DHS Budget: More Tax Funds for Benefits, Less for Enforcement

By David North on February 14, 2012

It should come as no surprise that the president's budget proposal reduces tax funds for immigration law enforcement, given the White House tilt on the subject. But it may surprise some that the same budget calls for more tax moneys for the granting of immigration benefits.

Before getting into the numbers it is useful to note that most interior enforcement is tax-funded, and that most benefit-granting is funded by fees paid by aliens and their employers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is roughly 94 percent taxpayer-funded, while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the benefit-granting agency, is about 95 percent funded by fees.

But when it comes to allocation of taxpayer moneys – called discretionary spending by the budgeteers – there is a sharp difference this year.

The amount of tax money for ICE sought by the president for fiscal year 2013 is $5.297 billion; that is a reduction of about $218 million from the year before. This is the organization that handles immigration enforcement inside the nation, and that arranges deportations (now called removals).

On the other hand, the president wants about $143 million in tax money to help operate USCIS, a sharp increase of about $41 million over last year's $102 million.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which handles the ports of entry and runs the Border Patrol, is often favored by whoever is in the White House; stopping illegals in the desert is politically more popular than forcing illegal aliens to leave the interior of the country.

This year CBP has a $190 million increase in its budget for FY 2013 as opposed to FY 2012, for a total of $10.353 billion. But that increase is more than cancelled out by the larger decrease in ICE funding.

CBP also gets about $1.6 billion in fees, but these largely relate to Customs activities.

There are other bits of expenditure, presumably in the millions, in other DHS agencies, but the main ones – ICE, USCIS and CBP – when it comes to tax funds, have collectively a $28 million decrease in enforcement and a $41 million increase for granting benefits.

For more on a significant part of the ICE operations – its work with local police departments – see Jessica Vaughan's earlier blog on the subject.