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Rep. Blunt mischaracterized illegal immigration lawyer funding

By Michelle Malkin  •  December 19, 2007 11:04 PM

Yesterday, I linked to a CNS article quoting House GOP Whip Roy Blunt criticizing a provision of the appropriations bill that reportedly set aside $10 million in “emergency” funding for illegal alien attorneys.

Here’s what Blunt said:

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said the bill is full of “misguided” policy decisions: “On one page, for instance, you will find a set of new restrictions on the construction of our security fence along the border; on another, $10 million in ’emergency’ funding for attorneys of illegal immigrants.

“Along with those, you’ll even find language gutting a Senate-passed provision encouraging English in the workplace. And as we continue to cull through the text, that may prove to be just the tip of the iceberg,” Blunt complained.

Here’s what I wrote:

Update 10:20am Eastern. The fence gets robbed, but the spending bill gives $10 million in “emergency” funding for attorneys of illegal immigrants?!!?!

A reader e-mailed me tonight to report that Blunt mischaracterized the provision. He provides this link for the provision at the Omnibusting site:

The amended bill includes $10,000,000 in emergency funds for the Civil Division Office Immigration Litigation to provide 86 additional attorneys to address appeals resulting from immigration enforcement actions.

What is the Civil Division Office [of] Immigration Litigation and why do they need more funding? Here:

The Office of Immigration Litigation (“OIL”) defends the Government’s immigration laws and policies and handles challenges to immigration enforcement actions. At no time in history has this mission been so important, and never before has it consumed as many of the Department’s resources as it does today.

Immigration attorneys defend the Government’s efforts to detain and remove foreign-born terrorists and criminal aliens. Since 9/11, OIL has handled and assisted in hundreds of cases involving aliens of national security interest. On average, OIL defends the detention and removal of approximately 1,500 criminal aliens each year. Vigorous defense of these cases is critical to our national security and the safety of our communities. OIL also provides liaison and training to all of the Government’s immigration agencies, enabling enforcement efforts at and within our borders to enjoy dependable support before the courts.

Immigration litigation has been the fastest growing component of the Civil Division’s docket. The Division is responsible for handling or overseeing all Federal court challenges to decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), and the number of these challenges has grown significantly in recent years. OIL’s docket of pending cases has nearly tripled in the past four years, growing from 6,200 cases in FY 2002 to over 17,000 cases in FY 2005.

This growth stems from several factors. In 2003, much of the growth was attributed to the Department’s streamlining reforms, which increased the productivity of the BIA and thus helped clear a sizable backlog of cases. The backlog has since been cleared. Now, the growth stems primarily from heightened immigration enforcement activities pursued by the Department of Homeland Security and the rapid increase in the rate at which aliens appeal BIA decisions to the Federal courts, which has increased from 6 percent to 29 percent over the past four years. There is no reason to expect this rate to subside. Aliens now must turn to the courts to get the delay in removal that was once reliably provided simply by an administrative appeal to the BIA.

This enormous growth has driven OIL’s caseload per attorney to over 155 in FY 2005, more than doubling the historic caseload of 60 cases per attorney. Favorable congressional action on the Division’s FY 2007 request would play a large part in addressing OIL’s rising caseload. Without additional resources in FY 2007, the attorney caseload is expected to remain at the untenable level of 155 cases per attorney. The Division and the Department have responded to this crisis, assigning immigration cases to other attorneys throughout the Department. These stopgap measures, which task attorneys who lack experience and efficiency in handling immigration matters, are not a permanent solution.

The Office of Immigration Litigation will continue to face an overwhelming workload in FY 2007. Therefore, the President requests in his FY 2007 budget a program increase of 114 positions (86 attorneys), 57 FTEs, and $9,566,000 for immigration litigation.

In other words: These lawyers are the lawyers who work to defend and enforce deportation and removal orders. And the money included in the spending measure was at the President’s request.

My tipster e-mails: “Can Blunt be this clueless?!?!!!”

Apparently so. I hope his office makes the correction, as I have here. This is money worth spending.