Verify would likely be put on hold, and the CIS Ombudsman’s Office would likely close.

Department of State

The State Department would likely continue processing visas, at least while funds that do not expire Oct. 1 are available. Domestic and overseas consular operations would remain operational, so long as there are sufficient fees to support operations.

U.S. Passport offices could be more significantly affected. Passport services located in federal buildings that close could be suspended. Depending on the length of a possible government shutdown, visa and passport processing could be significantly delayed. People with serious medical or other emergencies would be prioritized.

Department of Justice

The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) detained docket would likely be considered essential and would continue operations. Criminal litigation would be excepted and would continue without interruption. Civil litigation, including removal processing, could be curtailed or suspended during a shutdown, however.

BAL Analysis: While lawmakers are down to their last week to reach a deal to avert a shutdown, it should be noted that deals are often struck at the 11th hour—and a government shutdown is by no means a certainty. Congress may opt to vote on a “continuing resolution,” which would fund the government at current levels for a short period in order to buy more time for Congress to agree on a budget resolution. Those in need of urgent services that would be affected by a shutdown should submit applications or filings before Oct. 1 if possible. BAL will continue to provide updates on the possible government shutdown and its impact on immigration-related services.

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