Tuesday, February 10, 2015
In Congress’ standoff over immigration policy, Republicans seem to be battling not only President Barack Obama but their own rhetoric on government spending.
Immigration riders attached to the Homeland Security spending bill by the House GOP turn out to actually widen the budget deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the $39.7 billion measure will need a supermajority of 60 votes under Senate budget rules, even if Republicans get past the Democratic filibuster.
Faced with a Feb. 27 deadline and the Presidents Day recess next week, time is short. And the CBO report never addressed an added cost implicit in the Republican position: How much would it cost for the government to deport all the undocumented workers who stand to benefit from Obama’s most recent executive order?
That could be upward of $20 billion to $25 billion, according to the best estimates collected by POLITICO.
It’s a sum hard to find these days, given the Republican-backed spending caps imposed on the House and Senate appropriations committees. Indeed, just last week, the GOP leadership ridiculed Obama’s proposal to amend the law to increase discretionary funding — including money for DHS — above the freeze set for fiscal 2016.
The president’s critics on immigration, like Sen. Jeff Sessions, argue that the fight is not about dollars but the will to enforce the law. “Has the Obama administration ever asked for the resources necessary for the task of enforcing the law? Of course not,” said a spokesman for the Alabama Republican.
But what’s most striking is how each side has invoked Congress’ power of the purse to bolster its arguments in the immigration fight.
Republicans are employing their constitutional power to deny funding to the executive agencies that would carry out the president’s November order, as well as a 2012 order which deferred deportations for young undocumented immigrants. But Obama essentially makes the same argument in reverse to justify himself: He says Congress left him with this discretion precisely because it failed to give him the money to fully enforce the immigration laws.
“The proposed policy is designed to respond to the practical reality that the number of aliens who are removable under the [Immigration and Naturalization Act] vastly exceeds the resources Congress has made available to DHS for processing and carrying out removals,” reads the 33-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. “The resource constraints are striking. … DHS has informed us that there are approximately 11.3 million undocumented aliens in the country but that Congress has appropriated sufficient resources…to remove fewer than 400,000 aliens each year, a significant percentage of whom are typically encountered at or near the border rather than in the interior of the country.”
For all the political stakes, it’s surprisingly difficult to get an estimate of how much it costs the government to deport an individual. But money appears to make a difference. Tables compiled by DHS show that the number of annual removals has risen more than 80 percent in the past decade, while enforcement and detention appropriations have doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars.
POLITICO published its own calculations in November after comparing 10 years of appropriations with the number of annual removals listed by DHS. There were spikes and dips along the way, but the results showed a relatively consistent pattern of about $7,200 — plus or minus $1,000 — for each removal. Read more....