Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 19, 2009

DHS Appropriations: lessons for the laity in scripture and commentary

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2009

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.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 19, 2009 @ 8:08 am

Phil! This kind of post is a big help. By the way did you see the Pandemic Flu funding in the AF-PAK and Iraq war funding bill enacted. Very important and now law.

I think that a big mistake and a big help would be to break out the actual countries from which the persons come that are in the aggregates above. This lumping makes no sense and does not help in formulating any policy or guidance. For example, how many of the above are Mexicans and how many Mexican nationals are incarcerated in US prisions or in detention centers? An interesting number might be How many US Citizens incarcerated in Mexico? Could a one for one swap be arranged? What has always bothered me about DHS is that often they collect what in reality are meaningless statistics and have almost no professional statisticians on board to collect, review, and evaluate statitistics. The statistics above are almost meaningless to any policy debate but suspect the ignorant in Congress will seize on them to prove again that statistics, statistics, and damn lies. Or whatever the quote is? Anyhow I would demand if in Congress that DHS break out all others separate from Mexico [probably Canada also]in these statistical arrays.

Comment by Federale

June 27, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

You seem to forget that aliens with criminal convictions are usually legal residents and therefore have avenues to legally avoid or indefinately delay deportation. They are sometimes the hardest to deport as most countries, like China, will not accept their repatriation. The best way to affect illegal immigration is to implement E-Verify.

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