National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Policy Update: Budget and Appropriations

March 07, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Unfinished Business:  The activity around the budget and appropriations is more confusing than normal this year, because the previous Congress never passed a final spending bill for the fiscal year that ends September 30, 2011.  Instead, they passed a temporary spending bill that expired March 4.  Thus, even as Congress begins its consideration of the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, released on February 14, it is still working on a spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year (2011). 

Funding for 2011:  On March 2, the Senate approved, and the President signed, a short-term spending bill to continue funding the federal government for two additional weeks, until March 18.  That bill came from the House, which approved it on March 1.  This will give the House and Senate more time to come up with a compromise measure to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. 

The House has passed its bill, H.R. 1.  The bill would take $100 billion off the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 request (released a year ago last month), or approximately $60 billion below 2010 levels.  The major immigration-related concerns are related to refugee assistance and to immigrant integration.

Impact on Refugee Assistance:  The House spending bill proposes to cut the budget for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration by 45%, or $830 million.  Among other things, these funds are used to provide assistance to refugees overseas, and for admission and initial resettlement of refugees to the U.S.  The House bill also would make a 67% cut in spending for the account used to assist internally displaced persons.

Immigrant Integration:  In his FY 2011 budget request, the President asked for $18 million for the Office of Citizenship.  That amount would fund the operations of the Office and it would provide approximately $11 million for its Immigrant Integration Initiative, including approximately $8.5 million in grants to organizations to help immigrants prepare for citizenship.  The House bill would provide no appropriations for the Office of Citizenship, and language in the bill prohibits spending for immigrant integration grants.

The Senate has yet to reveal its plans, but it will draft a separate bill that will likely be very different from the House bill.

More information on our Web site: House Spending Bill Proposes to Reverse Government Initiative to Integrate Immigrants.

The President’s Budget:  On February 14, the President released his budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins October 1, 2011.  The Forum has produced two documents that summarize the immigration-related parts of the budget.  You can get those documents from the Forum’s Web site: The President’s FY2012 Budget - Department of Homeland Security and The President’s FY2012 Budget - Department of Justice.

Congress has begun a series of hearings on the President’s FY 2012 budget, as a prelude to drafting its own appropriations bills.  That process will continue through the summer, at least.

Fiscal Responsibility?  Let’s Start with Enforcement:  The new Congress is preoccupied with cutting government spending.  In coming up with a budget for the next fiscal year, Congress will be looking to trim budgets.  The Forum recently released a paper that shows how Congress’ failure to fix the broken immigration system, and its insistence on more and more spending on immigration enforcement, has come at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer.  The paper documents the record enforcement that is now being conducted, and the diminishing returns to the taxpayer.  We suggest that there is plenty to cut in the enforcement budget, and if Congress would actually fix the immigration system, many billions of dollars could be saved annually.  You can get the paper, “Immigration Enforcement Fiscal Overview: Where are We, and Where are We Going?” from our Web site.  Also available is a one-pager with recommendations on border security spending, “Securing the Border without Breaking the Bank: Border Security Spending Principles for the 112th Congress.”


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