The Future of Immigration FY2013

The Department of Homeland Security released its annual budget proposal for FY2013, totaling more than $59 billion. Of the breakdown of the various agencies’ budgets, USCIS receives roughly 5% of the total budget whereas ICE receives 10% (see chart). This 3,134 page budget proposaliterated DHS’ top five mission priorities, including:

1) Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
2) Securing and Managing Borders
3) Enforcing and Administering Immigration Laws
4) Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
5) Ensuring Resilience to Disasters

  Naturally, enforcing and administering immigration laws will involve much of the two major branches of DHS, USCIS and ICE. DHS’ Accomplishments for FY2011 In the proposal, DHS reaffirms the efficacy of worksite enforcement efforts, which is described in detail on our sister site, the I-9 and E-Verify News Blog. Other noticeable activities include:

  • Site Inspections: Since 2009, USCIS has expanded its quest to spot potential threats to national security or public safety via its Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) division. These teams investigate potentially fraudulent requests for immigration benefits on the part of petitioners and applicants. In FY2011, the teams conducted over 17,000 site visits, including worksite inspections to confirm petitioning documents, petitioning entities, and workplace hours, salaries, titles of foreign nationals. (Note the inspections by USCIS are very different from the worksite enforcement visits conducted by ICE.)
  • Naturalization: Nearly 700,000 naturalization applicants were approved as part of a concerted effort by USCIS to improve “just-in-time” technology allowing security and background checks for applicants. The focus on improving naturalization education has been renewed via public education and awareness initiatives. An added perk is 42 organizations in the U.S. have received grants totaling $9 million to help expand citizenship preparation programs for applicants in the U.S.
  • Secure Mailing: With the increase in identify theft and consumer fraud, USCIS has also instituted the Secure Mail Initiative in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service. This allows a traceable and confirmed delivery of legal permanent resident cards, employment and travel documents.
  • Promoting Entrepreneurship: USCIS has made enhancements to its various employment-based visa programs, including E-2, H-1B, L-1 and EB-5 programs, and a new initiative Entrepreneurs in Residence Program to help revitalize the U.S. economy.

DHS’ Missions for FY2013 DHS’ overall missions include some new and some familiar initiatives, with incredible numbers to date!

  • USCIS Employees: The USCIS budget difference between FY2012 and FY2013 is actually a decrease of $73 million. What’s interesting is that USCIS seeks an additional 216 full-time employees as part of a discretionary resource, neither designated for immigration exams, H-1B accounts nor fraud prevention/detection.
  • ELIS: Another hot topic is the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) initiative. As some of you may have read last year, the first release of the system (with the Form I-539) has been delayed due to post-development testing, and time-frames have not been announced. There is about $270 million earmarked to continue this effort to expand a customer-focused electronic filing system. However, at this time, no employees have been dedicated for FY2013 for this project.
  • Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL): DHS, for the first time, is partnering with multiple government agencies to combat the endemic problem of immigration scam artists who prey on ill-informed immigrant communities. These initiatives target individuals who provide legal advice or representation who are not authorized by law to do so. (I’ll be blogging more about notarios and UPIL in upcoming articles.)
  • Secure Communities: This remains a top priority for ICE in FY2013, with goals of implementing the program nationwide. 287(g) Programs are affected by the expansion of the Secure Communities Program with a reduction in budget of $17 million and some communities will see a discontinuation of the 287(g) program where Secure Communities program has been implemented.
  • Removal and Detention: ICE’s removal and detention of “criminal aliens” is definitely a renewed mission for FY2013. In FY2011, ICE removed nearly 400,000 individuals, which DHS stated was “the largest number in DHS history.” This is an 89% increase from FY2008. In conjunction with the implementation of the Secure Communities Program, the removal of unauthorized individuals from the workplace will remain a strong DHS mission.

The Forecast When it comes to ICE and USCIS enforcement, DHS appears to be staying the course. However, it is heartening to know that DHS has been greatly influenced by practitioners and legislators out of the concern of its citizens and residents. It has implemented initiatives to boost the economy and protect immigrant communities from being harmed by scam artists. On the other hand, depending on which side of the table our readers may sit, the record breaking numbers of individuals being detained and removed speaks to this Administration’s concerted effort in attempting to enforce the country’s immigration laws. Media reports on the impact of these removals are widely varied. What do you think? How have any of DHS’ policies immediately impacted you?