The omnibus budget bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week deserves its own blog post, but I thought I would point out one of the small but significant lapses.
The proposed appropriation of almost $10 million for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is buried within Title IV of Division B of the omnibus, the "Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018". The only spending limitation to be found within the language is this:
[N]one of the funds appropriated in this paragraph shall be used for any activity or expense that is not explicitly authorized by section 3 of the Civil Rights Commission Act of 1983 (42 U.S.C. 1975a).
Curious readers can find the relevant statute here, but you will quickly see that such a restriction is nebulous to the point of meaninglessness given the artfully vague language of the statute, which is what authorizes the Commission's existence in the first place.
And the Commission, which is stuffed full of Obama administration holdovers, has in the past interpreted its mandate in the most unfettered way and chosen to wade into the field of illegal immigration, exhibiting a plain bias in favor of open borders, however odd and distantly removed from its core mission that may seem to be. (See here, for instance.)
Now, even as the omnibus bill as the omnibus bill was being considered by the House, the USCCR chose once again to muddle its way into the immigration debate. By a majority, on March 16 the Commission issued (and, of course, publicized) a letter sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tom Homan demanding that ICE agents stop entering courthouses to effect arrests of deportable alien criminals. According to the letter:
The Commission previously issued a majority-approved statement raising concern that conducting immigration enforcement actions inside courthouses instills needless additional fear and anxiety within immigrant communities, discourages interacting with the judicial system, and endangers the safety of entire communities. We have attached our statement for your consideration.
The tunnel vision exhibited by the majority letter is breathtaking. ICE enforcement activity at courthouses generally only occurs in sanctuary jurisdictions, where the agents receive no cooperation from state or local enforcement agencies and are thus forced to such measures because the jurisdictions release aliens to the street rather than turn them over to ICE in the safe confines of a police station or county jail.
How, I'm wondering, does the constant release of criminal aliens back onto the streets to reoffend protect the public safety of those who live law-abiding lives within those communities? Can the Commission majority not see that even immigrants, legal or illegal, who live within those communities would be grateful not to be subjected to additional predations by individuals who have proven themselves criminals or gang members?
And if aliens are law-abiding, what fear is sown when agents make arrests at courthouses? They are unlikely to be in a courthouse unless they have been charged, with the possible exception of alien victims and witnesses. It's worth emphasizing that ICE policy is not only to avoid taking witnesses and victims into custody, but to actively assist police and prosecutors in ensuring that such victims and witnesses are provided lawful status, either through immigration parole or via the S, T, and U visas available for such circumstances.
I'm also wondering: What does "discourages interacting with the judicial system" mean? Do we really want to give illegal aliens such an open hand in our society that they feel free to constantly "interact" with the criminal justice system without adverse immigration consequences? Isn't that the classic definition of a revolving-door justice system that only encourages recidivism and the commission of continually more dangerous and serious crimes by brazen offenders who don't have to fear deportation?
It's worth noting that two of the commissioners objected so strongly to the letter and the findings of the majority that they felt obliged to issue their own letter of dissent. I find it articulate and persuasive, unlike the absurd and circular logic so evidently on display in the majority's letter.
In sum, by promulgating its majority letter, the USCCR has just shown us two things:
First, they have clearly shown the need for the Trump administration to redouble its efforts in replacing entrenched activist progressives who, in pursuing their social agendas, are more than willing to wander far afield from their core missions.
Second, they have exhibited exactly what is wrong with this omnibus bill, which not only doesn't restrict the Commission in meaningful ways in return for its annual funding, but also is profligate in cumulatively providing billions (yes, billions) of dollars in other appropriations and grants, including to law enforcement departments, prosecutors, and nonprofit organizations that actively thumb their noses at cooperation with ICE, or indeed any other federal agency engaged in immigration enforcement and control activities, with no attempt whatever to restrict such overt obstruction by tying funding to compliance and cooperation.
It is a disgrace.