A budget request from President Biden highlights the drastic change in the U.S. immigration policy that the new administration intends to push for. The new policy will shift from limiting immigration to providing funds to improve the immigration process and facilitate the handling of asylum cases.
What is included in the proposed budget?
The recent budget request calls for an immediate cessation of border wall funding and an increase in spending on the care of migrant children who are crossing the border unaccompanied. The proposed increase would bring the budget up to $3.3 billion. Staffing is also to be increased to expedite the process of asylum seeker claims. An extra $30 million was also requested to be placed in a fund that would assist those migrant families separated under the previous Trump administration.
Investment in new Customs and Border Protection facilities is also proposed in the budget, with $660 million going toward the facilities and the modernization of ports of entry, and the improvement of processing legal travel. The staff at CBP was also included in budget concerns, with an estimated $2.1 million to be earmarked for clinician support of employees.
Lawmaker concern prompted the new budget request.
Lawmakers on both sides had expressed concerns that led to the request for a new immigration budget. With border crossings at higher levels than they have been seen in 20 years, many felt the current budget was insufficient to achieve the desired goals of the administration. Lawmakers also expressed concern that the previous funding was still supporting detention beds and controversial detainment and deportation programs that seemed at odds with the goals the administration was previously vocal about.
As quoted in The Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the new budget “will invest in our broad mission set, including preventing terrorism; keeping our borders secure; repairing our broken immigration system; improving cybersecurity; safeguarding critical infrastructure, and strengthening national preparedness and resilience.”
Immigration under the Biden Administration
Both immigration arrests and deportations have plummeted to the lowest levels the country has seen. Arrests have been limited to more recent border-crossers and those who may pose a threat to the security of the nation or the public’s safety. Biden’s current policy has revoked the policy of his predecessor, including the travel ban from Muslim-majority areas. Even so, advocates still express concern over the budget allowed for ICE.
Details of the ongoing budget support the president’s efforts to shift to a more humane immigrant policy by reducing the number of detention beds and instead focusing on detention alternatives, where immigrants can stay in the community while awaiting their hearings.
Part of the new administration’s plan is to also facilitate immigrant handling with the addition of programs that can deputize law enforcement at local and state levels to provide support for ICE. In addition, 100 more immigration judges are also expected to be hired through the funding to more quickly move through the backlog of immigration cases.
Not only will asylum cases be more expedited with the proposed budget, but the process for immigrant citizenship applications and green cards will be addressed with more expediency as well, with an additional 1,300 positions being added and $345 million to the budget to help clear through the application backlogs.
Advocates are still wary
While officials for the Biden administration reiterate that the proposed budget is designed to promote expedient and humane policies regarding handling immigrants and put an end to some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies, advocates are still leery about the proposed changes. Some see the continued increase in the ICE budget as a betrayal of campaign promises. In addition, some feel that the changes are not enough to achieve the sweeping changes to immigration that were originally promised.
In response, the DHS stated that the confusion was over the inaccurate language of the proposed budget, which will be corrected before the budget moves forward. The final language will convey the appropriate message, they claim.
Though in its early stages, the newest budget request has solidified the Biden administration’s stance on immigration and the push to reverse the previous administration’s policies with a more friendly immigration policy for asylum-seekers and those on the road to citizenship. While changes are expected to the language of the request, it remains to be seen whether the budget will be subject to other, more significant changes during the approval process.