APRIL 17, 2015
Propelled by Judicial Watch, Congress is calling for an investigation to determine if the Obama administration violated civil and criminal laws when it implemented the president’s controversial executive actions on immigration.
It appears that the administration may have violated the Antideficiency Act, a centuries-old statute banning government officials from spending monies that have not been appropriated by Congress. In the case of Obama’s amnesty measures—known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action to Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—multiple federal agencies may have committed Antideficiency Act violations by misspending funds that were not allocated by Congress to implement the contentious orders.
At the center of the storm is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that processes immigrant visa and naturalization petitions. It has a workforce of 19,000 and a $4 billion annual budget that comes mostly from applicant fees. USCIS has been bombarded with DACA and DAPA petitions yet Congress hasn’t specifically appropriated the funds required to complete the job, which means taxpayer dollars are being misspent in ways contrary to the fundamental purpose of the agency. In February Judicial Watch called on Congress to request that its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), launch a probe into the matter.
Specifically JW asked that the GAO look into whether Congress appropriated the funds or authorized the assessment of fees necessary for USCIS to implement the plans to extend DACA and DAPA. This includes determining whether USCIS is using property or employees designated for a specific purpose to also carry out Obama’s amnesty initiatives. If so, it would constitute the unauthorized spending of taxpayer dollars and could be a direct violation of the Antideficiency Act. Government officials who spend funds that have not been appropriated by Congress face civil and criminal penalties.
Following JW’s lead, nearly two dozen members of Congress wrote a letter this week asking the GAO to thoroughly investigate the matter. Among the federal lawmakers’ requests is that the GAO determine whether funds—discretionary, mandatory or otherwise—used to pay for the implementation of Obama’s executive actions on immigration violate the Antideficiency Act and whether USCIS has committed any Antideficiency Act violations since 2009. The legislators also ask the GAO to investigate whether USCIS has used funds to implement the immigration orders since a Texas federal judge imposed a stay on the measures earlier this year.
“Agencies may not spend, or commit themselves to spend, in advance of or in excess of an amount available in an appropriation or fund,” the members of Congress write, further reminding that the Antideficiency Act “prohibits the federal government from entering into a contract that is not ‘fully funded’ because doing so would obligate the government in the absence of an appropriation adequate to the needs of the contract.” JW will continue investigating this serious issue and back in February was the first to report that, even after a federal court blocked Obama’s amnesty order, the administration continued working behind the scenes to quickly award multi-million-dollar contracts to firms that can expeditiously process millions of illegal immigrants.
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