Immigration reform, although still possible, received a mild set-back as part of the recently enacted Omnibus appropriations bill that will fund Government through September 30, 2014.
That $1.1 trillion spending bill contains some strange provisions related to Department of Homeland Security programs. For instance, in an effort to move more airport security away from government (TSA) and into private security contractors, the Republicans managed to reduce the TSA budget and cap the maximum TSA screeners at 46,000.
With the Obama administration deporting thousands of illegal immigrants on a daily basis (400,000 last year), there is $2.8 Billion for detention programs operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The funding helps pay for the 34,000 beds that ICE is required by statute to keep full. This is the largest detention capacity in history. Worse, ICE is the ONLY law enforcement agency that has a statutory quota for the number of people it must keep in jail. As recently reported by Robert M. Morgenthau of the New York Daily News, last year when the prisoner population dipped to 30,773, U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote a pointed public letter to ICE Director John Morton, informing him that he was "in clear violation of the statute" and the 34,000 prisoner requrement. It is important to note that 34,000 is NOT the number of illegal immigrants that Congress wants to deport. It is the number that Congress insists on keeping in jail. That, I submit, is not only embarrassing but verges on fiscal insanity. As recently as seven or eight years ago, with roughly the same number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., there were fewer than 20,000 who were incarcerated. We, as tax payers are footing the bill for this folly only to line the pockets of the private sector jailers.
On a brighter note, Democrats did successfully block a GOP attempt to prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds challenges state immigration laws and a GOP-backed rider that would have prohibited ICE from prioritizing their enforcement activities to deport dangerous criminals instead indiscriminantly targeting all groups.
We at Miley & Brown, P.C. applaud any efforts by the House Republicans to engage in bi-partisan efforts to move immigration reform forward. Visit us at www.mileybrown.com where you can contact one of our attorneys and contact Congress.