Will the White House Shift Money Away from ICE?

By Dan Cadman on August 18, 2015

The Daily Caller recently reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was going to propose shifting $110 million away from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into other DHS organizations and efforts such as the Secret Service and cybersecurity programs. The money targeted by the White House for "reprogramming", which would need congressional approval given the staggering amount, would come from ICE's immigration programs, not its customs programs.

ICE has been among the most politicized and hardest hit agencies affected by the Obama White House's relentless drive to render immigration law enforcement toothless. And the efforts have lacked finesse — it's been more like an endless series of tooth extractions minus the anesthesia. The Border Patrol and port of entry inspectors have also been hit, but more carefully, since even this White House knows that overtly dismantling security and enforcement efforts directly at the border is a political disaster. Thus ICE has shouldered the brunt of the dismantling of immigration enforcement in all its forms.

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Division officers and agents, the ones within ICE who are responsible for immigration enforcement work, have been forced repeatedly to back down and walk away from a whole host of initiatives, ranging from worksite enforcement to ensure that only lawful workers get jobs, to criminal aliens, resulting in the release in the last several years of tens of thousands of aliens with criminal records, many of whom offend again, often with tragic results.

But because of its anti-enforcement bias, the administration has steadfastly refused to fill all of the detention beds specifically funded by Congress, leading to this "windfall" of money it now wants to give away. Taking this money from ERO would be the final nail in the coffin. And to do what? Reward the scandal-plagued Secret Service for its serial gaffes? Apportion it for vague computer systems security efforts after Chinese intelligence has already hacked the private data of millions of current and former federal employees (yours truly included), and after White House, Defense Department, and State Department systems have also been hacked by Chinese and Russian security services?

What would happen if Congress were to approve the reprogramming? It's a sure bet that they would then give in on detention bed funding and appropriate less to ICE for this coming year, rationalizing that there is no point in providing more than will be used by this recalcitrant administration in its final year. But of course, that will put the onus on them when the next batch of tens of thousands of criminals is released and wreaks havoc. The White House will point the finger at the Congress and say, "don't talk to us, we're using just exactly what they've given us", leaving our astute legislators to hold the bag for having (once again) given in on meaningful immigration enforcement efforts.

I haven't read anything else about the reprogramming possibility since the Daily Caller article, but that doesn't mean it isn't so. The timing is right. The federal fiscal years run from October 1 to September 30, which means there's give-or-take five or six weeks left to shift the bucks. The White House will argue that doing so is better than just letting it sit unused, and return to the Treasury when October 1 arrives. But let's be realistic: It would be hard to spend that much money productively in such a short period. If it were thrown at the Secret Service, what would they do with it? Party down until the next scandal breaks?