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Hundreds of Nebraska USCIS workers could be furloughed

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:52 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is facing a nationwide furlough of about 13,000 employees.

In Nebraska, about 75 percent of the local branch could potentially be out of a job.

That furlough could last up to 90 days.

Wednesday, the regional labor union met with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry to talk about a plan.

Many of the workers have received furlough notices but not much other guidance from the government.

"In Nebraska, we've got about 1,350 CIS employees," said Ruark Hotopp the president of AFGE Local 3928. "The agency has sent out about 75 percent, the closest we can estimate is about 900 to 1,000 Nebraskans."

USCIS, which has an office in downtown Lincoln, handles applications for citizenship, work permits, travel, and other various legal matters.

It’s funded by user fees but with immigration restrictions it’s seen a 50 percent drop since March.

"The furlough notice that we all received says 30 to 90 days," said Hotopp. "I suppose the possibility exists that they could recall us before 30 days were up. I would not bet on that."

Representative Fortenberry helped introduce a bill that would provide $1.2 billion in emergency funding to the agency through the end of the year. That money would be paid back through extra user fees.

"If we are bumping up against that deadline we need to push and I'm going to push for an extension or a forgoing of that furlough until Congress acts," said Fortenberry.

USCIS has not commented publicly about the matter except for issuing a press release back in June saying in part: “Without congressional action before August 3, USCIS will need to furlough over 13,000 staff members, which will have tremendous negative impacts on our mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system.”

That furlough is expected to start in 12 days. Members from the union said Wednesday they are headed to Washington D.C. to talk with members of Congress in person within the next week.

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