Thursday, June 25, 2020

Large numbers of US immigration workers to be laid off

Representative Image.

Washington (ANI): More than 13,000 people employed in the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) workforce are expected to face extended furlough starting August 3 that would cut off their salaries and will severely curtail the agency's work, Washington Post reported citing union representing the employees.
USCIS management will send notices of potential furloughs between Wednesday and July 3, under government personnel rules requiring advance notice when a furlough is projected to last 30 days or more.

Moreover, the USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fees from visa and citizenship applications and other services it provides are down sharply in the wake of the pandemic.

The USCIS has said it will need to take action unless it receives a cash infusion from Congress.

"We got a distinct impression that they did not want to do the furloughs but if they did not get money from Congress they are going to have to," said Danielle Spooner, president of AFGE Council 119.

This development comes after President Donald Trump passed an executive order barring many categories of foreign workers and curbing immigration visas through the end of the year. The action is further going to erode the agency's main source of funding.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency request for funding to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation's lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people," a USCIS representative said in an email.

"Without congressional intervention, USCIS will need to administratively furlough approximately 13,400 employees." The agency has said that it needed an additional USD 1.2 billion to be spread over the rest of this fiscal year and the start of the new on.

"With a loss of nearly three-fourths of its workforce, work, student and visitor visa petitions, asylum and citizenship/naturalization applications, green cards, and refugee applications will not be processed," AFGE National President Everett B. Kelley told a House hearing last week.

"We recognize the enormous economic pain that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused throughout our nation and the world. But the United States should not and need not discontinue its capacity for administering legal immigration processes. But without this supplemental appropriation, that is exactly what will happen," he said.

The threatened furlough at USCIS would be the most extensive in the federal workforce since mid-2013 when numerous agencies put some employees in unpaid status for several days scattered over the summer because of "sequestration" budget limits. (ANI)

Leaders are feeling suffocated in Cong: Amit Shah asks party to self-introspect

Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

New Delhi [India], June 25 (ANI): Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday hit out at Congress for "unceremoniously sacking" its spokesperson and said that leaders in the opposition party are "feeling suffocated".

To substantiate his point, Shah referred to the recent Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet in which senior members and younger members raised a few issues, however, they were "shut down".

Taking to Twitter, Shah posted two English dailies' articles titled -- "Not scared of PM Modi, but many in the party dodge him: Rahul at Congress Working Committee meet" and "Congress removes Sanjay Jha as party spokesperson after critical article".

Last week, Jha was dropped as AICC spokesperson and Abhishek Dutt and Sadhna Bharti appointed as National Media Panelist of Congress party.

"During the recent CWC meet, senior members and younger members raised a few issues. But, they were shouted down. A party spokesperson was unceremoniously sacked. The sad truth is - leaders are feeling suffocated in Congress," the Union Minister tweeted.

Meanwhile, Shah also targetted Congress on the completion of 45 years of emergency, which was imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975 and asked the party to self introspect.

"As one of India's opposition parties, Congress needs to ask itself: Why does the Emergency mindset remain? Why are leaders who do not belong to 1 dynasty unable to speak up? Why are leaders getting frustrated in Congress? Else, their disconnect with people will keep widening," he wrote. (ANI)

Churches will be allowed to open if they comply with COVID-19 safety protocols: Goa Archbishop


Panaji (Goa), June 25 (ANI): Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao on Wednesday said churches will be allowed to reopen if the concerned authorities comply with all the safety protocols in view of COVID-19 outbreak.

The Archbishop announced stringent rules while rolling out a formal protocol for the re-opening of Churches in the state.

"On receipt of a petition, the Diocesan Authority will send a delegate for an on-site inspection and will grant the requested permission only if he is satisfied that the church/chapel/shrine can, in fact comply will all the requirements," the Archbishop stated in an advisory.

As per the protocol, churches situated in containment or buffer zones in the state will not be allowed to open.

Moreover, the priest in charge has to make sure that thorough cleanliness and disinfection of the sacred place and of the surrounding premises have been carried out and can be assured to be undertaken regularly and the place of worship is well ventilated; volunteers/ushers are adequately instructed and prepared to assist the Faithful.

The Archbishop has asked authorities to ensure that the seating arrangement with the physical distancing of six feet is marked out; hymnals and other books/leaflets are removed from the place of worship; holy water stoups/fonts are kept dry; there is a display for signage, clearly indicating: the necessity of maintaining a physical distance of six feet others, at all times; hand sanitisers are available for the use of the Faithful and a contactless thermometer is in place to check the body temperature of those who enter.

The coordinating team, under the chairmanship of the priest, should make the necessary arrangements in the light of the directives of the church and of the civil authorities, to facilitate the process of the dradual opening of the place of worship and monitor the implementation of all the guidelines, he added.

The state government had allowed reopening of religious places on June 8. However, several religious places, including churches, remained closed for visitors fearing a surge in coronavirus cases. (ANI)

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