Senate Democrats Propose More Funding and Work Permits for Illegal Aliens
FAIR Take | May 2023
Last week, Senate Democrats introduced an emergency supplemental funding bill in an effort to demonstrate they are addressing the crisis at the southern border. The bill, entitled the Border Management, Security, and Assistance Act of 2023 (S.1600), is sponsored by two key members of the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.). Senator Durbin serves both as Majority Whip and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Peters is Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Twelve other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have joined these two Senators in co-sponsoring the bill.
Unfortunately, instead of offering any meaningful solutions to the border crisis, S.1600 further encourages and funds the rapid processing and release of illegal aliens into the United States. In fact, the bill actually rewards illegal aliens with taxpayer dollars and creates even more incentives for illegal immigration. To illustrate, S.1600 proposes the following spending:
- $14.5 million to the Department of Justice’s Civil Division to fight lawsuits brought against the government related to the southwest border.
- $47 million to the Department of Justice to fund United States Attorneys (federal prosecutors) “for increased law enforcement activities related to Southwest border enforcement.” However, none of this money may be used to prosecute aliens for illegal entry if the alien has a pending asylum claim or other “protection” claim.
- $13 million in state and local law enforcement assistance, but not to help enforce our immigration laws. Instead, $3 million must be awarded as grants for the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019, and the remaining $10 million is set aside for a “rural violent crime initiative” to investigate and prosecute violent crime in jurisdictions within 100 miles of the southern border.
- $2.88 billion to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for operations and support, of which:
- $1.95 billion must be transferred to FEMA for its Shelter and Services Program. This program gives food, shelter and other assistance to illegal aliens who have crossed the southern border.
- $603.5 million must be used for establishing and operating “temporary processing facilities” to increase capacity at ports of entry at the southern border while supporting trade and travel.
- $67.65 million for CBP overtime, temporary duty pay, and a “volunteer force.”
- $57 million for transportation.
- $56 million for mission support data and analysis.
- $51 million for Office of Field Operations Officers at ports of entry (not Border Patrol agents).
- $28.6 million for “caregivers and medical care” for illegal aliens.
- $11 million for employee wellness.
- $1.13 billion to CBP for procurement (i.e. large-scale purchases), construction and improvements, none of which will be used for the border wall. Instead $700 million must be for vehicle screening equipment (helpful for commercial traffic, but not particularly relevant for stopping illegal aliens) and $430 million is allocated for the purchase and deployment of “innovative border security technology,” including surveillance equipment.
- $960 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “to respond to the rise in noncitizen arrivals at the southwest border.” Notably, the bill does not direct the agency to detain illegal aliens, but rather, directs the agency to release them. Of this amount,
- $553 million is for transportation of illegal aliens.
- $127 million is for alternatives to detention.
- $36 million for “transportation processing coordinator” positions.
- $52 million for ICE overtime and temporary duty pay.
- $117 million to reimburse the medical bills of illegal aliens treated by third parties within seven days of release from custody—including state, local, and emergency and first responders.
- $61 million for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) trafficking investigations.
- $409 million to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency that has traditionally been funded by application fees, not through taxpayer dollars. However, the agency is in such dire straits due to President Biden’s immigration policies, that the Senate proposes providing the agency this direct appropriation. Of this amount:
- $210 million is allocated for “efficient processing of asylum claims.”
- $100 million is for backlogs in the asylum system.
- $99 million is allocated for issuing work permits.
- $1 billion to Health and Human Services to:
- Carry out its responsibilities with regard to Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs);
- Taking custody of, caring for and placing UACs with sponsors;
- Improving case management and case coordination services for UACs;
- Increasing Legal services, child advocate services and post-release services for UACs.
S.1600 also appropriates hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid. The legislation spends $100 million on “international disaster assistance” to respond to humanitarian needs in Western Hemisphere countries, including the provision of emergency food and shelter. It spends another $150 million for an “economic support fund” for assistance to Western Hemisphere countries to address the root causes of migration. Finally, it appropriates $500 million to the State Department for “migration and refugee assistance” to assist migrants from Western Hemisphere countries.
To help swallow the mass spending on illegal aliens, S.1600 provides additional money for immigration judges and additional money to fund the activities of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the U.S. Marshals and, the U.S. Army related to the southern border. It also provides additional money to the FBI for DNA testing. The Senate bill also creates certain immigration-related crimes and increases penalties for others.
In the end, however, the bill is not reducing the flow of illegal aliens across the border. It’s about managing the flow as efficiently as possible and actually encouraging and rewarding law-breakers. Numerous policy provisions in S.1600 demonstrate this.
First, the legislation seeks to help funnel more economic migrants to the U.S. under the guise of our refugee system. It requires the State Department to monitor Latin America and the Caribbean for regional instability and “large scale persecution” and designate members of those being persecuted as Priority 2 refugees of special humanitarian concern. This makes it easier for aliens from these regions to qualify as refugees and permanently immigrate to the United States.
S.1600 also encourages more illegal aliens by gutting major provisions of our asylum law. As currently written, Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act seeks to fight fraud and deter frivolous asylum applications by expressly providing that asylum applicants: (1) are not entitled to work permits, and (2) that applicants are not eligible for work permits until at least 180 days after filing an application. S.1600, however, proposes changing the law to require the government to grant asylum applicants – or any alien requesting an immigration benefit for “humanitarian relief” – work permits as soon as the alien is processed and released by Border Patrol or ICE agents. In fact, the legislation completely turns the tables and requires the government to issue the work permit within 30 days of release. These work permits, to be handed out like candy, are required to be valid for two years (eliminating the discretion allowed under current law) and must be renewable in two-year increments.
Finally, to help process illegal aliens faster, S.1600 would amend current law to allow for Notices to Appear to be issued electronically (i.e. email), but only if the alien consents in writing to receiving the NTA in such manner.
Through S.1600, Senate Democrats have clearly laid down their marker on immigration policy. Sadly, that marker simply repeats the Biden Administration’s priorities: fund and process. The legislation encourages illegal immigration by providing work permits and welfare support to illegal aliens. And it does nothing to stop the flow of illegal immigration at the border, merely offering our enforcement agencies the tools to manage the flow more quickly.