The Government Shutdown Rollercoaster

January 25, 2019 9:39 am
by David Jakeman

This year’s government shutdown is having a dramatic effect on immigrants throughout the country. According to the latest reports, almost 43,000 immigration cases have been postponed since the shutdown started, and every week this drags on, about 20,000 more cases will be added to the backlog.

Maybe one of those cases is yours, or that of a family member or friend. Having your case postponed might be a terrible development, or it might be welcome news. It all depends on how strong of a case you have.

If you didn’t have a great case to start out with, having your court date thrown out is great news. When your case gets postponed, you have to go all the way to the back of the line, and that buys you time. Given the enormous backlog of cases in the immigration courts, you might not be able to reschedule your case for anywhere earlier than the end of 2020 or even sometime into 2021. This is particularly true if you have an individual case.

However, if you have a good case, having the immigration courts shut down is awful news. After all your hard work gathering evidence in support of your case, translating documents, obtaining police or medical reports, or corralling witnesses, after all your efforts to put together a convincing argument of why you deserve immigration relief, you’re now being sent to the back of the line. This is especially concerning if your case depends on a qualifying relative who might age out or pass away before your case can be heard. This is a terrible result of the government shutdown.

Even if you don’t have a case before the immigration court, you might have immigration matters dealing with other government agencies. With regards to immigration, the effect of the government shutdown is not as severe for the agencies as for the courts. USCIS is mostly funded by fees, so most operations are still functioning and your immigration applications can still be processed. However, USCIS did announce that E-Verify will not be working, nor will a few other specific programs. That means employers might face delays in being able to hire workers.

However, for other labor-related matters, applications can still be processed. In September 2018, President Trump signed a minibus appropriations bill that funds the Department of Labor until September 2019, so if you need labor certification or have other employment-related immigration requests, those applications will still be processed.

Visa applications and passports are fee-funded operations at the State Department, so they should continue to be processed. However, it’s wise to act as though there could be delays. If you need to apply for a passport or a visa, don’t wait until the last minute.

The takeaway from the government shutdown is it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. There’s no way of knowing how long it will continue, but acting promptly and prudently is probably in your best interest.

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