By Katabella Roberts
American taxpayers are paying out over $300 million a year to fund health care services to illegal aliens in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to the agency’s year-end report.
The report (pdf), published on Dec. 30, states ICE’s operational budget for fiscal year 2022 “approached” $324 million. Funding for ICE is allocated by Congress.
“During this time, it provided direct care – including medical and dental health services – to over 118,000 noncitizens housed at 19 IHSC-operated facilities throughout the United States, which exceeded 1.1 million visits over the course of the fiscal year,” the report states. IHSC stands for ICE Health Service Corps.
“IHSC also oversaw compliance with healthcare-related detention standards for more than 120,500 noncitizens housed in 163 non-IHSC-staffed facilities.”
The health care provided by ICE includes an initial health screening, mental health care, and follow-up care conducted at its numerous facilities across the United States.
Last year, ICE’s operational budget was $316 million, meaning that its budget increased by roughly $8 million year-over-year.
The report comes as many Americans continue to have no access to health insurance, while others who do have access to it are struggling to cover the costs amid soaring inflation.
31.6 Million Americans Don’t Have Health Insurance
According to the latest estimates (pdf) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31.6 million people of all ages—nearly 10 percent of the population—did not have health insurance in 2020.
A separate study conducted in 2022 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization West Health and global analytics firm Gallup found that 112 million U.S. adults, making up around 44 percent of the population, struggle to afford medical insurance.
Another 35 percent of U.S. adults said they have had to cut back utilities in order to pay for necessary health care.
Millions more Americans are set to lose Medicaid coverage as of Jan. 11 when a public health emergency ends; meaning that Americans who did not have to go through the yearly renewal to ensure that their income and health still qualify them for the health care coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, will now have to do so.
In a statement alongside its report in December, ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson said that the agency “continues to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, remove threats to national security and public safety, uphold the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and collaborate with its colleagues across government and law enforcement in pursuit of our shared mission to keep U.S. communities safe.”
Additionally, the agency said that it has provided “significant support” for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Southwest Border response, and is “helping secure the Southwest Border and rebuilding a humane and orderly immigration system.”
The report comes as the Trump-era Title 42 immigration policy—which allows border agents to expel illegal aliens immediately without asylum processing if they are deemed to pose a health threat during the COVID-19 pandemic—remains in limbo as legal challenges regarding its expiration play out in court.
The policy was set to end by Dec. 21 but was subsequently halted after a number of Republican states filed an emergency application seeking to reverse a lower court’s decision on the matter.
Biden to ‘Visit U.S–Mexico Border’
Officials in states such as Texas fear that ending the policy will further exacerbate an already burgeoning border crisis that has overwhelmed local communities near the border as well as other states across the country.
However, the Biden administration and other Democrats have argued that the policy is no longer needed following a reassessment of the current national public health situation.
On Dec. 31, Tom Homan, former acting director of ICE, told The Epoch Times that he believes it will take a “national security incident” for the Biden administration to “wake up” to the impending crisis.
Homan, who worked as head of ICE from 2017 to 2018, said that he believes the border crisis is owing to policies rolled out by DHS under Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, ICE’s latest report shows that the number of illegal aliens being deported last year remained relatively low compared to previous years, with the agency deporting 72,177 illegal aliens in the 12 months ending on Sept. 30 to over 150 countries worldwide.
Approximately half of the removals were conducted via charter flights, according to the agency. A total of 142,750 arrests were made in 2022, ICE said. In contrast, deportations made by ICE in 2020 were 185,884 and 67,258 in the fiscal year 2019 (pdf).
Biden said on Wednesday that he plans to visit the U.S–Mexico border for the first time since taking office this month.