Immigration Bill Contains Slush Funds for Pro-Amnesty Groups

By Jon Feere, May 1, 2013

The pro-amnesty lobbyists who helped craft the Schumer-Rubio immigration bill included within the bill two "slush funds" amounting to $150 million that may be supplemented with additional taxpayer dollars for years to come. Slush fund grantees are "public or private, non-profit organizations" described in the bill as including "a community, faith-based, or other immigrant-serving organization whose staff has demonstrated qualifications, experience, and expertise in providing quality services to immigrants, refugees, persons granted asylum, or persons applying for such statuses." In other words, the grantees would include many of the groups involved in writing and promoting the amnesty.

Section 2537 of the Schumer-Rubio bill provides "Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance" grants to public and private, non-profit organizations that promise to help illegal immigrants apply for the amnesty (p. 384). For example, this includes help with "completing applications", "gathering proof of identification", and "applying for any waivers". But the recipients of these funds are given a lot of discretion, as the funds can also be used for "any other assistance" that the grantee "considers useful" to aliens applying for amnesty. The bill appropriates $100 million in grant funding for a five-year period ending in 2018, plus any additional "sums as may be necessary for fiscal year 2019 and subsequent fiscal years". (p. 392). There are no limits to the amount of money that may be given out to pro-amnesty groups.

Section 2106 of the Schumer-Rubio bill creates the "Grant Program to Assist Eligible Applicants" and the funds also go to public and private non-profit organizations (p. 131). The grants are to be used for promoting the amnesty through public information campaigns and helping illegal immigrants with the application process. Similar to the section above, the funds can be used for providing "any other assistance" that the grantee "consider[s] useful" in helping illegal immigrants apply for legal status. The source of funds for these grants is not carefully spelled out in the bill; it appears that there is some intention that visa fees be used to carry out this section, but the bill notes that the DHS Secretary may "use up to $50 million from the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund" to fund the grants (p. 133). The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund includes $6.5 billion "transferred from the general fund of the Treasury", taxpayer dollars that are supposed to be spent on border security provisions in the bill (p. 25). While some might argue that only visa application fees will be used in this second slush fund, the bill nevertheless authorizes use of additional taxpayer dollars to cover any shortfall.

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In addition to providing much flexibility to the grant recipients, the bill does not include any audit or oversight provision. This is odd considering that the section immediately after Section 2537 — Section 2538, "Pilot Program to Promote Immigrant Integration at State and Local Levels" (p. 386) — does contain a "Reporting and Evaluation" section (pp. 390-91) and also deals with grants, here to "states and local governments or other qualifying entities". It requires each grant recipient to submit an annual report describing the activities undertaken by the grant recipient, as well as a description of how such activities meet the legislative goals. It also requires an evaluation to make sure that "grantees, recipients, and subgrantees are acting within the scope and purpose" of the bill's provisions. A similar process could easily have been included in the sections that provide $150 million to pro-amnesty groups.

Considering that millions of dollars will go to groups like La Raza, Casa de Maryland, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, it's not surprising that these groups are cheerleaders for the Schumer-Rubio bill.