Budget Plans 2021 | Immigration Policy | NJ Immigration Attorney

Budget Plans for 2021 and Its Impact on Immigration

Budget plans for 2021 immigration policy

On May 28th President Biden presented his first budget proposal for 2022, and there are a few key items that are interesting to discuss and can affect his immigration platform.

The topics I will cover in this article are:

Immigration Detention

The main issue reflected on his budget proposal is that there aren’t any signals that President Biden intends to address the problem of overuse of inhumane and unsafe detention centers for immigrants.

Over the past two decades, immigration detention has escalated, reaching a high point in 2019 with a population of 50,000. And even though the detention levels were at 15,000 when President Biden took office, mainly due to Covid entry restrictions, this administration passed on the opportunity to institute a major reform by shifting away from detention. 

Instead, what his plan is showing is that he’s seeking 2.7 billion dollars for ICE detention, almost the same amount Congress provided last year to President Trump. 

I must mention that the plan does indeed include $441 million for alternatives to detention, but ICE has not signaled whether it will implement more effective case management and supervision methods.

On overall enforcement, the administration maintained close to the same level of funding for the two main enforcement agencies: $8.4 billion for ICE and $16.3 billion for Customs and Border Protection.

Immigration Courts

Back in April, it was announced the increase of the overall budget for the immigration courts from $734 million to almost $900 million. The main objective of this increase was to hire 100 additional immigration judges and support staff. 

While the idea of having more funds to ensure the courts operate fairly and efficiently is great, just adding money to the mix is not enough. There are still a few reforms that are urgently needed to make the courts fairer. 

One of the key areas that need to be targeted is training regarding the interpretation of immigration law. There is currently a bias in favor of prosecution resulting in judges’ highest asylum denial rate in 2020, an impressive 72%.

Legal Representation for Immigrants

Moving on with legal representation, of people currently facing removal, more than 40% are without legal representation, which is awful to think of. 

It is a primal factor for people to have a fair hearing, have adequate representation, and are required to be paid by the government appropriately. 

It’s a good step seeing that there is pilot funding for children and families to receive legal counsel, but the additional $15 million requested for the Justice Department is only a drop of what is needed to ensure everyone has legal representation.

And this isn’t close to meeting the needs of asylum seekers, people in detention, and other vulnerable groups. 

Reducing Immigration Visa Backlog

Reducing Immigration Visa Backlog, the President is seeking a significant investment of $345 million to help USCIS reduce case backlogs and increase refugee admissions. 

This effort will take years. The focus for the backlog reduction will be on the applications with the highest volumes of backlogged cases and the longest processing times.

Department of State

While the investment in USCIS is a positive signal that the President is willing to take steps to restore the agency to its mission, it’s still unclear what commitment the President will make to ensure visas are efficiently processed overseas.

The State Department budget includes additional money for its Consular and Border Security Programs. However, the budget documents do not reveal how much of that money will be spent undoing the damage of travel bans, pandemic restrictions, and staffing shortages—steps that must be taken to truly dismantle the invisible wall to legal immigration.

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