House Appropriations Committee Advances Spending Bill to Cut CBP and ICE Funding
FAIR Take | July 2021
The House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing to mark up the FY 2022 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. FAIR previously reported that 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.
Markup hearings allow members of the Appropriations Committee to add amendments to the spending bill before it heads to the House floor for a full vote. Members – particularly those in the minority party – introduce amendments that they feel will improve the bill or address areas of the spending bill that they find concerning.
The Democrat-drafted spending bill reduced the funding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by $1.55 million. The bill also reduced the funding of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – the agency that also houses the Border Patrol – by $927 million. Funding bills also direct certain areas of agency and department policy for the fiscal year. This 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, which is essentially everyone currently apprehended at the Southwest border.
The Republican minority offered a number of amendments that aimed to improve the bill by strengthening our immigration enforcement agencies and by inserting policy changes that would strengthen our existing immigration laws.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) introduced an amendment that would have permanently authorized the successful E-Verify employment verification program by eliminating the need to annually re-authorize the program under 8 USC 1324a. The committee voted against this amendment by a partisan vote of 23-33.
Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment that would raise ICE’s funding from $3.53 billion to $3.83 billion, giving ICE additional resources to see through its Congressionally-authorized mission of enforcing immigration laws in the interior of the United States. The committee voted against this amendment by use of a voice vote.
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) introduced an amendment that would strike provisions in the bill barring the use of CBP funds to complete construction of the border wall. The committee voted against this amendment by a partisan vote of 23-33.
Unfortunately, members of the committee also offered a number of amendments that made the bill even worse than its original draft. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment that would permit visa lottery applicants denied entry to the U.S. due to the Trump-era travel restrictions the ability to retroactively come to the U.S. on this FAIR-opposed visa. These lottery visa recipients hold no skills, and earn a green card simply for the fact that they live in a country with low levels of emigration to the United States.
Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced amendments that increased FY 2022 levels of the H-2A and H-2B guestworker visa programs, respectively. The H-2B amendment allows for the secretary of DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas, to consult with the Secretary of the Department of Labor Marty Walsh to use the “returning worker exemption” to increase the number of H-2B nonagricultural guestworkers in the fiscal year. The H-2A changes offered by Rep. Cuellar allows for DHS to admit farmworkers to the H-2A program “without regard to whether such labor is, or services are, of a temporary or seasonal nature.” Normally, the H-2A program requires that guestworkers admitted under the program are temporary and/or seasonal.
The full committee reported the bill favorably to the full House by a partisan vote of 33-24. In her opening statement, ranking member Kay Granger (R-Texas) said that “Unfortunately, there are just too many differences of opinions in this year’s bill, and I am going to have to oppose it in its current form. To put it simply, the bill before us today proposes funding levels and policies that fail to address the illegal immigration crisis we are currently experiencing in this country.”
The bill now heads to the full House for a vote. Most House observers believe that Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic leadership will include this bill in a larger omnibus spending package later this year, with a high likelihood of a continuing resolution in September.