Homeland Security has found a way to bring back about 300 people who were furloughed under the government shutdown, finding them alternate jobs they can do until the funding crisis is over.
The employees work at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on the E-Verify program, which allows businesses to check their workers’ immigration status.
While most of USCIS is funded by fees and has remained open despite the funding lapse, E-Verify is paid for out of congressional appropriations, so when Homeland Security’s money lapsed the program went offline and the workers were furloughed.
E-Verify will still be shut down, but the workers can come back to help out on other USCIS missions, the agency said.
“USCIS is fortunate that our highly trained and experienced E-Verify staff are returning to help support the agency’s mission in other capacities until their program is fully functional,” said agency spokesman Michael Bars.
The employees are back on the payroll as of Tuesday and will be trained in their new temporary tasks.
E-Verify is voluntary for most of the country, though federal rules make it mandatory for some government contractors, and some states have made use of the program mandatory for businesses within their boundaries.
The program is a more thorough check of workers’ status than the current I-9 forms, which most businesses use, but which are easily defrauded.
Some Democrats have chided President Trump for the shutdown curtailing E-Verify, saying while he’s fighting for a border wall a more effective tool to combat illegal immigration has gone dark.
Administration officials say that even without E-Verify, businesses can still use the I-9 system.
In the meantime, businesses and employees alike are freed from deadlines that apply to E-Verify use.