Proposed FY2023 DHS Spending Bill Fails to Address Border Crisis
FAIR Take | June 2022
The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland introduced the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would receive more funding than the FY 2022 level and President Biden’s budget request, it still falls short of what is needed to successfully address the ongoing crisis at the border.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
The budget request proposes funding CBP at a total of $15.74 billion, which is an increase of $893.8 million above the FY 2022 level. While a nearly $1 billion increase is substantial, the devil is in the details. Very little in this request would make any kind of impact at the border.
The budget calls for $100 million for “border technology” – window dressing that will prevent no one from illegally crossing the border. A further $120.2 million calls for 250 additional Customs officers, 500 technicians, and 500 mission support staff.
No money will go towards completing construction of the southern border wall. In fact, the budget allows CBP to use up to $100 million of the prior year’s border barrier construction funding for uses other than constructing the wall.
Although the funding is an increase over last year, none of the increase goes towards increasing border security.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Like CBP, ICE also received a budget increase compared to FY 2022. The legislation provides $8.4 billion in appropriations, which is $138.1 million over last year’s enacted level and $296.4 million above President Biden’s request.
Some $40 million goes to “improving detainee phone access” as well as an additional $35 million to place body cameras on ICE agents and about $20 million to expand legal access in detention facilities.
However, appropriators reduced funding for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) which is the component of ICE that handles interior immigration enforcement. The budget proposal reduces ERO’s funding by $252.4 million dollars. This is an outrageous proposition in light of the Biden administration’s release of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into the interior of the United States. Since the start of Biden’s presidency, Border Patrol apprehended over 2 million illegal aliens at the Southwest border. It is irresponsible to reduce ERO’s budget at a time of record illegal immigration.
The budget request funds an average daily population of 25,000 single adults in detention, far below the 34,000 beds that ICE currently operates. Again, this is an outrageous proposal given the scale of the current border crisis. Since day one, the Biden administration has worked hard to effectively gut ICE’s effectiveness as an agency. A court recently threw out the administration’s non-enforcement guidance that prevented ICE agents from detaining nearly all illegal aliens.
The steady reduction in funding of ERO accomplishes the same goal by reducing and restricting ICE’s ability to fulfill its mission to enforce immigration law in the interior of the United States.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Citizenship and Immigration Services is a fee-funded agency. The vast majority of their funding comes from user fees associated with various applications, enrollments, and the like. The FY 2023 budget does appropriate $683 million in order to help the agency clear existing backlogs for various services.
As part of the broader DHS section, the budget provides $30 million for the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. Proponents of ATD argue that it is a cost-effective alternative to prolonged detention in an immigration facility. Critics, including FAIR, argue that the program is not an effective use of department resources. The Center for Immigration Studies studied the use of ATD within ICE and found that “long-term data do not conclusively establish the value of the programs in actually ensuring removal from the United States of ATD participants once they have been ordered removed.” In 2019, ICE itself reported that “ATD is not a substitute for detention, but instead complements immigration enforcement efforts by offering increased supervision for a small subset of eligible aliens who are not currently in ICE detention.”
On the surface, DHS as a whole and CBP and ICE in particular appear to receive more money than they did in FY 2022. Democrats on the committee will try to cite this as their commitment to “do something” at the Southwest border. But do not be fooled. Concealed in the budget are significant reductions in the effectiveness of actual immigration enforcement, particularly in the reduction of ERO’s budget and the $95 million in funding for ventures that serve detained illegal aliens, rather than improve our immigration authorities’ ability to stop them in the first place.
Simply put, this bill falls far short of what is needed to regain operational control of the Southwest border.