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Immigration in Trump’s Budget Blueprint

By Lazaro Zamora

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last week released a supplemental appropriations request for FY2017 and a budget blueprint for the president’s FY2018 budget, which is expected in full later this year. Although the president’s budget is almost never wholly enacted in Congress as written by the White House, it is historically a chance for presidents to highlight policy priorities. Procedurally, the FY2017 supplemental request would have to pass the House and get 60 votes in the Senate to be approved.

Both the FY2017 request and FY2018 blueprint propose significant increases in funding for border and immigration enforcement activities in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). These documents also begin the process of requesting appropriations to implement the policies in President Trump’s executive orders on border security and interior enforcement. The FY2017 request asks for an additional $3 billion to build a border wall, hire enforcement personnel, and increase detention capacity. The FY2018 blueprint would allocates $4.5 billion in additional funding related to border security and immigration enforcement.

Below is a summary of the major immigration-related budget provisions: 

  • Border Wall. The president’s requests ask for $4 billion over the next year and half to kick start the building of a border wall. This funding level is far below most estimates of what a complete wall would cost. In the near term, the FY2017 request asks for $1.4 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wall funding—$999 million for planning, designing, and building; $179 million for access roads, gates, and other tactical infrastructure; and $200 million for technology deployments. The FY2018 blueprint requests an additional $2.6 billion for the wall. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney stated during a press conference on the budget that it will not be completed in two years.
  • DHS Hiring. The FY2017 request asks for an additional $65 million to CBP to build hiring capacity for 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and $76 million for capacity to hire an additional 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. A total of $88 million would be spent on hiring instructors and infrastructure (including dorms and classroom buildings) to train and hire the additional personnel. Other support funding would include $95 million for border surge operations, $18 million for project management for the border wall, and $5 million for homeland security investigations. The FY2018 Budget Blueprint asks for $314 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 ICE enforcement personnel.

Trump’s FY2017 request asks for an additional $3 billion to build a border wall, hire enforcement personnel, and increase detention capacity.

  • DOJ Hiring. The FY2018 budget asks for funding for 60 additional border enforcement prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals for apprehending, transporting, and prosecuting unauthorized immigrants. It also requests funding for 20 additional attorneys to help with litigation related to building the wall and 20 attorneys for immigration litigation assistance.
  • Detention beds. Under the “detention bed mandate,” the government is required to fill a minimum of 34,000 beds in immigrant detention centers per night. While the Obama administration signaled its desire to discontinue the mandate, Congress has continued it. The president’s budget request would significantly expand detention capacity to 45,700 by the end of FY2017 with $1.2 billion allocated for detention (including alternatives to detention), transportation, and removal of unauthorized immigrants. In FY2018, the request asks for an additional $1.5 billion above current levels (around $1.7 billion) for detention.
  • State and Local Immigration Enforcement. Trump’s executive orders on immigration sought to expand the role of state and localities in enforcing immigration laws. Primarily, the executive order looked to expand 287(g) agreements, which allow the federal government to essentially deputize state and local enforcement officials as immigration agents. The FY2017 request asks for $5 million to support the expansion of the 287(g) program.
  • Immigration courts. The FY2018 proposal asks for an additional $80 million to hire 75 new immigration judge teams (each team includes a judge and seven staffers). The new resources would aim to speed up case processing in immigration courts, where the backlog has surpassed 542,000 cases, with an average wait time of 677 days. During its last years the Obama administration sought to hire an additional 55 immigration judge teams, which was seen by many advocates as insufficient to keep up with the burgeoning backlog. Keeping pace has been difficult due to the large number of judges eligible for retirement.
  • E-Verify. The FY2018 budget requests $15 million to begin implementation of mandatory E-verify nationwide. E-Verify is a federal internet-based program that uses a variety of government databases to electronically confirm whether an employee is eligible to work legally in country. Although current law requires all employers to verify employment eligibility to prevent the hiring of unauthorized immigrants, participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most employers. Mandatory E-Verify has been part of most major immigration reform proposals and would have to be passed through legislation. It is unclear if the budget request is to get the program ready for future legislative change, or presupposes such a legislative change.
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The budget request would eliminate SCAAP, which reimburses local and state governments for a portion of the cost of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants. SCAAP funding has traditionally had bipartisan support in Congress. Previous proposals to revise or reduce SCAAP funding have not been successful.
  • DHS Technology and Data Systems. In the FY2017 request, $11.3 million would be allocated to “establish a real-time data integration system” at the Office of Immigration Statistics, which would fund border and immigration modeling analyses, and support better data reporting on these areas. CBP would also get an additional $43 million to enhance situational awareness at the border and $64 million for other infrastructure and technology that “directly contribute to the effectiveness of border security operations.”

KEYWORDS: OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, MICK MULVANEY, BORDER PATROL, E-VERIFY, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP