President Trump released his budget blueprint for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, detailing to Congress how he intends to keep his campaign promises to the American people by securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws. (See Trump Budget Blueprint, March 2017) It is important to note that President Trump’s proposal does not have the force of law since Congress has the power of the purse. However, it is designed to provide lawmakers with his vision for fiscal policy priorities as they work on the FY 2018 appropriations bill to fund the government.
The budget proposal shows President Trump is willing to make the critical investments necessary to strengthen border security and enhance immigration enforcement. It makes a significant down payment on one of the president’s key commitments to the American people – calling on Congress to spend $2.6 billion “in high priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology” to “plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border.” (Id. at page 23)
This funding is needed to finally fulfill the requirements of the Secure Fence Act that Congress passed in 2006. Additionally, the border wall will help implement President Trump’s executive order to obtain “operational control of the border” by preventing all unlawful entries into the United States including terrorists, narcotics and other contraband. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) President Trump’s blueprint also supports adding 20 attorneys to the Department of Justice to obtain the privately-held land on the southwest border that will be needed to construct the wall and another 20 attorneys for litigation assistance. (See Trump Budget Blueprint, March 2017 at 30)
In addition to construction of a physical barrier, President Trump’s budget plan allocates money to prevent illegal aliens from crossing the border and disappearing into the interior of the United States. It earmarks $314 million to recruit, hire, and train 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel. (Id. at 23) There is also $1.5 billion more designated for the deportation, transportation and removal of illegal aliens than in the last fiscal year and $171 million over Fiscal Year 2017 for short-term detention space. (Id. at 23, 30) President Trump’s budget plan also provides robust funding for enforcement activities with heavy emphasis on expediting deportations. It provides an additional $80 million (19 percent above FY 2017 level) to hire an additional 75 immigration judge teams to “more efficiently adjudicate removal proceedings.” (Id. at 30)
Lastly, President Trump’s budget includes key proposals to protect American jobs. Specifically, his budget blueprint earmarks $15 million to implement a mandatory E-Verify program to determine whether new employees are eligible to work in the United States. Passed by Congress in 1996, E-Verify is a free, web-based program maintained by the federal government that allows employers to verify work authorization status nearly instantly by comparing identity documents with the federal government database. (See USCIS E-Verify Page) Despite being more effective than the standard I-9 form protocol, the program is currently voluntary for most employers. As a result, illegal aliens have been able to steal American jobs by either lying on their I-9 forms or gaining employment by employers who refuse to check the work status of their employees.
President Trump’s budget proposal is a marked difference in priorities compared to the Obama administrations’. President Obama’s last budget actually requested even fewer detention beds than the 34,000 minimum mandated by Congress. Instead, his budget focused on alternatives to detention (ATD) in order to place “low risk” individuals under detention.
The Obama administration repeatedly preferred ATD even though then-ICE Director John Morton testified that it is more costly and increases flight risk compared to utilizing detention facilities. Additionally, President Obama’s budget focused on spending money to care and transport the surge of unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) from Central America rather than addressing the underlying pull factors. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 20, 2016)
In the next few months, Members will decide which portions of President Trump’s recommendations for Fiscal Year 2018 to adopt or reject through the passage of spending (appropriations) bills. However, before Congress can begin to pass the spending bills for 2018, it needs to wrap up 2017. Last week, President Trump also sent a supplemental spending request to Congress for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017 to bolster America’s national security.
The supplemental included an additional $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to implement President Trump’s executive orders to secure the border and enforce our immigration laws. (See Trump Supplemental, March 2017 at 3) Included in this are the following amounts:
$11 million to establish a real-time data integration system to support immigration enforcement operations.
$286 million for CBP Operations and Support (these includes $95 million for border surge operations, $65 million to recruit and hire 5,000 border patrol agents, $43 for situational awareness at the border, and $64 million for border technology and equipment.)
$1.4 billion for the wall.
$1.2 billion for ICE operations and support.