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Immigration and the 2012 Appropriations Act

During what was dubbed the “congressional showdown” over payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, an arrangement for an increased number in immigration beds was taken into consideration as part of the deal that was quickly approved by the Senate and finally also by the House of Representatives. The bill to extend payroll tax cuts and extend unemployment benefits is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, H.R. 3671, a $1 trillion dollar spending bill that funds several federal government departments, including Defense and Homeland Security. The Wall Street Journal reported that the “House had to scuttle a deal brokered in the Senate to extend the payroll-tax holiday and federal unemployment insurance for two months.” This vote left Congress at a familiar impasse, but at the last moment an agreement was reached to extend for two months the payroll-tax cut, federal unemployment benefits and a measure to reimburse doctors for treating Medicare patients.

The 2012 Appropriations Act includes funding that raises the number of immigration detention beds to about 34,000. The final fiscal year 2012 Appropriations 1,200-page bill package includes “a total of $39.6 billion in regular discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-a decrease of $2 billion below last year’s level and $4 billion below the President’s request.” According to a detailed summary, “the bill provides $5.9 billion for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], which is $50 million more than last year’s level. This includes funding for 34,000 detention bends-the largest detention capacity in ICE’s history-and increases in immigration enforcement activities.” This is all even though the residents of Pembroke Pines and the town of Southwest Ranches are opposed to the federally funded and privately managed detention center set to be built in South Florida. The Appropriations Act also includes $11.7 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is an increase of $362 million over last year’s level.

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