Immigration in the President’s Budget

On Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget released the president’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Notably, the proposal’s projected costs and savings include estimates of the fiscal impact of immigration reform, which presupposes passage of immigration reform this year. The president’s budget projects $158 billion in savings over the next 10 years (p164). This matches the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the changes to direct spending and revenue under the Senate’s June 2013 bill (S.744), and is similar to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s October 2013 estimate of immigration reform’s fiscal impact.

The budget request includes a modest increase in funding for the major agencies that implement U.S. immigration policy, totaling about $500 million (see Table 1 below). The statutory language contains several key provisions that would impact immigration policy and enforcement:*

Enforcement

  • E-Verify enhancement. The budget proposal requests $124.8 million in appropriated funding for E-Verify (pA510). Budget summary documents lay out several priorities for improving E-Verify, including $4.5 million empowering employment-authorized individuals to correct government records a Final Non-Confirmation (FNC) appeals process (DHS Budget-in-Brief, p138), support for E-Verify Self Check, boosting the system’s fraud prevention capabilities, and customer service enhancements (p90).
  • Increased funding for border personnel. Touting the economic benefits of cross-border travel and trade, the proposal calls for 2,000 additional Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, to be funded by an increase in user fees (p88). The user fee increases have been proposed in previous budget requests but have not been approved by Congress to date. In the FY2014 appropriations legislation, Congress included a general provision explicitly prohibiting consideration of such increases. The president’s proposal would remove this language (pA566). In total, the proposal would fund 25,755 CBP officers and maintain the current minimum of 21,370 active duty Border Patrol agents. Compared to FY2013’s budget, the proposal would increase salary funding for CBP agents at ports of entry (POEs) by 36 percent and agents between POEs (i.e., Border Patrol agents) by 16 percent (pA523). This reflects the president’s proposed 1 percent pay increase for Federal workers as well as continued annualization of past changes to CBP officer pay schedules.
  • Border security infrastructure. The proposal calls for an $11 million increase in funding for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology (pA524). The appendix lays out four priorities for border infrastructure: (1) delivering detection and surveillance systems, (2) maintaining and repairing existing border infrastructure, (3) modernizing tactical communications systems, and (4) finding ways to apply existing technologies to security needs (pA525). With regard to these priorities, CBP recently awarded a contract for new integrated fixed towers for surveillance along the southwest border. Notably, the budget requests funding for “maintenance and repair” of existing border infrastructure but would not fund new infrastructure, as would have been mandated under S.744.
  • Air and marine operations. The budget would cut funding for air and marine operations by $96 million, or 12 percent (pA527), mostly by reducing flight hours (DHS Budget-in-Brief, p56).
  • Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM). OBIM includes the portions of the former US-VISIT Program Office that were not realigned to CBP and ICE in FY2013 appropriations legislation, and is the office that owns and maintains the IDENT integrated biometric identification system for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The proposal would increase OBIM’s funding from $227 million to $252 million (pA542). The increase would support enhancement and maintenance of IDENT, which is used by all DHS agencies as well as other federal agencies and international partners (DHS Budget-in-Brief, p104).
  • Entry-Exit Reengineering. The budget requests $8 million for DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) for an APEX air entry-exit reengineering program to support CBP’s development of a biometric air exit solution (DHS Budget-in-Brief, p151).

Detention and Removal

  • Detention bed mandate. The proposal would remove statutory language requiring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding be used to “maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds” in immigrant detention facilities (pA520). However, the budget request includes $1.3 billion to support over 30,000 detention beds (DHS Budget-in-Brief, p90). The budget summary states that this change will allow ICE to detain violent criminals, national security threats, and all individuals required to be detained under current law (“mandatory detention”). An additional $94 million would re-route low-risk detainees into alternative programs such as electronic monitoring.
  • Court backlog. The request would increase the budget for the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) by about $36 million, or 11 percent (pA735). According to the budget summary, a portion of this increase would fund 35 new immigration judge teams to address the immigration case backlog (p103). Since 2000, the number of cases pending in immigration courts has nearly tripled from 123,000 to 360,000.
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The budget request would eliminate funding for SCAAP, which reimburses local and state governments for a portion of the cost of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants (pA765). According to the DOJ budget summary, SCAAP will be replaced by grant awards that are more data driven and results oriented. Traditionally, SCAAP funding has had bipartisan support in Congress. Previous proposals to revise or reduce SCAAP funding have not been successful.
  • Counsel for unaccompanied children. The budget would allocate $5.8 million to create a pilot program that would provide counsel for unaccompanied alien children (p735). Under current law, immigrants in deportation proceedings are not provided counsel, leaving some unaccompanied children to represent themselves when no pro bono counsel is available. Immigration judges, immigration advocates, and child advocates have supported this change. The Senate-passed immigration bill included a provision to make such counsel mandatory for unaccompanied children and those with serious mental disabilities.
  • Public Advocate. The proposal would repeal a ban on using appropriations funding to support the controversial position of ICE Public Advocate (pA564). Some members of Congress have objected to this position as being too closely aligned with immigrant rights groups. These members have criticized the Obama Administration for “going around” this provision from last year’s appropriation by creating a “Deputy Assistant Director for Custody Programs and Community Outreach” and appointing the same individual who previously served as the Public Advocate. The House Judiciary Committee recently marked up a bill that would permanently enjoin ICE from creating either position or any position “similar” to these positions.

Other

  • Visas for crime victims. The proposal increases the annual numerical limit on U Visas from 10,000 to 20,000 (pA566). The U visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa category for victims of criminal activity.
  • Citizenship grants. The proposed budget would appropriate $10 million to a Citizenship and Integration Grant Program (pA510). In FY2014, similar integration grants were funded using $10 million in immigrant application fees (pA562). The budget would also allocate $3 million toward establishing a United States Citizenship Foundation from premium processing fees paid to USCIS by applicants (pA566; DHS Budget-in-Brief, p138). These programs would aim to support immigrants during the naturalization process and help integrate them into communities (p89).

Table 1: Budget for key immigration agencies (billions of dollars)

  Agency 2013 enacted 2014 enacted 2015 proposed
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) DHS $11.74 12.45 12.76
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) DHS 5.63 5.61 5.36
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) DHS 3.38 3.22 3.26
Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) DOJ 0.29 0.31 0.34
Bureau of Consular Affairs Border Security Program  State 2.72 2.88 3.20
Total   23.76 24.47 24.92

*Unless otherwise noted, page numbers refer to the OMB budget summary and OMB budget appendix.

2014-03-06 00:00:00
The budget request includes a modest increase in funding for the agencies that implement immigration policy, totaling about $500 million