On May 1st, 2017, it was announced that Congress would again be dodging a “government shutdown” bullet by passing a federal spending bill known as the. Often referred to as an “omnibus bill” or a “stop gap” measure, this approach funds the federal government in full until individual annual agency budgets can be determined. This most recent measure provides the federal government with an impressive one trillion dollars until the end of its current fiscal year on September 30, 2017. In addition to allotting varying amounts of money to different agencies, there are often new or changed regulations as to how these agencies will operate and spend their funds. So now that Washington is funded for the next few months, how will the agencies governing immigration and their policies be affected?
President Trump’s efforts to get his desired border wall included in this federal spending bill have been much covered by the media. While Congress resisted the president’s wall pushing efforts, they provided funding for immigration control elsewhere. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received 2017 funding of slightly over forty-two billion dollars, an increase of just under a billion and a half dollars over 2016 funding levels. This money has been divided amongst various DHS agencies, and as mandated by law, earmarked for specific uses. For example, in the case of Customs and Border Protection (CBS), an increase of seven hundred and seventy-two million dollars over last year’s budget was received. It has been specifically stated that these funds may not be used to aid in the construction of the permanent border wall that President Trump is proposing, but instead will be used for:
- the hiring, training, and relocation of more border and customs agents
- constructing new non-permanent barriers and enhancements to existing ones
- constructing and repairing roadways and infrastructure related to immigration control
- use of electronic devices, such as signs and drones, as well as other appropriate technologies
Agencies overseeing interior immigration control have been allocated funds totaling just under four billion dollars for the remainder of 2017. This represents an increase of three hundred and ninety million dollars over last year’s spending level. Funds here have been specifically earmarked for the construction, enhancement, and maintenance of immigration detention facilities.
This federal spending bill also allows the DHS and Department of Labor (DOL) to slightly increase the “cap” on the foreign worker visa known as H-2B, allowing more entry under it. Four hundred and forty million dollars was also allocated for the hiring of at least ten new federal immigration judges (IJ), in the hopes of reducing current IJ backlogs, reducing hearing wait time to no more than sixty days, and disallowing incarceration periods awaiting hearings to exceed one calendar year.
Despite Congressional claims that these funded measures are intended to subvert terrorist and criminal gang elements, legal advocates and activists are concerned that these funds will be used to target private individuals as well.
Contact the Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal to speak with an experienced immigration law lawyer. Attorney Khandelwal has over a decade of experience in immigration law and is located in the heart of the Silicon Valley.