House Panel Flatlines Immigration, Customs Appropriations

By David North on June 30, 2010

The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Homeland Security reported last week that it had flatlined funds for Border, Immigration and Trade Security functions.

Detailed figures are not immediately available and the moneys voted included some customs, as opposed to immigration, activities, but last year's budget was $16,161,000,000 for this work, and it will be $16,143,000,000 for the coming year, a reduction of about one-tenth of one percent. The funds voted were within a few million of what the Administration had requested. (I have excluded moneys for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in these calculations.)

Four agencies are covered by these funds: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which handles the inland enforcement and detention units; Customs and Border Protection, which includes the ports of entry and the Border Patrol; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the benefits- granting operation; and US-VISIT, a relatively small enforcement activity.

ICE and USCIS both got more money than in last year's enacted budget, and the other two entities got a little less.

The biggest single increase was in USCIS tax funding of about $156 million. That agency is largely funded by fees paid by those receiving (or wanting to receive) immigration benefits, including corporations hiring foreign workers, and by individual aliens and citizens. Fee receipts have been down recently, particularly corporate fees for bringing in high-tech H-1B workers. USCIS has felt the squeeze.

The biggest single decrease to be seen in these grouped numbers was $330 million for "Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure and Tech (BSFIT)," from $800 million in the prior year down to $470 million.

The subcommittee chair, Rep. David Price (D-NC), in a statement, said, on that point: "This reflects a reduction in the SBInet portion of this account because the Secretary [of DHS] has suspended any significant new investments in [that] troubled technology program while the Department completes a comprehensive reassessment of the goals and structure of the program."

So, moneys will not be available for any serious increase in enforcement next year, if the committee has its way, as it usually does. There will be flourishes, like those 1,200 National Guardsmen (without enforcement powers), but probably little more.