The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has issued a helpful guide to how a government shutdown might affect the agencies that deal with immigration. The full text is below.
Congressional negotiations on a federal spending bill remain very active. To avoid a federal government shutdown, a decision or a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at current levels must be reached by Friday, December 8, 2017. Until a deal is made or a CR is passed, the threat of a shutdown remains a possibility. Drawing on information from 2013, when the federal government closed for 16 days due to a budget impasse, here is an overview of how a shutdown would impact immigration-related agencies:
Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.
USCIS: USCIS is a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify, so if the government shuts down, only E-Verify shuts down. Otherwise, it's business as usual.
DOS (Department of State): Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and "life or death" emergencies.
CBP (Customs and Border Protection): Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered "essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement): ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.
EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review): EOIR's detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would therefore continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, EOIR continued to accept court filings, even in non-detained cases.
DOL (Department of Labor): The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC's web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold.
CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.