September 18, 2020, New York – Even as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has repeatedly sought emergency funding and threatened to furlough its employees in recent months, new documents expose how the agency has been spending its funding. Documents obtained by Make the Road New York and the Center for Constitutional Rights through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint against the Trump administration reveal USCIS spending thousands of dollars on employee bonuses and hosting a catered party for staff who worked on draconian changes to the country’s public charge rules.
The new rules these staff worked on – which the agency ultimately adopted in September 2019 – penalize immigrants who access certain public benefits or are likely to need public benefits, targeting low-income people of color and intentionally obstructing lawful immigration. The rule also discriminates against immigrants based on their wealth, race, country of origin, language ability, or disability status. Now, as immigrants submit fewer applications in response to racist and xenophobic policies such as the new public charge rule, USCIS is claiming a funding crisis. Yet, as new documents show, USCIS has hosted celebratory catered luncheons and given out employee bonuses despite arguing a budget shortage and asking Congress for emergency funding.
“The new documents revealing USCIS’s racist party and bonuses to support a new xenophobic policy show that the so-called financial crisis that USCIS has claimed it is facing is an act of the agency’s own making. The Trump administration has perverted the mission of USCIS while advancing policies to further their anti-immigrant agenda and actively discourage immigrants from applying for any type of immigration benefit. Now we know that the agency is rewarding employees for their work to further such xenophobic policies. We demand accountability from this out-of-control agency,” said Eliana Fernandez, Lead Organizer of Make the Road New York.
Read the documents on the Center for Constitutional Rights website here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.