Monday 17/06/2019 - 05:08 am

Trump budget goes big on border wall, short on agents

2017.03.21 10:43

Candidate Trump made bold promises about hiring enough agents to secure the border and deport illegal immigrants from the interior of the country. President Trump’s first budget gets off to a slow start.

By the end of 2018, Mr. Trump’s proposed spending plan calls for hiring just 500 of the 5,000 Border Patrol agents he promised, and only 1,000 of the 10,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel he said would constitute his deportation force.

The president does want to pour money into his border wall, including about $1 billion for planning and construction over the next six months, and an additional $2.6 billion for fiscal year 2018. In his budget, he made clear that he does, in fact, envision “a physical wall along the southern border.”

But building that wall will take years, and the money included is just a down payment, Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters.

“It gets us a start on the program,” he said. “But the wall will take longer than two years to build.”

The budget offers the first glimpse of the manpower and infrastructure Mr. Trump wants to carry out his get-tough immigration policy, which he laid out in several executive orders early in his administration.

It also gives Democrats on Capitol Hill a point of attack. Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster the money for agents and the wall, even risking a government shutdown over the issue as Congress debates the rest of its 2017 spending bills over the next month.

House Democrats are itching for a fight as well.

“The $1.4 supplemental request for Homeland Security to construct a wall on the southern border is a nonstarter — it would be a multiyear, multibillion-dollar boondoggle,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “This unjustified request is based on nothing more than a campaign promise.”

Mr. Trump’s budget was short on specifics, though U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been soliciting ideas on how to build a wall.

The original request for information proposed a 30-foot concrete barrier, though that has been updated to say that options were being considered.

CBP originally wanted to issue a request for proposals by last week but said interest has been so high that it is expanding its search and giving companies more time. More than 600 vendors had expressed interest in being part of building the wall.

Even as the wall got most of the attention, Mr. Trump’s budget did boost money for some of the nuts-and-bolts parts of the deportation process.

He asked for $1.2 billion more this year and $1.4 billion more in 2018 to step up processing and detention of illegal immigrants. The Trump administration argues that part of the reason for the surge of illegal immigrants in recent years is the Obama administration’s catch-and-release policy, allowing migrants to disappear into the shadows.

The 2018 budget would also pay for 75 more immigration judges, 100 more prosecutors to handle immigration cases and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals to help transport illegal immigrants — all infrastructure needed if the president is to make good on his promise of faster deportations.

The new budget includes $15 million to improve E-Verify, the government’s electronic system for businesses to check whether new hires are legally able to work in the U.S.

Under federal law, the system is voluntary, though some states have required its use for companies within their borders. Mr. Trump’s budget says he wants “mandatory nationwide use.”

Democrats and Republicans are both waiting for more details about Mr. Trump’s hiring plans for ICE and Border Patrol agents.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, CBP officials said they had no firm schedule for hiring the 5,000 Border Patrol agents Mr. Trump requested.

The Border Patrol is already struggling in hiring and is down more than 1,700 agents from the level Congress has demanded. That suggests that hiring 500 more agents, as Mr. Trump wants, will be difficult.

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