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Throwing Good Money After Bad: DHS Continues to Misspend Taxpayer Dollars

August 14, 2009 - Posted by Grisella Martinez



It has been at least 200 years since Benjamin Franklin spoke the maxim “waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both,” but is clear that in the case of at least one government agency, this lesson has yet to be learned.


As Congressional Quarterly reported today, a forum at the Brookings Institution on stimulus spending highlighted the fact that the bulk of stimulus money authorized earlier this year by Congress has yet to be spent and that DHS is one of the leading culprits.


Several notable reasons were cited for DHS’s failure to spend its allocated $2.8 billion stimulus dollars, including a general slowness to spend stimulus funds as well as a lack of staff and personnel. This conclusion came on the heels of a recent report by the DHS Inspector General that stated that DHS lacks the ability to accurately track financial spending. Yet despite these findings, DHS is annually given more money than any other federal agency, with FY2010 spending alone anticipated to be at least $42 billion dollars.


For immigration advocates, this revelation is hardly surprising. DHS, since its inception, has had a notorious history of failure to timely complete many of its mandates, such as immigrant visa application-processing through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, proper review and evaluation of detention facilities by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The failure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to adequately address civil rights violations at ports of entry is another sad example. All this- in spite of the billions of dollars at its disposal.


Nowhere is this more obvious than in the bureaucratic delays at USCIS, who is tasked with processing family and employment-based visa applications, naturalization applications, and asylee and refugee petitions. It has been estimated that approximately 20,000-40,000 allocated visas go unused every year due to slow processing and excessive backlogs.


Our immigration system is broken, as everyone agrees, but it’s not only  our agencies that need reform, but it is also our laws. Comprehensive immigration reform means creating a workable system that encourages people to come here legally, and that helps agencies like USCIS meet their mandates of overseeing lawful immigration to the U.S. We can’t continue to keep wasting time and money on a broken system; we’ve got to reform it now so that we can make the best use of both.




Photo by Steve Wampler


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