WH Budget Moves To Increase DHS 'Managing Migration,' Away from Deterrence A security officer looks out of a window at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
By Nicole Wells | Monday, 28 March 2022 07:24 PM
President Joe Biden’s 2023 federal budget, released Monday, seeks to significantly increase funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while moving the agency away from the illegal immigration deterrence and enforcement policies of the Trump administration, The Hill reports.
Representing a 5.4% increase from what the department spent in 2021, Biden requested $56.7 billion in discretionary spending for DHS.
The president’s budget directs much of that funding toward "effectively managing irregular migration along the Southwest border" and focuses on improvements to ports of entry, The Hill reports.
Immigration hard-liners decried the change in direction, arguing the emphasis on border management would do next to nothing to discourage illegal immigration.
“At this point, they might as well change the name of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to U.S. Customs and Border Processing," RJ Hauman, head of government relations and communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) told The Hill.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would receive $15.3 billion in discretionary spending, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $8.1 billion – both upticks – under the proposed spending plan.
The budget proposal also cuts funding for detention beds and promotes programs for detention alternatives.
Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans said the organization is "encouraged" by some of the budget provisions, including the cuts in detention and funds to give immigrants due process in the enforcement system.
"The funding for legal representation would be an investment in our ideals of due process, fairness, and human rights and opportunity to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection,” Melaku told The Hill. “There are, unfortunately, concerning provisions, including increasing so-called 'alternatives to detention,' which would increase surveillance over immigrants and private profiteering."
According to The Hill, proponents of immigration are also encouraged by the request for a massive budget increase for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency in charge of processing work permits, permanent residency permits and naturalizations.
The Biden administration aims to earmark $765 million for USCIS application processing, though the agency would continue to be funded primarily by applicant fees.
Projected to collect approximately $4.4 billion in fees in 2023, which is basically the same as its 2022 budgeted collections, USCIS’ discretionary budget would balloon to $914 million from $470 million in 2022.
The agency had a backlog of about 9.5 million visa cases as of February, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
According to The Hill, the Trump administration targeted USCIS with budget cutbacks and attempted to turn the agency into the first line of immigration enforcement.
The proposed spending plan nearly doubles funding for the immigration court system, which has a 1.7 million case backlog, and would include funding for 100 immigration judges, which was a request never fulfilled in a previous budget.
“Hiring more judges itself is not going to be sufficient to address the court backlog,” Greg Chen, director of government relations with the American Immigration Lawyers Association told The Hill. “The courts are not going to be able to keep pace. Every few years we’re seeing a doubling of court cases.”
“There were 520,000 [in the queue] when Trump took office, 1.3 million when Biden took office, and now under Biden it’s reached 1.7 million, so the court also needs policy changes to back up any kind of fiscal bump to address the massive backlog,” he added. “We can't just buy our way out of this problem.”