President Trump released his formal budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 this week, which seeks to solidify the harsh proposals laid out in his immigration executive orders. The budget aims to fund the beginnings of a border wall, as well as increase immigration enforcement, detention, and deportations. If approved, these requests would unnecessarily expand the already record levels of immigration enforcement.
The Trump administration’s proposal asks Congress to increase the immigration enforcement budget by nearly 25 percent, which includes an additional $4.5 billion on top of the $19 billion already spent on immigration enforcement each year. Of that $4.5 billion, $1.6 billion is requested to begin President Trump’s border wall, a high price tag for 74 miles of wall, 14 of which would be to replace existing fencing in San Diego. There is an additional $700 million requested for more aircraft, radios, weapons, computers, and other equipment to track border crossers—another unnecessary ask, considering border crossings are at a record low.
There is also a $300 million request to hire 500 more Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. That averages out to a staggering $200,000 per new agent or officer hired.
The budget request does not stop there. It includes a massive increase in the number of detention beds, asking Congress to fund 51,379 detention beds next year. In recent years, immigration detention bed levels have held steady around 34,000, so this would mark an over 50 percent increase from those historically high levels. It is important to note this request comes amid a 17-year low in border crossings.
ICE also unveiled a new plan for lower detention standards in the budget request. These new detention standards would eliminate the few protections contained in the current ICE detention standards for immigrants held at most immigration detention facilities, including limits on solitary confinement and access to medical care and interpreters.
The budget also includes a number of immigration-related provisions related to the Department of Justice (DOJ). First, following up on his memo to ramp up prosecution of immigration offenses, the Attorney General is asking Congress to pay for 70 additional U.S. Attorneys. These attorneys’ sole focus would be to prosecute immigration-related offenses, which already make up 52 percent of all federal prosecutions. Second, there is a request for 20 additional attorneys to conduct land acquisitions along the Southern border so the administration can build its border wall. Finally, the budget requests a nearly 20 percent increase in immigration court funding to pay for 75 additional immigration judge teams.
In addition to enforcement and court funding, the administration is also cruelly attempting to cut refugee resettlement services by 30 percent, while simultaneously reducing the goal for refugee admissions to an all-time low of 50,000. This would be a significant reduction from the 85,000 refugees admitted in FY 2016 and the 110,000 authorized by President Obama for FY 2017.
Unfortunately, the administration’s budget doubles down on Trump’s campaign rhetoric. It represents an effort to super-size the enforcement infrastructure without any clear plan for making American communities safer. The budget would increase our nation’s already record levels of spending on immigration detention and enforcement and do nothing to genuinely solve the problems associated with our nation’s outdated immigration system.