- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The worse the border surge, the more it will hurt other immigrants trying to come to the country legally by delaying their applications, a top Homeland Security official told Congress on Wednesday.

Ur Jaddou, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said their goal is to keep the hiccups as small as possible, but said deploying her personnel to the border to handle people claiming asylum will “take a toll” on the ability to handle other applications.

“Will they have to put aside some other work? Yes, potentially, depending on how large or how small,” she said.

The size of the disruption will depend on the size of the surge, she said.

Homeland Security is bracing for a massive surge of illegal immigrants next month when the Biden administration formally concludes the pandemic border shutdown, known as Title 42.

Illegal border crossings could rise from about 8,000 a day to 18,000 a day, according to the department’s estimates. And while about half of the current border crossers are expelled under Title 42 right now, once that goes away, Border Patrol agents said nearly all of those coming will be able to make asylum claims — most of them likely bogus.

Homeland Security says it will pull personnel from other duties to head to the border to help process the crush of people.

That includes shifting Border Patrol agents, deploying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and the USCIS adjudicators.

Ms. Jaddou said disruptions to her agency’s workload “are not uncommon.” She pointed to last year’s evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans, which required USCIS to deploy 250 officers to the evacuee camps to give them work permits.

Ms. Jaddou said that’s one reason why the Biden administration wants to shift the agency’s funding.

Traditionally, USCIS has been almost entirely funded by fees paid by businesses and would-be immigrants themselves for their applications. The theory was that immigration shouldn’t be a burden to the taxpayer.

But Ms. Jaddou said humanitarian cases such as refugees and asylum-seekers have always been exempt from fees, which means those costs get covered by the fees paid by the regular business and family immigrant applications.

SEE ALSO: Senate virus deal in limbo as GOP pushes for border-measure vote

She said the humanitarian work has gone from about 5% of the agency’s workload to about 25%. The Biden administration is asking for more than $900 million in taxpayer money.

“That is the issue here, and that is the help we are looking for,” she told lawmakers.

Robert Law, a former senior official at USCIS in the Trump administration, said that would be a major change for the agency, putting taxpayers on the hook for paying for illegal border jumpers.

“Jaddou just said the quiet part out loud — American taxpayers should have to pay for illegal alien work permits, asylum and refugee, so they don’t have to increase fees for legal immigration benefits,” said Mr. Law, director of regulatory affairs and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies.

President Biden’s budget for the fiscal year 2023 anticipates USCIS will need $5.3 billion. Of that, $4.4 billion will come from fees and about $914 million from taxpayers.

That taxpayer money will pay the salaries of more than 3,000 new personnel.

In 2021, taxpayers footed just $128 million of USCIS’s $4.9 billion budget. That money went to support E-Verify, the government’s voluntary electronic verification system for businesses to check their new hires’ legal work status.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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