Among the many curious moments of the most recent bluff and bluster of government shutdown talks over border wall funding is the assertion by likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that neither she nor Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will accept a "billion dollar slush fund" with which the president can do what he wants regarding immigration security (see here and here).
Yes, heaven forfend that an administration should have unfettered access to such an immigration slush fund to do virtually anything it wishes, unchecked by the Congress!
Oh, wait a minute. We already have one. It's called the Examinations Fee Account, which derives from the dollars collected for each and every immigration application filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security's standalone successor to what used to be the Examinations Division of the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). I can recall when the fee account was so bare that, even though it was designed to offset taxpayer costs to fund both the human resources and work of the Examinations Division, INS continued to have to seek yearly congressional appropriations to hobble along with its work.
But now that fund is so fat that it not only funds the entire USCIS enterprise, there is an additional $1 billion-plus surplus sitting in it. What has it been used for? Why, such things as the constitutionally dubious and extra-statutory DACA and DAPA programs. Although DAPA never got off the ground because it was blocked by court decisions, DACA has never been fully self-funding from the various fees that are collected for enrolling in the program.
The fee account also covers the USCIS refugee and asylee programs, because the government doesn't collect fees for aliens who seek refuge or asylum, despite evidence of egregious abuse in both programs. In fact, recent suggestions floated by the administration that it may initiate fees for asylum seekers have been met with howls of outrage by migrant advocacy groups, even though the programs that actually feed into the account are, by USCIS's own acknowledgement, backlogged because of the need to attend to unfunded functions such as DACA and asylum.
Of course, those are "good" programs and, we must suppose, therefore deserve a slush fund since they serve the work deemed important by liberals and progressives.
So, Madam Incumbent Speaker, let's hear no more about Congress's steadfast refusal to countenance an unchecked and dismally monitored immigration slush fund. Just take a peek behind the screen. It's already there.