Year-End Omnibus Spending Bill May Release Potentially Violent Criminal Aliens
As we approach the end of the 117th Congress, lawmakers face a self-imposed December 16 deadline to extend government funding or else trigger a partial shut-down of nonessential agencies. If they can’t agree on a long-term “omnibus” appropriations package, they may kick the can down the road with a short-term “continuing resolution” (CR) to keep funding the government at current levels for a matter of weeks or even days. While on some level a CR is symbolic of Washington dysfunction, FAIR endorses this strategy given the deleterious immigration consequences of current omnibus proposals. Lurking among the arcane and wasteful budget line items is a proposal to reduce the amount of beds available for detained illegal aliens by over 25%, at a time when Biden’s own administration projects daily apprehensions could double to a whopping 14,000 per day with the lapse of Title 42 on December 21. This would inevitably result in currently-detained aliens with criminal records being released into American communities.
Instead of reducing bed space, we should be at least doubling it. The government is legally obligated to detain all aliens caught illegally crossing the border, and asylum-seekers must be detained pending the outcome of their case. Criminal aliens are also subject to mandatory detention. Yet aliens are routinely caught and released in willful violation of the law, partly because the government has not allocated enough money for beds. The $1.5 trillion Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus, passed in March, included $2.9 billion to detain an “average daily population” (ADP) of just 34,000 aliens, held constant from Fiscal Year 2021. That came despite Joe Biden – already presiding over an unprecedented influx of illegal aliens at the southern border – demanding a cut of 4,000 detention beds to an ADP of just 30,000 aliens.
Nine months later the crisis is even worse, but Biden is demanding an even bigger cut to an ADP of 25,000, a whopping 26.5% reduction. And so far, it looks like his Congressional allies may give it to him this time. This shouldn’t be surprising, of course, as they are beholden to radical open-borders groups like the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), which says it seeks “the dramatic reduction and eventual phasing out of immigration detention” altogether.
If a FY2023 omnibus is passed with the pondered ADP cut, it means up to 9,000 currently-detained aliens will be released into American communities. Given that 31% of detained aliens have a criminal record, it’s almost inevitable that a chunk of those released will be dangerous criminals. The Democrat-controlled Senate committee that reviewed this cut described it as, “targeted reductions to wasteful detention beds and direction to right-size contract funding.” This echoes previous Democratic arguments that detention beds were going unused and therefore should be cut. However, the real travesty is that Biden continues to abuse parole authority, which is supposed to be only for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” to release mass numbers of illegal aliens when beds are available to fulfill the statutory requirement that they be detained.
This cut is a poison pill that should render the entire omnibus dead on arrival. For this reason, FAIR urges lawmakers of both parties to instead support a short-term CR into the first 100 days of the next Congress. This would buy more time to work on scuttling the proposed cut to bed space and give the incoming Congress a say in the appropriations process. Even if negotiators succeed in stripping the detention bed cut from an omnibus, FAIR will still view it as a disappointment if it extends to the end of fiscal year 2023, as the new Republican majority in the House would lose significant leverage on appropriations on many fronts. While lawmakers are understandably eager to get home for Christmas, it doesn’t mean they should compromise the safety and security of hardworking American taxpayers.