As we learned in sixth grade social studies, the power of the purse is the premier legislative power.
Recently a Congressional Budget Office staffer was part of a discussion about defense strategy. He noted, “I pay less attention to what they say about strategy than where money is spent.” Indeed.
The power of the purse is especially concentrated in the hands of Congressional appropriators and, if anything, as politics, finance, policy, and strategy has become more complex, the comparative power of appropriators has grown.
The House Appropriations Committee has reported out its Bill for the FY2010 DHS budget. The 93 page document is easily available from the Committee website.
Often less readily available is the Report together with Additional Views of the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee. But the International Association of Emergency Managers has made this 211 page document available on their website. Thank you IAEM.
The Report together with Additional Views and — even more — the later Appropriations Conference Report, where House and Senate differences are resolved, is a Talmud for our budgetary scripture. The chairs of the appropriations sub-committees are known as the Cardinals and the reference is to the Vatican, not Busch Stadium. How the Bill is interpreted by the Cardinals is often what matters most. The Report together with Additional Views is a Magisterium for our secular republic.
For the next several weeks, at least once a week, HLSwatch will excerpt a passage from the Report together with Additional Views for the House Appropriations Committee’s DHS Bill. It will be offered for your close reading and commentary. If I feel compelled to comment I will join you “behind the wall” in the comment function.
I will proceed through the report as it is written, excerpting what seems interesting to me. You are welcome to use the comment function to give attention to passages I neglect.
At its best a Committee Report gives context and expands on Congressional intent. At its worst a Committee Report seeks to manage specific Department decisions with little context or explanation. I expect we will encounter examples of each end of the continuum and everything in-between.
Starting on page 7 and continuing on page 8 of the Report together with Additional Views to accompany H.R. 2892:
In fiscal year 2008, DHS’s immigration agencies set several new records: deporting the most people in any year in U.S. history (369,409); holding more people in immigration detention per day than ever before (30,429); and initiating 1,191 worksite enforcement investigations that resulted in 6,287 arrests, the largest numbers since the formation of DHS. These figures reflect the billions of dollars the Committee has invested in immigration enforcement activities since 2003. But rather than simply rounding up as many illegal immigrants as possible, which is sometimes achieved by targeting the easiest and least threatening among the undocumented population, DHS must ensure that the government’s huge investments in immigration enforcement are producing the maximum return in actually making our country safer. A closer examination of the data may give some pause:
· Since 2002, ICE has increased the deportation of non-criminals by 400 percent, while criminal deportations have only gone up 60 percent.
· Of the nearly 370,000 deported by ICE in fiscal year 2008, less than a third, or 114,358, were ever convicted of a criminal offense. This, despite the fact that up to 450,000 criminals eligible for deportation are in penal custody in any given year, according to ICE estimates.
· Less than one-quarter of those interdicted by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams last year were actually convicted of criminal offenses.
· Over three-quarters of those arrested in ICE worksite enforcement raids last year were not charged with any crime.
Since 2007, the Committee has emphasized how ICE should have no higher immigration enforcement priority than deporting those who have proved their intent to do harm and have been convicted of serious crimes. In fiscal year 2008, ICE received $200 million to identify incarcerated criminal aliens and remove them once judged deportable. In fiscal year 2009, ICE was directed to use $1 billion of its resources to identify and remove aliens convicted of crimes, whether in custody or at large, and the Congress mandated this be ICE’s number one mission. In this bill, the Committee directs ICE to use $1.5 billion of its budget to expand efforts to locate and remove those criminal aliens who have proved they are a threat to our communities.