On the 25 th of last month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a press briefing, that ICE “will be forced” under sequestration to reduce detention and removal of undocumented immigrants. She added, “All I can say is, look, we’re doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester,” Napolitano told reporters at the White House. “But there’s only so much I can do. I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration. How do I pay for those?”
In what may be termed as one of the most direct effects of the proposed sequestration on immigration, organizations concerned with immigrant rights talked of the immediate release of a large number of ‘low-priority detainees’ from detention centers. This is of course a welcome relief for all those who have been advocating the release of some such detainees from ‘prison-like detention centers’, and allow them to stay in the United States till they are deported.
This comes as a follow up of the analyzing of the costs, estimated at $122 to $164 per person, of detaining immigrants by the American Civil Liberties Union as also a part of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security reorganizing things as a reaction to the effects of sequestration on immigration. It concludes that alternatives, like ankle bracelets and being on parole could be cheaper options.
Of course this might have been somewhat expected in tune with the Obama administration’s reiterating that it will apply more prosecutorial discretion to immigration, and release immigrants who are deemed low-priority, while focusing resources on detainees who seem to be potentially more dangerous or categorized as high priority.
Immigration and the fate of thousands of people would probably be directly or indirectly be affected by sequestration. A clear indication even at this early stage is the growth in the number of pending Immigration cases in courts of law. As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder puts it, “EOIR would be forced to cease all hiring of key critical positions for EOIR’s immigration courts, including Immigration Judges, likely increasing pending caseloads to well over 350,000 (an increase of 6 percent over September 2012 levels.” This would mean that the EOIR would be ending contracts for much of the support staff including those like interpreters, IT staffers, and legal support teams, amongst others.
The effects of sequestration on immigration would not only slow down the immigration system but would also perhaps largely would limit the State Department’s work , which has till now tried to “provide secure, error-free travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible.” A cut on funds would most definitely have an effect on the processing of visa requests which in turn would lead to huge waiting time for those to want to enter the U.S. As a result the U.S.’s immigration system, already burdened by application processing backlogs and insufficient funding would become even more cumbersome in appeal.
The Department of Homeland Security is extremely cautious and pensive about the fact that effects of sequestration might mean that the department had to reduce the number of border patrol agents, which would lead to security issues too.
It is ironic that the hardest hit areas of immigration are the ones that have been begging for reforms and speedier actions. And this makes making it difficult for people who are trying follow the honest path and follow the rules of a way to migrate to the United States in a legal way.