As the debate rages on Capitol Hill about how to defund President Obama's executive action that gives legal status to 5 million illegal immigrants, it's important to take a look at where the funding for his new amnesty program is coming from.
The funding for Obama's executive action is coming through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a fee, not tax based agency under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security. Because the USCIS is a fee based agency, many have argued Congress cannot defund it. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress does in fact have the ability to defund the agency through the appropriations process.
A fee-funded agency or activity typically refers to one in which the amounts appropriated by Congress for that agency or activity are derived from fees collected from some external source. Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency. In some cases, this appropriation is provided through the annual appropriations process. In other instances, it is an appropriation that has been enacted independently of the annual appropriations process (such as a permanent appropriation in an authorizing act). In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds.
But lets put that aside for a minute. The larger question is, who is paying these fees? Millions of legal immigrants are paying these fees, which are now being reallocated by the executive branch to legalize millions of illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for years while failing to go through proper and long established legal channels to obtain citizenship or other legal status. From the USCIS.gov website:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is funded largely by application and petition fees. Recognizing that some applicants cannot pay the filing fees, USCIS established a fee waiver process for certain forms and benefit types. Demonstrated inability to pay is the only reason USCIS will approve a fee waiver.
Waiving a fee for one applicant transfers the cost of processing their application to other applicants through higher fees. Therefore, USCIS carefully considers the merits of each fee waiver request before making a decision.
If you are immigrating to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, you must pay the $165 USCIS Immigrant Fee, unless you meet one of the exemptions.
USCIS uses this fee to process and maintain your immigrant visa packet and to produce and deliver your Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as a Green Card).
Once you receive your immigrant visa packet from a U.S. embassy or consulate, we strongly encourage you to pay the fee before you depart for the United States.
You must pay the fee online, using USCIS ELIS, the USCIS Electronic Immigration System. We will send your Green Card to you after you pay the fee.
You can pay the fee after you immigrate. However, paying before you leave for the United States will help ensure that you receive your Green Card without delay and have been admitted to the U.S.
On average legal immigrants wait ten years to fully obtain citizenship (and only after they've had a green card for five years) and they must pay thousands of dollars to USCIS in the process. Again, that money is now being used to give millions of illegal immigrants a free, expedited pass to legal status. Adding insult to injury, millions of green cards for illegals means longer wait times for legal immigrants.
At current staffing levels, USCIS issues about 1 million green cards per year. And when Obama enacted his first executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, wait times for legal immigrants to get their visas tripled from under five months to over 15 months.
Only about 1 million illegal immigrants were eligible to apply for DACA amnesty and only about 600,000 were given amnesty. Obama's next amnesty, however, will reportedly allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to apply and no one knows how many will take him up on the offer.
But assuming the turnout for Obama's next amnesty is bigger than DACA, we can safely assume that legal immigration delays will get much much worse.
Meanwhile in case you missed it last week, USCIS issued a memo detailing the immediate opening of 1,000 permanent federal employee positions at a new operational facility that will open soon in Crystal City, Virginia.
Newly hired employees will be tasked with approving applications submitted by illegal immigrants taking advantage of President Obama's recently announced executive amnesty program.
“USCIS is taking steps to open a new operational center in Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, to accommodate about 1,000 full-time, permanent federal and contract employees in a variety of positions and grade levels. The initial workload will include cases filed as a result of the executive actions on immigration announced on Nov. 20, 2014. Many job opportunities at the operational center will be announced in the coming days and please continue to monitor USAJOBS if you are interested," the USCIS bulletin reads, urgently listing the availability of jobs in red.
These new government positions will no doubt come complete with generous benefits, i.e. retirement, healthcare, vacation, etc. courtesy of the American taxpayer. Further, based on the positions posted as available in the USCIS bulletin, many of them (the GS-13/14/15 positions shown above) are at the top of the government pay scale.