Immigration in the Republican Study Committee’s 2023 Budget

Offering principles and specifics on enforcement and legal admissions

By George Fishman on June 13, 2022

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), which “has served as the conservative caucus of House Republicans ... since its original founding in 1973”, has just released its FY 2023 budget proposal. “Each year, the RSC’s Budget & Spending Task Force produces a conservative federal budget to provide a roadmap for Congress”.

The RSC rolled out its budget at a Capitol Hill press conference on June 9. The press conference was interrupted by the blaring of a nearby car alarm, and the conferees speculated that it must have been from Nancy Pelosi’s car (presumably her husband was not behind the wheel).

While immigration and border security concerns of course constitute only a small portion of the 122 page budget, I thought that the RSC did a wonderful job on these crucial issues. The budget starts off by declaring that:

[The RSC] believe[s] U.S. immigration policy should be designed to primarily serve the interest of American citizens, families, and workers. We embrace these principles:

  • Immigration policy should protect our national security by protecting the American people from terrorism, cartels, and other threats to their safety.
  • Immigration policy should prioritize American workers, help grow our middle class, raise wages, and enhance economic opportunity for all lawful residents.
  • Immigration policy should respect the rule of law, along with immigrants that honor our legal immigration processes, rather than incentivize law breaking.
  • Immigration policy should aim to assimilate legal immigrants into the American family so they too can take pride in our values, history, and heritage.

These are inspiring principles, and they echo those that the Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, forcefully articulated four decades ago as chairman of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy:

  • If it is a truism to say that the United States is a nation of immigrants, it is also a truism that it ... can[not] become a land of unlimited immigration.

  • The United States of America — no matter how powerful and idealistic — cannot by itself solve the problems of world migration. This nation must continue to have some limits on immigration. Our policy — while providing opportunity to a portion of the world’s population — must be guided by the basic national interests of the people of the United States.

  • [I]t is impossible for the United States to absorb even a large proportion of the 16 million refugees in the world and still give high priority to the needs of its own poor, especially those in its racial and ethnic minorities. ... [W]e must be realistic about our obligations as a society to people in need who already live in this country.

  • Widespread illegality erodes confidence in the law generally, and immigration law specifically, while being unfair to those who seek to immigrate legally. The Select Commission’s determination to enforce the law is no reflection on the character or the ability of those who desperately seek to work and provide for their families. ... But if U.S. immigration policy is to serve this nation’s interests, it must be enforced effectively. This nation has a responsibility to its people — citizens and resident aliens — and failure to enforce immigration laws means not living up to that responsibility.

  • [W]e do believe that we can reduce illegal entries sharply, and that the social costs of not doing so may be grave. What is a serious problem today, could become a monumental crisis as immigration pressures increase.

Unfortunately, as my colleague Andrew Arthur has described, under the Biden administration, illegal immigration has indeed become the grave and monumental crisis that Hesburgh had feared. The RSC’s budget bemoans the fact that “an illegal open-borders agenda” embraced by the Biden administration “has created the worst border crisis in U.S. history.” The administration has thus “compromised the sovereignty of our nation”. This is all too true, and the irony is all too evident in the Biden administration’s insistence to the Supreme Court that aliens cannot be returned to Mexico without Mexico's OK because under "international law every sovereign nation has the power ... to forbid the entrance of foreigners”. Irony, or the fact that the administration doesn’t consider our nation to be sovereign anymore.

Additionally, the RSC’s vision of assimilation echoes one I included in remarks I drafted for a lawmaker years ago:

Assimilation isn’t taking an English class. Assimilation isn’t becoming a naturalized citizen to preserve eligibility for federal welfare benefits. Assimilation isn’t learning how to manipulate the U.S. political system. Assimilation is developing an emotional attachment to the United States, to its core principals and historic struggles and historic figures. My ancestors came to America long after the time of the Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, long after the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Yet, to my forebears and to myself, George Washington was our hero, the American victory in the War of Independence was our victory, the Civil War was our traumatic and defining struggle. It is only when an immigrant makes this emotional investment in America that he or she can truly be said to be assimilated.

Importantly, the RSC budget supports a number of crucial immigration policy positions:

And the RSC’s budget also highlights many of the immigration reform bills introduced by its members. These are some of the most significant:

  • Rep. Matthew Rosendale’s “REMAIN in Mexico Act” (H.R. 1259) would require the Biden administration to continue to implement the Trump’s administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). As I have argued, “the MPP “in a very real sense [was] the closest thing we had to a silver bullet to bring the border under control (prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic ... [and] Title 42 ...) . [T]he MPP was truly the MVP of border enforcement. It can be so again after our present public health emergency passes if the Biden administration (or a future one) allows it to be.”
  • Rep. Mike Johnson’s “Closing Asylum Loopholes Act” (H.R. 759) “would increase the ‘credible fear’ standard to reduce fraud in the asylum process and preserve the program for those truly in need.” The bill would make many of the reforms absolutely essential to reining in the abuse and manipulation of our asylum, parole, and expedited removal systems, that, together with the Biden administration’s self-sabotage, have led to today’s unprecedented border crisis.
  • Rep. Guy Reschenthaler’s “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (H.R. 1928, 116th Cong.) would crack down on “cities or jurisdictions operating as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants” by cutting off federal law enforcement grants and allowing crime victims (or their families, in case of murder) to sue for damages the sanctuary jurisdictions that had enabled the crimes by earlier releasing the alien perpetrators after refusing to honor ICE detainers or unlawfully prohibiting their officials from cooperating with ICE. It would also provide immunity to local jurisdictions sued for actually complying with ICE detainers and shore up the legal underpinnings of detainers.
  • Rep. Dan Meuser’s “Immigration Transparency and Transit Notification Act” (H.R. 6592) would require DHS and HHS to alert state officials before transporting illegal aliens to their states and would allow governors to reject such drop-offs.
  • Randy Feenstra’s “Sarah’s Law” (H.R. 1496), would ensure that “federal authorities can detain, until ICE can process them, any illegal alien that commits a crime that results in the death of another person.”
  • Rep. Tom McClintock’s “Illegal Immigrant Payoff Prohibition Act” (H.R. 5854) would “prohibit[] settlement payments to illegal aliens in connection with their inadmissibility”.
  • RSC Chairman Jim Banks’ “American Tech Workforce Act” (H.R. 6206) would “create a wage floor of $110,000 or the annual wage paid to American workers for H-1B visas, whichever is higher. .., award H-1B visas to companies willing to pay the highest wages for their workers[, and] limit the ability of Big Tech firms to contract with third-party companies to fill positions with H-1B workers for jobs that are eventually outsourced.”

Understandably, since Republicans are in the minority, there are some urgently needed reforms that the RSC’s budget didn’t address. Should Republicans retake the House of Representatives, I would suggest the following reforms be given serious consideration: