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Homeland Security/Law Enforcement: Immigration Inspection Fee (2012-49)

The air passenger immigration inspection user fee should be reviewed and adjusted to fully recover the cost of the air passenger immigration inspection activities conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather than using general fund appropriations.

Action:

To determine the extent to which air passenger immigration inspection fees are aligned with the costs of inspection activities, which could enable fee adjustments to reduce reliance on general fund appropriations, Congress may wish to require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to regularly report on the total cost of air passenger immigration inspections and the amount of associated fee collections.

Progress:

No legislative action identified.  As of November 2013, the 113th Congress had not enacted legislation to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct ICE and CBP to establish a regular schedule to review and coordinate on the costs of their respective air passenger immigration inspection activities, as GAO suggested in February 2012. However, ICE and CBP have taken action to report on the total cost of air passenger immigration inspections.
 
ICE and CBP have reviewed and reported their respective portions of the immigration inspection fee. CBP regularly reviews its fees, and ICE has reviewed its portion of the immigration fee for fiscal years 2010 through 2012. Collectively, their reports provide Congress with the information necessary to inform oversight of the air passenger immigration inspection fee
 

Implementing Entity:

Congress

Action:

Congress may wish to require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adjust the air passenger immigration inspection fee as needed so that collections are aligned with total inspection costs, if it is determined that total immigration fee collections do not cover total immigration inspection costs.

Progress:

As of March 2020, Congress had not enacted legislation to adjust the air passenger immigration fee, as GAO suggested in February 2012. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identified the extent to which collections are aligned with total immigration inspection costs. ICE reported in its 2012 fee review that, based on its legal review of the Immigration and Nationality Act, it is authorized to use its air passenger and sea vessel passenger inspection collections to reimburse its immigration inspection activities.

ICE's and CBP's combined fiscal year 2012 immigration inspection costs exceeded collections by almost $175 million, and neither agency received enough collections to cover its respective costs. The Budget of the U.S. Government, 2021 proposed increasing the immigration inspection user fee, including the air passenger inspection fee, by $2. The proposal would also authorize CBP to adjust the fee in the future without further statutory changes. The Administration estimated this would increase annual fee collections by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Because ICE and CBP use annual appropriations, as authorized, to bridge any gaps between immigration costs and immigration fee collections, if Congress intends for the immigration inspection fees to recover the full costs of inspections, it should consider increasing these fees so that collections are aligned with total inspection costs. Until such steps are taken, ICE and CBP will likely continue to use annual appropriations to fund activities that they have statutory authority to fund with user fees.

Implementing Entity:

Congress

Action:

To determine the extent to which air passenger immigration inspection fees are aligned with the costs of inspection activities, which could enable fee adjustments to reduce reliance on general fund appropriations, Congress may wish to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to amend its cost study methodology to determine the extent to which air passenger fee collections cover reimbursable activities.

Progress:

No legislative action identified.  As of November 2013, the 113th Congress had not enacted legislation to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct ICE to amend its cost study methodology to determine the extent to which air passenger fee collections cover reimbursable activities, as GAO suggested in February 2012. However, ICE has taken action to amend its cost study methodology to determine the extent to which air passenger fee collections cover reimburseable activities. In April 2013, ICE completed its review of its fiscal year 2012 immigration inspection fees and for the first time amended its cost study methodology to report separately its air and sea vessel passenger immigration inspection activity costs. As a result, Congress now has the information to conduct oversight of the air passenger immigration inspection fee. 

Implementing Entity:

Congress

Action:

To determine the extent to which air passenger immigration inspection fees are aligned with the costs of inspection activities, which could enable fee adjustments to reduce reliance on general fund appropriations, Congress may wish to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to establish a regular schedule to review and coordinate on the costs of their respective air passenger immigration inspection activities, and revise the proportion of the fee received by each agency accordingly.

Progress:

As of March 2019, Congress had not enacted legislation to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct ICE and CBP to establish a regular schedule to review and coordinate on the costs of their respective air passenger immigration inspection activities, and revise the proportion of the fee received by each agency accordingly, as GAO suggested in February 2012. However, ICE and CBP both implemented biennial reviews of the immigration inspection fee. In December 2018, ICE officials told GAO that they coordinate with CBP on elements of their individual reviews of the fee, including cost recovery. Further, ICE and CBP provided information that shows that the proportion of the fee received by each agency is aligned with their respective costs. By regularly reviewing and coordinating on the costs of their respective air passenger immigration inspection activities, ICE and CBP help ensure that the proportion of the fees received by each agency are aligned with their respective costs and bring attention to gaps between immigration inspection costs and fee collections.

Implementing Entity:

Congress
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