Homeland Security Funding Bill Will Make Border Crisis Worse
FAIR Take | July 2021
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security advanced the bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that sets spending and policy parameters for fiscal year 2022 (October 2021 — September 2022). The bill funds all aspects of the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Overall, the bill provides $52.81 billion in funding to DHS. However, both ICE and CBP saw their funding drop, a confirmation of Congressional Democrats’ hostility towards immigration enforcement and secure borders.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The bill provides $14.11 billion in funding for CBP, $927 million below the fiscal year 2021
Alarmingly, the bill rescinds over $2 billion in border wall funding passed by Congress in the previous fiscal year and provides no new funding for a border wall system along the southern border. While no American tax dollars will go to improving the physical security of our own borders, they will allocate $370 million to improve border security for countries in the Middle East as part of the Defense spending bill, with at least $150 million going to Jordan alone.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
During the Trump administration, prominent Congressional Democrats routinely called for the abolition or defunding of ICE. While that has yet to occur, Congressional Democrats were able to significantly reduce ICE’s effectiveness as an immigration enforcement agency by cutting funding and attaching significant restrictions to the money ICE does receive.
The bill allocates just $7.97 billion to ICE, of which the agency must use $3.79 billion for “civil immigration enforcement, detention, transportation of unaccompanied alien minors and to effectuate the safe return of aliens or their release to nonprofit organizations with capacity to provide shelter and other services.” This is $1.55 million below fiscal year 2021’s budget.
This highlights the Biden administration’s continued focus on unaccompanied minors at the expense of all other enforcement actions, and especially in the continued reduction of detention capacity. The bill reduces the number of adult detention beds by 5,500, effectively handcuffing ICE’s ability to detain illegal aliens for the purpose of immigration enforcement. It also ends the ability to detain aliens for more than 20 days unless they are a flight risk or threat to public safety, all but eliminating ICE’s ability to fulfill its Congressionally-mandated role.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
The bill allocates $459.5 million to USCIS. While this seems like a very small amount, USCIS receives a significant majority of its funding from fees levied on visa applications, renewals, and other services. It is worth noting that part of the $459.5 million does go towards funding the E-Verify program, a key tool in the fight against illegal immigration and the hiring of illegal laborers. However, the program is still not mandatory for all employers.
The bill authorizes CBP and ICE funding to reimburse third parties for sheltering and providing COVID-19 tests to migrants and provides funds for family reunification including costs associated with shelter, temporary housing, subsistence expenses, transportation, medical care, and access to legal services.
Most incredibly, the bill “prohibits the detention and removal of certain individuals with pending claims for humanitarian relief,” which means that CBP and ICE cannot detain any illegal aliens seeking asylum. For reference, almost every single illegal alien detained in the current fiscal year — over 929,000 so far — likely applied for asylum when they arrived in the United States. This policy, enhanced by the Biden administration’s catch-and-release policy, will continue fueling both illegal immigration and the current asylum backlog.
The bill now heads to the full Appropriations Committee for a markup hearing, where representatives from both parties offer amendments. That committee markup will occur on July 13.