U.S. Government Shutdown: Touching the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Federal employees

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

Three weeks have passed since the federal government shuttered, leaving almost 800,000 federal employees frustrated. Marked as the longest government shutdown in the U.S. history, it has been driven by the disagreement between Donald Trump and the Congressional democrats over the construction of a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. With Donald Trump persistently refusing to sign a spending bill without the requested $5.7 billion for the border wall, it is hard to predict how long the government shutdown will last.

The shutdown has resulted in the closure of some departments including departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Treasury, the Interior, State, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. As for the department of Justice, the lapse of appropriation has prompted some courts including the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to issue general orders holding in abeyance civil matters involving the United States as a party. Accordingly, civil cases in which the government serves as a party are suspended. Absent extraordinary circumstances including the safety of human life or the protection of property, civil cases will not be adjudicated nor will the department of Justice attorneys be allowed to work even on a voluntary basis. The order initially intended to be in force for a period of fourteen days, has now been extended until funding is fully restored. Undoubtedly, the prolonged government shutdown has exacerbated the civil cases backlog as well as forced many attorneys to go on unpaid leave.

During the federal shutdown, the fee-for-service agencies remain unaffected. Not being dependent on appropriations (except for very limited programs), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to accept and adjudicate immigration petitions. In fact, as individuals pay the fees for their immigration applications, USCIS will be open during the shutdown. USCIS itself has reaffirmed in an official statement that the government closure will not interrupt the agency’s services. The same can be maintained about U.S. consulates and therefore, interviews will proceed as scheduled. The Law Offices of Kameli and Associates will keep you posted on the latest developments as soon as we learn.