Democrats have strengthened homeland security since retaking control of Congress in 2007, by making a priority of increased investments in border protection and enforcement of immigration laws, according to a new fact sheet released by a key House committee.
The fact sheet comes amid increasing rhetoric over the potential for new federal immigration reform legislation this year, and following quickly on the heels of a controversial new Arizona state immigration law that even some top Republicans disagree with. That new Arizona law, signed by the state’s Republican governor, will lead to racial profiling of Latinos, including lawful Latino U.S. citizens, many say.
Over the last three years, the Democratic Congress has increased U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) funding by over 23 percent — from $8.2 billion to $10.1 billion, according to the fact sheet, released Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee, one of the committees on Capitol Hill that controls the federal purse strings. The appropriations panel is headed by Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), who serves as chairman. Obey Wednesday also announced his retirement, saying he would not seek re-election in November. He has served in Congress since 1969.
Democrats also provided an additional $1 billion for border infrastructure and security as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was the major economic stimulus program enacted soon after President Obama came to the White House, the fact sheet adds.
A group of Democrats recently unveiled new immigration reform legislation, which conservative Republicans have called lax on security.
“Since 2007, threats have increased, some border technology has failed, and the American people have lost confidence in the federal government’s ability to secure our borders,” says a joint statement by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “So it is our belief that Congress should focus on border security first and that will eventually allow Congress to seriously consider bipartisan immigration reform, instead of politically-motivated ‘conceptual papers.’
“Most of the border enforcement measures that have been proven effective can be achieved by appropriating necessary funding. We need to work on a bipartisan basis to get this done,” the Republicans’ statement adds.
Meanwhile, Democrats are dealing with the issue of illegal immigration more effectively than have Republicans, the Appropriations fact sheet says.
The Democratic Congress has increased the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for enforcing the nation’s immigration laws by 37 percent since 2007, the last year of Republican control of Congress, the fact sheet says. Democrats also restructured the agency’s budget to target aliens with dangerous criminal convictions and those who pose the greatest risk to the United States and Americans, it adds.
“Since taking control of Congress, Democrats have insisted that ICE’s top priority is to identify
individuals convicted of dangerous crimes and remove them from the country once an immigration court has ruled they should be deported,” the fact sheet says. “ICE’s performance statistics bear this out: between 2002 and 2007, ICE increased criminal alien removals by only 7 percent per year but in 2008 criminal alien removals increased 12 percent, and another 19 percent in 2009. ICE estimates that up to 450,000 criminals eligible for deportation are in the criminal justice system each year. This year, over 25% of the ICE budget – $1.5 billion – is dedicated to that purpose.
“Under the Republican Congress, ICE only had a small program aimed at identifying and removing criminal aliens, the Institutional Removal Program, which was funded at $137.5 million in 2007,” the fact sheet adds.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.