Government Shutdown Over, Immigration Backlogs Continue

The government shutdown has finally ended, but for many immigrants, resolving the issues created by the shutdown has only just begun.

During the shutdown, many of the nation’s top news networks covered furloughed workers and closed national monuments. However, for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the shutdown created massive problems. From international employees to individuals seeking cancellation of removal, the range of immigration issues impacted by the shutdown span the spectrum of immigration law.

For employers hoping to submit petitions on behalf of their permanent and temporary employees, the Department of Labor, which plays an essential role in this process, was closed for business. When efficiency matters more than ever to an international company, this delay caused immeasurable inconvenience for businesses that are eager to bring top talent from abroad to positively contribute to the U.S. economy.

Similarly, the government’s “E-Verify” system that allows employers to check the immigration status of their employees was closed during the shutdown. Although some employers can check this matter by alternative means, some states require the online verification. Many employers and employees were therefore stuck in limbo waiting for the system to reopen, which caused immense financial damage for businesses across the country.

On the defensive side, certain asylum applicants and individuals seeking cancellation of removal were forced to reschedule their court dates due to limited staffing in the immigration courts. As many applicants for these types of relief are aware, scheduling hearings in immigration court can be a long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating process. Due to already extensive backlogs within the courts, many applicants wait months or years to have their case heard before an immigration judge. Delaying this opportunity not only perpetuates the existing backlog, but also prolongs the applicant’s time in the U.S. without status or resolution of the case. This can be an extremely anxious process and effectively suspends the applicant’s own life, as he or she is unable to fully move forward until the case has been heard in court.

With the shutdown finally at a close, immigration processing has resumed. However, from big business to individuals, the impact of the shutdown is immense. The lessons learned from the shutdown highlight the need for efficiency and reform within the immigration system, as well as cooperation among the nation’s leaders in order to work for the best interests of their constituents. More resources devoted to alleviating the backlogs and preventing further delays will contribute to a more capable system that benefits everyone.