An ongoing backlog in the federal government’s production of green cards and other documents was prompted by budget issues and a hiring freeze at the agency that handles legal immigration benefits, according to an alert Wednesday from the agency’s ombudsman.
In June, US Citizenship and Immigration Services reduced its capacity to print secure documents, such as green cards and employment authorization documents, when it ended a contract with an outside company, the alert said.
The agency had planned to hire federal employees to fill the roles, but a budget shortfall resulted in a hiring freeze and slowed printing of the cards, according to the alert.
“Currently, there is limited production” at the facilities that produce the cards, a USCIS spokesperson told CNN in a statement Wednesday, adding that the agency is currently producing around 10,000 cards per day.
The Washington Post first reported that the administration had scaled back printing of these documents without telling Congress.
The current production backlog is roughly 115,000 green cards and employment authorization documents, according to the spokesperson, with the oldest pending card order in the queue from July 6.
The agency is bracing to furlough more than half its staff next month – a move that could grind the US immigration system to a halt. USCIS, a fee-funded agency, says it’s in the hole after having to close offices and pause services during the pandemic.
The agency has asked Congress for $1.2 billion.
“Should there be a furlough of USCIS employees on August 3, 2020, card production backlogs will likely increase,” the ombudsman alert said.
In the meantime, legal permanent residents awaiting cards may obtain proof of their status by requesting stamps of temporary evidence in valid passports, according to the USCIS ombudsman.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this story.