Any conversation in the federal government boils down to one thing—money. Especially for immigration policy, the current administration wants lots of money. It wants this money to build a border wall, fund tighter border security, and build new detention facilities. It seems like the administration is continuously falling back on these points, moving the goalposts each time they face opposition.
It all goes back to the President’s campaign promise to build a “big, beautiful wall,” which Mexico would pay for. When that did not happen, the President threatened to shut down the government if funding was not set aside for the wall. When that did not happen, the government did shut down. After costing Americans untold amounts of hardship and inconvenience, and after the longest government shutdown in history, the shutdown ultimately ended with no money for “a great wall along our southern border.” Adamant to get his wall, the President then declared a national emergency to divert funds from other agencies to border security. This triggered the immediate filing of numerous federal lawsuits against the government, opposing this move as overstepping executive powers. Now, the administration is proposing the new 2020 budget, which includes, you guessed it, more money for a border wall—$8.6 billion.
In order to divert all this new money for the wall, the new budget calls for cuts to the EPA, State Department, and other agencies like the Department of Transportation. Additionally, the executive branch calls for an expansion of the detention capabilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, increasing the number of individuals the agency is allowed to detain up to 54,000 people. Of course, increasing the number of people ICE can detain does not guarantee that these people will receive any additional due process protections.
There is also an “invisible wall” being built through stricter immigration policies and miles of red tape. Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the new budget is a “surcharge” that will greatly increase the mandatory fees to file for immigration benefits with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, supposedly to help with deficit reduction. However, the budget does not explicitly state where this money would go, and many are worried that it would be used to tighten immigration requirements and to strengthen immigration enforcement even more. Additionally, forcing immigrants to pay higher fees on applications for work authorization, green cards, or naturalization would further limit their access to a path for legal status. These high costs, along with lengthy processing times, are another part of the “invisible wall” being built to constrict the flow of legal immigration into the U.S.
While these new budget proposals may be concerning, Congress does not have to follow the recommendations set forth by the executive branch. In fact, Congress has rarely given the administration everything it wants, not even when the President’s political party controlled both houses. However, the ideas contained in the budget proposal are still a frightening signal confirming the priorities of the current administration regarding immigration.
Immigration matters are complex and case-specific. If you, or anyone you know, have concerns about applying for immigration benefits, and the costs therein, please contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.
Sources and further reading:
National Emergency Declaration