How the sequester would affect our dysfunctional immigration system

February 24, 2013

Our immigration system is already plagued by protracted delays, red tape and limited resources, and sequestration would exacerbate some of those problems. ABC News singles out some of the many ways that the automatic budget cuts would hit our immigration system, affecting everything from visas to deportations.


Undocumented immigrants line up outside a Los Angeles Deferred Action Application Event. / The Washington Post

First, sequestration would slash $15 million from the country's immigration courts, which are run and funded by the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). There's already a massive backlog in the country's immigration courts, requiring an average 550-day wait to get a case resolved. The budget cuts would make those waits even longer, ABC News explains, quoting Attorney General Eric Holder:

"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." EOIR would also cut contracts for interpreters, legal support and I.T. staff.

Second, the budget cuts would also be a drag on the legal immigration system. ABC News points to a letter that Secretary of State John Kerry wrote this month, explaining that the cuts "would jeopardize the Department's efforts to provide secure, error-free travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible. Reduced funding would also undermine progress made in ensuring that visa requests are processed in a timely fashion." That would make the  the "line" to enter the country even longer, prolonging a wait that's already 24 years and longer for certain classes of prospective immigrants.

Finally, sequestration would also force the Department of Homeland Security to cut back on the number of border patrol agents and officers, ABC News points out. Those reductions would reduce staffing that's reached record levels during the Obama administration, though it's unclear how much more secure it has made our borders.


(Congressional Research Service)
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Ezra Klein · February 24, 2013