On May 23, 2017, President Donald Trump submitted his fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget proposal to Congress. The budget proposal includes the Trump Administration's funding requests for the federal government. For immigration purposes, the most important component is President Trump's requests relating to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS released a document titled “FY 2018 Budget in Brief” [PDF version], which overviewed President Trump's budget requests for the DHS. In this article, we will review the budget requests for DHS as they relate to immigration (note that DHS has many other functions that do not relate directly to immigration).
Before continuing, it is important to note a few key points about the issue.
First, the government is currently funded through September 30, 2017. In all likelihood, the earliest we will see a budget agreement will be close to that date. It is also entirely possible that Congress will end up passing one or more short-term extensions before reaching a final agreement.
Second, the president's budget requests are only requests. Congress is ultimately entirely possible for drafting a budget and sending it to the president's desk for his consideration. Although the president's requests may inform Congress in its deliberations, it is no way binding. It is quite likely that the final budget will represent funding levels significantly different from those requested by the Trump Administration.
Overview of the President's Budget for DHS
President Trump requested $44.1 billion in net discretionary funding for the DHS.
The DHS blueprint explained that the budget “proposes crucial investments in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing, equipment, and technology to enhance the capabilities of frontline border officers and agents.” The CBP is also working to identify priorities for improving border security. The following are some of the “key investments” in border security described by the DHS that address immigration issues:
- $7.2 billion for the United States Coast Guard's operating expenses, including pay. The DHS notes that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for the “interdiction of illegal aliens at sea.”
- $1.6 billion for border wall construction.
- $975.8 million “for high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology improvements.” The DHS explains that the purpose of this funding is to increase defense at the border and give CBP law enforcement personnel the technology to help “detect and interdict illegal activity in a safer environment.”
- $272.8 million for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. This funding would contribute to the hiring of an additional 1,000 immigration enforcement officers and 500 CBP agents, which was directed by President Trump's Executive Order 13767 [see article].
- $100 million to support 20,258 Border Patrol positions. This encompasses recruiting, hiring, and training 500 new Border Patrol agents.
The DHS explained that it is working on procuring funds to improve its ability to enforce the immigration laws in the interior. The following are funding requests detailed in the DHS overview that relate to interior enforcement:
- $2.7 billion to fund both direct and indirect cost for 51,379 detention beds.
- $185.9 million to support the expansion of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) interior enforcement activities, as directed by Executive Order 13768 [see article]. These funds would go toward hiring an additional 850 immigration officers, 150 criminal investigators, 805 law enforcement mission support staff, and 125 Office of Principal Legal Advisor attorneys to represent the government in immigration proceedings before the Department of Justice's (DOJ's) Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). This bloc of funding would also include $1.0 million to enhance current operations at the DHS's new VOICE Office [see blog].
- $484.9 million for transportation costs associated with the immigration detention population.
- $177.7 million for the ICE's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program. This funding would go toward monitoring in lieu of incarceration an average of 79,000 daily participants in order to ensure their compliance with immigration proceedings until the execution of final orders of removal.
- $131.5 million for E-Verify operations and upgrades. This funding would include investments to expand E-Verify in order to support mandatory E-Verify use nationwide.
Finally, the budget proposal requests $354 million to support biometric initiatives. Of this money, $263.4 million would go toward the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) and $90.6 would go toward the CBP's expedited completion of the Biometric Entry-Exist System, which was directed by President Trump's Executive Order 13769 and 13780 [PDF version]. The DHS states that the CBP “envisions that biometrics can replace documentation like a passport, boarding pass, or a driver's license for many of the routine aspects of airline travel…” It explains that in 2018 the CBP will use funds from visa fee collections “to develop essential program elements and back-end infrastructure for the Biometric Entry-Exit System, and to implement public-private partnerships with airports and airlines to implement biometric air exit.”
We discussed issues relating to the development of a Biometric Entry-Exit System in a recent post on visa overstay statistics [see blog].
President Trump's budget proposal includes robust funding requests for several important immigration initiatives. Border security and managing the immigration system are two areas that are clearly the Federal government's responsibility and within its jurisdiction. Accordingly, ensuring that the Federal government has the requisite funding to carry out these missions should be a high priority for Congress. We will discuss the issue further when the budget negotiations pick up in the summer of 2017.