This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled and unanimously passed out of Committee their budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which begins on October 1, 2016. The House of Representatives is yet to introduce their version of the appropriations bill. While the Senate has proposed to fund some of the requests made by the President in his FY 2017 proposed budget, they did not see eye to eye on all points and have come up with different proposals to fund the main immigration agencies: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

First, the funding for ICE is a mixed bag. The President in his budget asked Congress to reduce the overall number of detention beds to 30,913—a reduction of over 3,000 from the current 34,000. Also, increase Alternatives to Detention to $11 million in order to place low risk individuals under various forms of daily supervision. Instead, the Senate Appropriations Committee chose to keep the number of detention beds at 34,000 but did include $10.5 million additional funding for alternatives to detention. Also included in the legislation is for ICE to brief the Appropriations Committee on progress related to the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) which replaced Secure Communities as the immigration enforcement program that relies on partnership between federal and local law enforcement agencies.

In the CBP budget the Senate Committee appeared to be skeptical of some of the funding requests that the President had included to increase transparency and accountability among the agency. The Committee did not include body-worn cameras or the $5 million request the President made for further study of the technology. The Committee also only provided for half of the 30 new criminal investigators that the President had asked for to investigate misconduct and wrongdoing within CBP, which has run rampant for years. The Committee continued to mandate that CBP hire and maintain 21,370 border patrol agents and 23,375 officers at ports of entry, despite the President asking for a slight reduction of 300 agents to 21,070 border patrol agents.

On the positive side, the Committee noted they are “frustrated by the lack of a strategy for assessing the results of” the investments made in border security as well as the lack of reliable measures to determine “border security effectiveness.” Therefore, they direct DHS to publicly release border metrics to the public. The bill also requires CBP to brief the Committee on how they are tracking the costs and effectiveness of CBP’s Consequence Delivery System which is series of controversial border and immigration enforcement programs designed to increase the penalties associated with unauthorized migration in order to persuade people not to return to the U.S.

Lastly, on the budget for USCIS, because the organization is largely fee-funded, the only resources allocated to the agency are for E-Verify, an optional internet- based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. The Committee did not allocate funding for a  $10 million request for the Immigrant Integration Program which helps prepare permanent residents for naturalization and promote civic integration. Instead the program will be funded through USCIS fees.

In the coming months, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will move their respective bills to fund the agency for next year. Due to the upcoming election, Congress has less time than usual to get these bills passed but some action will be required before the government runs out of funds on September 30.

Photo by Simon Cunningham.

FILED UNDER: , , , , , , , ,