This month, President Obama released his FY2013 budget proposal, estimating $3.8 trillion in total spending in 2013. This budget proposal signals the beginning of the annual federal budget process. Congressional budget and appropriations committees will now spend months deliberating over the appropriations bills, which are unlikely to look anything like the president’s budget proposal. However, the president’s budget request does provide a window into the administration’s immigration priorities and plans.

Immigration enforcement remains the priority in this proposed budget. As usual, USCIS’s budget is dwarfed by that of ICE and CBP combined. Even within USCIS’s budget, there are proposed increases for enforcement in the form of an expanded E-Verify program. Unfortunately, USCIS will remain a mostly fee-dependent agency, as there is no request for additional appropriations from Congress to cover the costs of processing refugees and asylees or any other costs.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
FY2013 request: $3.005 billion (a 2.4% decrease from FY2012 enacted)

  • $0 appropriations requested to cover asylum and refugee processing costs, meaning these costs must be covered by fees paid by applicants for immigration benefits.
  • Proposes a 9% increase for E-Verify, including $8.6 million for expansion of the E-Verify Self Check.
  • Requests $11 million for immigrant integration and citizenship, which will be taken from the Examinations Fee Account.

Within ICE, the identification and removal of “criminal aliens” remains the priority. There is a shift away from the 287(g) program and the Fugitive Operations Program, and toward Secure Communities, which is expected to be mandatory and activated in all jurisdictions across the country by the end of FY2013. There is a slight decrease in funding for detention beds, but that does not suggest an easing up of enforcement activity. Rather, there is additional funding for the more cost-effective Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program for low-risk individuals.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
FY2013 request: $5.644 billion (a 3.7% decrease from FY2012 enacted)

  • A total of $1.6 billion to identify immigrants convicted of crimes who may be deportable and to remove them if they are deported.
  • A proposed decrease of 25% for the 287(g) program. 287(g) is to be scaled back in deference to the Secure Communities program.
  • A proposed 26.6% decrease for Secure Communities (S-Comm)/Comprehensive Identification and Removal of Criminal Aliens. It’s important to remember that for ICE, S-Comm is only the information sharing between databases. Since only 11% of all jurisdictions remain inactive, there is an overall decrease in funding for equipment and services necessary to activate the program.
  • A proposed 10.2% increase for the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) and the Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC). When immigrants are identified through S-Comm, the CAP program is responsible for interviewing and initiating removal proceedings against noncitizens held in jails and prisons.
  • Funding for 32,800 detention beds, which is a reduction from 34,000 beds in FY2012 enacted.
  • A corresponding proposed 35% increase for Alternatives to Detention (ATD) for low-risk individuals who will not be kept in detention facilities.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would receive a 2% increase under the proposed budget, much of it going toward great capacity at ports of entry. The US-VISIT program would also be transferred out of the National Protection and Programs Directorate and into CBP, with a budget of $261.5 million.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
FY2013 request: $11.979 billion (a 2% increase from 2012 enacted)

  • Maintains funding for 21,370 Border Patrol agents.
  • Recommends savings of $1.3 million by closing 9 inland Border Patrol stations in Idaho, Texas, and California.
  • Proposes a 2% increases for border security, inspections, and trade facilitation at ports of entry and maintains funding for 21,186 CBP officers
  • Includes $327.1 million for physical and technological infrastructure and surveillance on the borders.

While ICE and CBP received slight budget cuts in the President’s budget, it is clear that enforcement remains the top priority, and the Secure Communities program is the centerpiece of the administration’s enforcement efforts.

This highly controversial and problematic program will be activated in all jurisdictions across the U.S. very soon. Unfortunately, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—the office that investigates complaints and abuses within Secure Communities and other enforcement program—got a 4% budget cut, leaving them with even fewer resources to tackle the mounting problems.

Clearly, the administration’s emphasis on enforcement must be better balanced with resources for immigration benefits and services, and watchdog efforts. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this Congress will provide that much-needed balance when they get around to appropriations.

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