National Immigration Forum

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Policy Update: Budget and Appropriations

March 04, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

The Administration submitted its budget for Fiscal Year 2011 in February, and Congress has begun to hold hearings on the Administration's request. 

Some budget highlights:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:  The administration is asking for appropriations as part of its "fee reform" initiative begun in the last budget.  It is asking for appropriations to pay for the processing of refugee and asylum applications ($207), for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) ($34 million), and for the Office of Citizenship ($18 million).  Currently, these functions are funded through the Examinations Fee Account, which is the account that comes from the collection of fees from immigration applications.  Refugees are not charged a fee, and processing costs for refugee and asylum applications are currently offset by a surcharge on other applications.  The SAVE program and the Office of Citizenship are not directly related to immigration applications.  The Administration says that appropriations for these functions will be reflected in an upcoming fee adjustment.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement:  ICE is proposed to get $5.8 billion, including $2.6 billion for detention and removal; $146.9 million for Secure Communities; and $5.4 million for the 287(g) program.

Customs and Border Protection: The Administration is asking for $11.2 billion for CBP, with more than 40% of that, $4.6 billion, going to the Border Patrol to maintain a force of 20,000 agents.  There are also funds requested to enhance screening and beef up infrastructure at ports of entry to facilitate legitimate travel and the flow of goods.

Department of Justice: The Executive Office for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) is proposed to get an $11 million increase, bringing that budget to $316 million.  The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (which last year got no funding) is proposed to get $330 million in FY2011.  $10 million will be spent on services related to victims of trafficking.

Hearings:  There have been hearings on the DHS budget request in the House and the Senate.  In the House Appropriations Committee (Homeland Security Subcommittee), the budget request was criticized by Republicans as not focusing enough on enforcement.  Hal Rogers, the lead Republican on the Committee, went so far as to say that he was "troubled" by what he sees as a "greater emphasis on political correctness" rather than on the next attack. He claimed he had "never seen a budget that so poorly prioritizes and places less emphasis on security."  (In his specific criticisms, however, Rogers seemed less concerned about the "next attack" and instead complained about a decline in the arrest of non-criminal immigrants and immigrants in the workplace.)

There is plenty in the budget for immigration enforcement, including such wasteful programs as Operation Streamline, which Secretary Napolitano said in the hearing she supports.  There was also much criticism for DHS plans to hire more administrative personnel—many of whom are being hired to produce some 300 reports that the Committee has mandated the Department produce.

Other hearings produced similar criticisms from Republican members about there not being enough focus on enforcement.

Resources:  Here are some resources relating to the budget:

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