Senate Democrats are moving to slash the budget for Customs and Border Protection by half a billion dollars in the midst of an immigration crisis, putting more strain on an agency with nearly exhausted resources.
The appropriations bill, released Monday by Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), allocates just $14.5 billion to CBP for the 2022 fiscal year, down from $15 billion the year before and $80 million less than what President Joe Biden requested in his budget. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would receive $7.9 billion, a cut of $40 million from the previous year and $58 million less than what Biden asked for.
Democrats also proposed reduced funding for family detention centers, while pumping more money toward constructing new migrant processing centers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure indicates that Democrats don't see the surge ending anytime soon. The new processing centers, they say, will reduce migrant time in custody. The bill forbids Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from enforcing immigration laws. It instead directs the agency to only focus on "the disruption of transnational crime," such as drug trafficking or money laundering.
The proposed cuts come as the southern border faces a decades-high surge of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States. Immigration authorities expect to report nearly two million migrant encounters at the border this fiscal year, the first time the number has exceeded one million since 2006.
"It's time for the Department of Homeland Security to make investments in what protects us, not what divides us," Murphy said in a statement. "The ineffective and inhumane border policies and political vanity projects of the Trump Administration didn't make our nation safer, and it's time to turn the page to fund policies that meet the actual threats presented to this nation."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Senate Democrats in a summary of the bill said cuts to detention centers were warranted by "lower overall detention numbers due to the pandemic and related-litigation." Between January and August, however, the number of illegal aliens detained by ICE increased by 70 percent, according to data provided by the agency.
The Senate Democrats' proposal represents another blow to an agency already frustrated by the White House's apparent lack of interest in funding border security and migrant processing measures. A senior DHS official who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon sounded the alarm on the president’s initial budget request to Congress, citing inflation and lack of manpower at CBP as challenges that need to be addressed.
"We were already going to have less money next year under Biden’s plan," the official said. "This is not a party serious about enforcing immigration law."