The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the agency that processes applications for legal permanent residence (green cards), citizenship, and many other applications for immigration benefits says that without a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress, the agency will cease operations this summer. This is not yet another economic consequence of COVID-19, rather, it is a reflection of the fear and apprehension people have if they apply for any sort of immigration benefit. USCIS is funded by the fees that immigrants pay to file their applications. The agency’s dwindling finances are the result of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies that purposefully discourage even legal immigration. The policies enacted in the last four years have made applying for immigration benefits “the right way” a risky proposition. In October of 2018, USCIS issued a policy memorandum that instructed USCIS officers to issue Notices to Appear (NTAs), the process that officially begins a deportation case, for applications that are denied. As a result, many fewer people are filing applications even if there is not a high risk of denial.
Although not all USCIS officers have been issuing NTAs to all those with denied applications, they nevertheless include a statement at the end of each denial letter stating that the applicant is in the country illegally and must leave within 33 days; if the applicant does not leave, an NTA may be issued. These warnings are representative of the scare tactics against noncitizens implemented on a regular basis by the Trump administration. This is the real reason that USCIS is not economically viable as an agency right now. If noncitizens felt safe applying for immigration benefits, there would be plenty of filing fees to sustain all of USCIS’s operations. However, sadly, this is one of the latest ways in which the Trump administration is putting a halt to any immigration, even legal immigration.
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