The contentious immigration bill (S. 744) put together by the Senate Gang of Eight is a spending Trojan Horse with several provisions that simply declare open season on spending, allowing agencies to spend “as necessary.”
The bill exploits a loophole in the Budget Control Act (BCA) that allows Congress to spend more than allowed under the spending caps adopted in 2011. By designating spending in the immigration bill as “emergency requirements,” the bill would enable lawmakers to spend billions outside existing budget enforcement procedures.
There is no objective standard for emergency requirements, which is why the practice has been exploited many times in the past to push through additional federal spending that should rightly be part of the regular appropriations process and subject to spending caps.
But there are guidelines, which include that the emergency be sudden, unforeseen, and temporary and require immediate action. The immigration bill seems to satisfy none of these criteria.
Analysts are still working through the 844-page bill, but even after a full analysis is done, it may not be possible to accurately quantify the cost of the bill. Here is a list of some of the identified spending in the bill:
- Page 25: $6.5 billion of general revenue to be transferred to the new Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund, which includes:
- $1 billion for startup costs to implement the act,
- $3 billion for the Southern Border Security Strategy,
- $1.5 billion for additional fencing,
- $2 billion to seek to achieve persistent surveillance and an effectiveness rate of 90 percent or higher,
- $50 million per year to increase the number of border crossing prosecutions to 201 prosecutions per day, and
- $50 million each year for Operation Stonegarden (90 percent to be allocated toward grants and reimbursements to southwest border state law enforcement agencies).
- Pages 42, 43: Equipment funding as necessary in addition to any appropriate funds for U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 2014 through 2018—mobile, video, agent-portable surveillance systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (to be deployed 24/7 along the southern border);
- Page 43: Grants as necessary for individuals residing or working in the border region who lack cellular service to purchase satellite telephone communications services;
- Page 45: Funds as necessary to purchase radios for border law enforcement agents and upgrade the Department of Justice’s communications network; and
- Page 131: $50 million in taxpayer-funded grants to nonprofit organizations to assist eligible immigration applicants in understanding and meeting the law’s requirements.
Spending in the immigration bill should be subject to the caps in the BCA. The bill as written would enable Washington to further add to our growing national debt crisis.
However, any Senator could object to the “emergency” designation of the spending provisions in the bill by raising a point of order during Senate debate. Three-fifths (60) of Senators would have to waive this point of order; otherwise the spending and revenue provisions in the bill would become subject to budget enforcement constraints. Would anyone have the courage to speak up for taxpayers?