Missouri’s two U.S. senators — along with other lawmakers who represent the Kansas City area — are hoping the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) will restore more than 800 jobs cut in August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the letter sent Nov. 18, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt, Josh Hawley, Jerry Moran, and Pat Roberts noted Congress “has taken action” to financially aid the agency and encouraged it to bring the Kansas City area jobs back. They were joined in the letter to Acting by Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, and Sharice Davids.
“Changes in circumstances warrant a reevaluation of the reasons that USCIS applied at the time of its decision to reduce its contract,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
The jobs were part of a contract with the National Benefit Center in Lee’s Summit where immigration and international adoption paperwork is processed. The center historically processed nearly 7,000 international adoptions annually. Immigration and adoption paperwork claims have begun to return to almost normal levels, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The furlough came as a result of aggressive cost saving measures the agency implemented in order to an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, or nearly 70 percent of its workforce, scheduled to begin Aug. 30, according to a statement from USCIS.
The letter noted since August USCIS has seen its revenues increase, in part due to congressional action such as the passage of HR 8337, an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Sept. 30 giving the agency immediate access to existing premium processing funds that were dedicated to infrastructure improvement to cover operating expenses.
“The combination of USCIS’ increased and newly available sources of revenue puts the agency far past the low point that precipitated the significantly reduced level of support at the Center,” the letter said.
According to the lawmakers, USCIS said in September the remaining workers in the center were fully engaged for eight hours a day and had a steadily increasing workload.
The letter was sent mid-November to Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf and senior official Ken Cuccinelli.