Obama's Border Insecurity Budget

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2011, which he unveiled recently, matches funding requests to a policy agenda that’s played out his first year.  In particular, the Obama budget sells America short on border security — though there are a couple of notable exceptions.

In general, the Department of Homeland Security would receive $43.6 billion.  That’s a 3 percent bump from this year’s discretionary funding level.

First, the good news.  The administration proposes to increase the budgets of immigration status verification and criminal alien deportation.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau gets an extra $103 million to support and expand its twin verification programs. 

The E-Verify program offers employers nationwide a robust, reliable, free system for electronically verifying that new hires are eligible to work in the United States.  This vital program plays a pivotal role in shutting off the “jobs magnet” that draws many illegal aliens.

In addition to rapidly growing enrollment of voluntarily participating employers, E-Verify is now required in at least 13 states.  Certain employers, in particular government contractors, must use E-Verify to ensure they do not have illegal aliens on their workforce.

Similarly, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, system offers the same instant electronic verification to federal, state and local agencies that administer public assistance programs.  SAVE is used in more than 70 public benefits programs.  It ensures that only qualified aliens and U.S. citizens are enrolled in welfare and other public programs.

During the health care debate, electronic verification became an issue.  At first, the House bill contained zero verification.  The version that passed the House had a vague, weak verification provision.  Reps. Nathan Deal, (R-Ga.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) led the effort to add meaningful verification, specifically usage of the existing and reliable SAVE program.  But Speaker Pelosi prevailed.

The Senate health reform bill contained a better, though loophole-ridden verification measure.  But instead of referencing the SAVE system, the Senate-passed bill set up a parallel, inferior verification program.

In addition to verification, the Obama budget proposal provides Immigration and Customs Enforcement with $1.6 billion for the identification and removal of criminal aliens.  The monies would go principally to the Secure Communities program.  It’s a jails program and focuses on aliens already behind bars.

Now for the bad news.  The president’s budget otherwise backs off border security.  If you think the federal government ought to control our borders and ensure that illegal immigration seldom occurs, then you’ll be disappointed with the Obama budget.

The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, critiqued the budget submission this way:  “The administration . . . didn’t find funds for any of the following critical homeland security programs:  there is no funding for a single new detention bed, no increase in funds to find and deport immigration fugitives or criminal aliens, no additional special agents to investigate workplace immigration violations, no funding to expand the visa security program, and no funding to build any more of the border fence.”

Obama’s budget would actually reduce the size of the Border Patrol.  The budget calls for cutting 180 officers of this agency.  That’s the absolute wrong direction when the Southwest border continues to be breached hundreds of thousands of times every year.  And many of the people illegally crossing the border, including people who’ve paid a professional human smuggler, are packing guns, drugs and other things you don’t want entering uncontrolled.
The administration apparently thinks the mere 643 miles of concrete and steel barrier wall along the 2,000-mile border is plenty.  So, there’s no money requested for border fence construction.

Also, the so-called “virtual fence” budget is whacked substantially.  This line item loses $225 million, dropping to $575 million next year. 

Admittedly, the “virtual fence” has taken a lot of heat.  The contractor has run into implementation problems.  And many Americans doubt that the high-tech cameras and motion sensors, which do nothing other than alert border guards that someone is crossing into this country, can compete with real-live, heavy-duty fencing.  But having something, even a “virtual fence,” is better than having nothing.

Further, the budget would cut State Criminal Alien Assistance funding.  SCAAP would lose $70 million, dropping to $330 million.  SCAAP reimburses state and local jails part of the costs of incarcerating criminal aliens.

There appears to be no funding request for the popular 287(g) program.  287(g) uses state and local police as a force multiplier in catching and holding accountable illegal and criminal aliens.

In short, the Obama budget falls woefully short on immigration control and enforcement.  If adopted, this budget would set the nation back on border security.  It amounts to a return to “catch and release” of the vast majority of illegal aliens, lax toleration of those who already employ an illegal alien workforce and their illegitimate workers, and failure to advance the long-overdue exit portion of U.S.-VISIT at ports of entry.