Obama Administration Releases FY15 Budget Request for DHS

Earlier this month, President Obama presented Congress with his annual budget request, outlining his administration’s spending and policy priorities for fiscal year 2015 (FY15), which begins October 1st. Of particular interest to us and to our readers: the budget request for the Department of Homeland Security, the mega-agency whose portfolio includes immigration, customs, border and transport security, and many other important responsibilities. [See Budget-in-Brief, Fiscal Year 2015, Department of Homeland Security, 04.Mar.2014.]

Although funding decisions are largely determined by Congressional action, it is instructive to see what course the administration wishes to follow, since the White House retains veto power and a considerable measure of influence on the public debate – what Teddy Roosevelt famously called “the bully pulpit.” For FY15, the administration has requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS, including:

  • Immigration benefits – requests “authority to use $3.1 billion in fee collections to process the millions of immigration benefit applications expected to be received in FY 2015” from USCIS offices worldwide
  • Aviation security – $3.8 billion for initiatives including passenger prescreening programs that use risk-based analysis to identify individuals who may pose a threat to aviation or national security
  • Paperless immigration filing – “184.9 million to support the transformation of the U.S. immigration process from a paper-based filing system to an efficient, customer-focused, electronic filing system”
  • E-Verify – $124.8 million to expand and enhance the E-Verify program, including funds for E-Verify Self-Check, which allows prospective employees to check the accuracy of their government employment eligibility records before seeking employment
  • Immigration enforcement – $2.6 billion for efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to apprehend and remove undocumented immigrants from the United States

In its budget narrative, DHS justified this request by pointing to the scale and complexity of its many missions. The numbers are impressive; each year, DHS personnel:

  • Naturalize three-quarters of a million new citizens
  • Handle work authorization requests for more than 500,000 employers
  • Process 168 million visa and border crossing card holders
  • Process more than 300 million travelers at U.S. ports of entry, including land, sea, and air

On a daily basis, DHS screens 1.8 million passengers and their baggage at U.S. airports, and pre-screens six million air travelers – a tall order by any measure. Though few in Washington would dispute the importance of this mission, or the need to fund it robustly, this year’s budget will be shaped – as in years past – by an enduring political disagreement: how much weight to give enforcement, vis-à-vis all other immigration policy priorities. Stay tuned.

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