National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Enforcement Spending on Autopilot

October 15, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

So, there have been efforts to chip away at the very large task of overhauling the immigration system. However, this is all taking place in the context of a fear on the part of Members of Congress to not appear weak on enforcement.  Despite the fact that the laws are broken, there has been no slack in enthusiasm to pour money into enforcing those laws.

Just before it left town, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund most government agencies at last year’s levels until March 2009, when a new Congress and a new President can make decisions on spending priorities.  One of the few agencies that were funded for the full year, however, was the Department of Homeland Security, which got $40 billion for its budget in the year beginning October 1 (an increase of $6 billion from the previous year).  Some of the immigration-related spending in that budget includes:

  • An increase in the budget for ICE of $254 million, for a total of $5 billion.  This includes an additional $71 million for 1,400 additional detention beds, bringing the total to 33,400.  The total for detention and removal operations is nearly $2.5 billion. $5.4 million is allocated for the 287(g) program (training local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws).

  • Customs and Border Protection gets $7.6 billion, including funding for 4,361 new hires.

  • Appropriated funds for USCIS total $101.7 million, but $100 million of that is for the E-verify electronic worker verification program.  (Most of the budget for USCIS comes from fees paid by applicants for immigration benefits, not Congressional appropriations.)

Congress also re-authorized E-verify, which was set to expire this year, but did so for the bare minimum of time necessary to get past the start up of a new Administration.  Because the program technically expires on March 6, 2009, we anticipate  that worker verification will yet again be on the minds of restrictionists and reformers alike.  One major difference between this year and last, however, is the greater skepticism and opposition to many aspects of electronic verification in its current form and in proposals such as the SAVE Act.

There were a few positive stipulations in the spending bill for DHS—among others that detention contractors who don’t abide by ICE’s detention standards will not have their contracts renewed, and that funding for alternatives to detention was increased.

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