There are a lot of things wrong with the President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Some of the immigration-related provisions have been mentioned in the press or by advocates, while others are flying relatively unknown under the radar. But they all have one thing in common: they are meant to help the Trump Administration deport as many people as possible.
After trying to cut it down to a “top ten” list, I gave up. Drumroll please. Here are the top 11 terrible (immigration-related) things in the president’s 2018 budget:
- $1.7 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget, which already sits at about $42 billion. Increases to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) budgets are extremely high. The budget proposal irrationally increases ICE and CBP funding while cutting DHS programs that are vital to security and public safety, such as FEMA grants to state and local governments to prepare for disasters, secure ports and waterways, and protect mass transit, as well as TSA efforts to improve security at airport checkpoints, ports, and other transportation hubs.
- What’s the increase for ICE? A whopping 18% (bringing the total to $7.57 billion). About $900 million (yes, almost a billion dollars) is allocated for detention beds, bringing the average daily detained population to 51,379. This 66% increase over the previous quota of 34,000 detention beds is an unprecedented expansion in the nation’s immigration detention system, at a time when border apprehensions are plummeting (down 75% since last October). There is no need for these additional beds. Clearly the president wants to use them to detain huge numbers of people who have no criminal backgrounds and have been in the U.S. for a very long time. That kind of enforcement won’t improve public safety, but it will hurt American families and business.
- Gutting detention conditions standards at a time when deaths in detention are the highest in years. DHS disclosed in the Administration’s budget that ICE will no longer expect the overwhelming majority of its detention facilities to comply with ICE detention standards. Instead, it will let county jails and private prison facilities use a rudimentary checklist Placing ever greater numbers of undocumented immigrants, including families, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable individuals, in facilities that don’t even meet ICE standards is a recipe for disaster.
- Hiring 1,000 new ICE agents, after years of massive build up in ICE personnel. In fact, the number of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations agents has already close to tripled in the past 13 years. The only way those agents are going to be kept busy, again considering that border apprehensions have cratered, is by targeting long-time residents who are no threat to public safety and in fact have contributed to the prosperity of communities around the nation. ICE director Thomas Homan admitted as much recently, saying that all undocumented people should live in fear and be looking over their shoulder.
- The request includes a reprehensible attempt to do an end-run on local law enforcement through the budget process. One provision would attempt to compel state and local law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainer requests that have been ruled unconstitutional in courts around the country. Nothing in federal statute right now requires localities to comply with ICE detainer requests; however, in its budget request, the Administration asks Congress to prohibit localities from limiting compliance with detainers. It’s a terrible idea for public safety reasons, and it likely violates the 10th Amendment, which prevents the federal government from commandeering the resources of local governments in order to implement federal laws.
- CBP’s massive increase in the budget includes $1.6 billion for the unnecessary, ineffective, and costly border wall development. CBP’s total budget would go up 17% (bringing the total to nearly $14 billion). The border wall has been shot down by Congress already and President Trump hasn’t been able to show any constructive reasons to invest in less than a hundred actual miles of border wall at such an immense cost.
- In addition to the 1,000 ICE agents in the budget, the Trump Administration wants 500 more Border Patrol officers – but they can’t offer any justification for the increase. Again, border apprehensions have plummeted 75% since October – why do we need hundreds more agents when CBP can’t fill the open positions it currently has? Congress certainly should not waive the CBP’s critical polygraph test requirement to enable it to quickly fill positions with subpar candidates.
- The Department of Justice would see a surge in hiring of U.S. Attorneys – 70 more – but not attorneys detailed to prosecute dangerous criminals who threaten public safety. No, instead, the new attorneys would only prosecute illegal entry and reentry. Immigration prosecutions already make up more than half of all federal prosecutions—more than for drugs, weapons, fraud and other federal crimes combined. Most of these folks are reentering the country to reunite with family or trying to seek asylum. Prosecuting border crossings before prosecuting serious crimes is shortsighted in the extreme.
- Nearly $2 million in additional funding to fight challenges to immigration laws, regulations, and policies. The DOJ Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) is certainly going to be busy as they try to defend potentially unlawful actions the Administration takes in the immigration law arena. Instead of funding more government attorneys, it would be fiscally sensible to just stop making bad—and unconstitutional–policy.
- Almost $132 million would be allocated for the E-Verify program, to work toward mandatory, nationwide use of the program. An effective employment verification system could be valuable, but only if done in a way that works for businesses and protects authorized U.S. and foreign workers. Those protections are definitely not built into this budget request.
- Last but not least, slashing funding for international refugee and humanitarian assistance is part of this budget – a 31% cut to refugee resettlement programs, reducing the number of refugees to the U.S. to 50,000, and the complete elimination of the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account, which is critical for the U.S. government’s capacity to respond to urgent crises.
What can you do? Call or email your members of Congress to let them know they need to stand up against Trump’s mass deportation machine through the power of the purse. The Trump Administration can ask for funds but Congress controls those purse strings – tell them why these are bad policies and urge them to reject the increases that will hurt American families and businesses, and instead protect funding for programs that increase our shared prosperity.