As Congress continues its budgetary deadlock, the possibility of a government shutdown looms larger by the minute. If Congress is unable to reach accord today, the US federal government will close in less than 12 hours from now or at midnight, Saturday April 9, 2011.
In general, if the US federal government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" government are furloughed and not allowed to work. So who are "essential" and what does this mean for immigration agencies?
USCIS: Update: USCIS has confirmed to AILA Liaison that it will be operating, except for E-Verify, if the government does shut down, since the agency is funded by application fees.
DOS: 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: 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: 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: 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. We do 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 we obtain more information.
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