Border Wall Funding Passes the First Hurdle
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released proposed text for the 2019 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Bill. Despite the fact that the Congressional appropriations process has been unpredictable for the past several years, this year’s DHS bill is sure to get extra attention. If the bill becomes law, it would fund some of President Trump’s key immigration priorities— including a significant amount of money for border wall construction.In 2016, the American people were explicit that illegal immigration was a top concern with a border wall being the clearest mandate for this Congress. As we move towards the midterm elections, immigration reform remains a hot topic; and it is no surprise that Republicans are strengthening DHS funding at this time.This bill contains $17.8 billion in funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — a nearly $4 billion increase from last year’s bill. These funds will be distributed throughout the agency, including providing for an increase in officers, personnel, and canine teams. Additionally, specific funds are aimed at combating the opioid crisis by increasing detection capabilities at international mail and express consignment facilities. Most notably (and controversially), the legislation provides $5 billion for border security and infrastructure for over 200 miles of new physical barrier construction along the southern border.Furthermore, despite recent calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the bill contains $7.4 billion for the agency, over $300 million more than is currently budgeted. Importantly, the majority of that funding is allocated for detention and removal programs including 44,000 detention beds. The funding of additional detention space is crucialas President Trump has remained committed to his zero tolerance policy of prosecuting criminal aliens. The reminder of the funding would go towards the hiring of new officers and personnel as well as both domestic and international investigation programs to combat human trafficking, child exploitation, cybercrimes, visa screening, and drug smuggling. Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) said of the bill:“Cartels are trafficking $64 billion a year in drugs and people across our border – and much of it comes through one small stretch at the Rio Grande Valley,” Chairman Yoder said. “This bill takes the largest steps in years toward finally fulfilling our promise to the American people to secure the border. We add funding for more than 200 miles of physical barrier, hundreds of new immigration and customs enforcement agents, and state-of-the-art technology that will give our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to keep us safe. We take concrete steps to keep families together at the border, enforcing our immigration laws humanely and responsibly. This is all in addition to emergency and natural disaster relief grants, critical resources to protect our cyber networks, and tools to defend against terror threats.”In its current form, the bill also provides funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee moved the legislation to full committee consideration after an uneventful markup and voice vote. It will have to be approved by the full Appropriations Committee before it can be considered on the House floor.
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