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Congressional Democrats approved last week the “Inflation Reduction Act” with their razor-thin majority in the Senate and sent it to the House of Representatives. The legislation has been expectedly scrutinized by Republicans, and one of the most criticized points of the bill is that it plans to spend $80 billion on the Internal Revenue Service, which could be used to hire up to 87,000 new IRS officers. As Democrats expand the IRS, giving them billions of dollars, the U.S. immigration bureaucracy is overwhelmed and understaffed and receives no new funding.
The massive expansion of the IRS is expected to bring the agency to a size that would rival the biggest agencies in the federal government. If implemented, the bill would allow the IRS to almost double its size, going from 74,454 agents in 2021 to more than 161,000 agents. The $80 billion funding to the IRS is also a significant increase in the department’s income, which was $12.039 billion in FY2021.
If the IRA bill becomes law, the IRS will now be bigger than the FBI, the State Department, the Department of Justice, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and it will even be bigger than all but six of the armies that conform the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The funding to the tax collecting arm of the government is a crucial part of the IRA bill that Democrats are expected to transform into law in the next few weeks. The one-page summary released by Schumer and Manchin argues that the law will raise $124 billion just in “IRS tax enforcement” which is almost a seventh of the revenue they expect the bill will raise.
While the IRS will receive a significant upgrade in the reconciliation bill that Democrats are trying to pass, other parts of the enormous federal bureaucracy will not receive even a fraction of the funding destined for the IRS.
Democrats expand the IRS, while Border Patrol agents are stretched thin
While the IRS gets billions of dollars in new funding and dozens of thousands of new tax collectors, the overwhelmed agencies that are in charge of handling the U.S. immigration system did not only get zero dollars in funding in the IRA bill but did not even get a mention in the 755-page text.
Border patrol remains understaffed, overworked, and overlooked. USBP employs 19,536 border patrol agents, which are in charge of patrolling the more than 5,500 miles of international borders the U.S. has, with a substantial majority of those agents posted on the 1,954 miles southern border with Mexico. Border Patrol agents are in charge of both law enforcement and humanitarian tasks, as they have to prevent the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and potential threats to national security while also providing humanitarian (first aid, food, etc.) help to undocumented migrants who are captured trying to cross the border.
As it has been extensively reported at El American, the southwestern border of the United States has been in a state of crisis since FY2021. Over the last twenty-one months, border patrol agents have registered more than 3.4 million encounters on the southwestern border, an average of 161,904 encounters per month. Almost 30% of these encounters are family units or unaccompanied minors, cases in which border patrol agents have to spend a considerable amount of time processing and attending them.
As a result, the border patrol has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of migrants trying to cross the border. In October 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported that Border Patrol was releasing migrants without court paperwork as the stretched agency tried to cope with the then record amount of migrants.
Not only are Border Patrol agents overwhelmed, but they have been forced to spend more time in the office processing undocumented migrants seeking refuge than pursuing criminals who trafficking people and drugs across the border, a point that has been pointed out by the Border patrol labor union.
Overwhelmed USCIS spends months processing TPS for Venezuelans
The border patrol is not the only immigration-related agency that is being overwhelmed. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been underfunded and understaffed for years, and the backlog caused because of it has brought mayhem to the immigration system in the United States.
USCIS employs less than 20,000 agents and contractors to deal with the gargantuan amount of paperwork that defines the American migratory system, the agency says it adjudicates more than 25,000 immigration requests per day and receives more than 200,000 aid requests by phone or online. The agency, however, is well-known for massive backlogs that convert the already cumbersome American immigration process into a leviathan of unsurmountable paperwork.
A February 2022 study by the Migration Policy Institute found that the backlog is currently numbered at 9.5 million applications, almost double
the 5.7 million application backlog in FY2019.
Nowhere is the backlog more clear than in the delay to process the Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans. Despite being one of (if not the only) flagship policies of the Biden White House to deal with the Venezuelan Migrant crisis, USCIS has yet to approve even half of the TPS applications. As of March 2022 (the latest data USCIS has provided) out of the 241,183 TPS applications filed, the federal government has only approved 41,885 of them, less than 18% of the total number of requests.
In fact, the average waiting time for processing Forms I-821 (request for TPS) has gone from 3 months in FY2017 to a whopping nine months in FY2022. Nine months for processing an application that is only valid for eighteen months. The processing times for employment authorizations and travel permits have also increased significantly over the last three fiscal years.
The Biden White House has said that fixing America’s flawed immigration system is a top priority, however, when given the chance it prioritizes hiring an army of IRS accountants rather than providing much-needed manpower to the bureaucracies that handle the immigration process.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.