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Blunt, Cleaver Seeks Answers on USCIS Contractor Furloughs in Kansas City

September 01, 2020

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) and U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), along with U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (Mo.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), and Pat Roberts (Kan.), and U.S. Representatives Sharice Davids (Kan.) and Sam Graves (Mo.), called for an immediate bipartisan briefing from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the reduction of a contract, which has led to the furloughs of roughly 800 contract employees in the agency’s Kansas City offices.

In a letter to USCIS Deputy Director Joseph Edlow, the lawmakers wrote:

“As you know, the National Benefit Center (NBC) has approximately 1,300 contract employees between the Missouri and Kansas facilities, and overall USCIS has 3,100 contract and federal employees in the bi-state region. Employees at the NBC conduct pre-processing steps, run background checks, and prepare applications for interviews at field offices around the country. Were it not for the hard work of these dedicated individuals, the Kansas City Metropolitan region would not have grown into the diverse community it is today and the economic impact of such a reduction will be felt for years to come.”

To get a better understanding of how USCIS reached the decision to furlough hundreds of contract workers at the National Benefit Center (NBC), the lawmakers are requesting a briefing from the agency to detail how the determination was made to descope the contract in the Kansas City region, any changes that will be made to the responsibilities of remaining personnel, the potential impacts this change will have on application case backlogs in various application categories, and the metrics that will be used to restore the full contract level in the future.

“The National Benefit Center provides critical support to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and has a significant impact on the local economy,” said Blunt. “USCIS’ decision comes at an already extremely difficult time for these workers and their families. I hope this briefing will help inform our efforts to find a resolution to this issue as soon as possible.”

“At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to find work and keep a paycheck coming in every month, it is both extremely disappointing and concerning to see the USCIS make this decision without working with Congress to find a suitable solution,” said Cleaver. “As I understand it, there is plenty of work to be done to eliminate the backlogs at field offices and Congress has shown willingness to work with the agency to ensure its fiscal stability, so we want to know exactly how they came to this conclusion, what other options were on the table, and what can be done to immediately remedy the situation.”  

“The jobs at the National Benefit Center support the livelihoods of many Kansas families and allow legal immigration applications to be processed without interruption,” said Davids. “I am very disappointed that the USCIS would end these jobs without working with Congress on possible solutions. I hope this briefing is a step towards finding alternative solutions.”

You can find the official letter from the lawmakers here.

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