by Brian Lonergan
To know what our elected officials truly prioritize, it is important to ignore their teleprompter-fed rhetoric and focus on their actions. As Deep Throat once told Bob Woodward in a dark, underground parking garage, “Follow the money.”
At this point, it would take a certain kind of partisan dead-ender to deny our nation faces an immigration crisis. Too many years of our leaders refusing to enforce our immigration laws, combined with the current White House’s blatant contempt for those laws, have brought us to a point of critical mass where the country cannot withstand much more.
It is against this backdrop that the Senate recently passed the pork-laden “Inflation Reduction Act.” Ostensibly legislation meant to combat America’s rising inflation rate, the $433 billion law includes handouts for unrelated things like climate initiatives and lowering healthcare costs. Most notably, at a time when many Americans are struggling to keep small businesses afloat and make ends meet, the act allocates $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service to hire up to 87,000 new IRS officers to conduct more tax audits.
In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves.
Absent from the spending spree is any additional funding to hire more staff for the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or other agencies necessary to properly regulate immigration into the country. It is an omission not by accident, but by design.
Our immigration agencies have long been understaffed, one of the reasons for the often years-long wait times for citizenship applications. The bureaucracy in place at those agencies also results in embarrassing incidents of inefficiency and ham-handedness. Perhaps the worst example was when the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was later absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in 2002 notified a Venice, Florida, flight school that two of its students had been approved for student visas. The students were Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, who died six months earlier when they each piloted airliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
In many cases, funding levels alone do not tell the whole story. How money is applied within an agency matters as well. ICE has an annual budget of approximately $8 billion, but is reportedly facing a $345 million shortfall and will run out of money in October unless DHS pulls resources from its other agencies to make up the difference.
That ICE is going to DHS with hat in hand is curious, given that the Biden Administration has instructed ICE to focus only on the removal of convicted criminal aliens, which presumably would reduce its work load.
The higher burn rate is apparently related to the White House’s moves to gut the mission of the once-proud agency and retrain its personnel for its new directive as a kinder, gentler law enforcement agency.
Housing illegal aliens was once a significant cost, but Biden has instructed ICE to emphasize alternatives to detention. The Supreme Court, however, last month ruled against the administration’s change in enforcement priorities.
While the White House has told ICE to focus on arresting criminal aliens, even that it does at an alarmingly low rate. Last year immigration arrests in the U.S. interior fell to the lowest levels in more than a decade, and less than half the amount that persisted through the Trump Administration. When spread across ICE’s 6,000 enforcement officers, last year’s totals equate to about one arrest per officer per month.
The situation is even worse at the Border Patrol, whose 19,536 agents are outmanned and outgunned when it comes to stopping the cartels and their seemingly endless supply of drugs and human cargo. While agents deal with children in crisis and migrants in need of rescue from the Rio Grande, cartels can slip narcotics and criminal aliens across the border.
When agents try their best to stem the chaos, their superiors in Washington accuse them of beating migrants with phantom whips and punish them anyway even after they’ve been cleared of criminal conduct.
More than anything, the demoralized American public would like to believe its elected officials are looking out for them. By adding more agents to target U.S. citizens rather than those breaking our immigration laws, it sends a clear signal that our government treats us with contempt and suspicion. We need a national reminder that they are supposed to work for us.
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Brian Lonergan is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Photo “IRS Career Fair” by carmichaellibrary. CC BY 2.0.