For the past three years, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has gone to Capitol Hill to defend budget cuts to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection; Congress has rejected his proposed cuts each time.
Now the DHS secretary has been to Congress with hat in hand, asking for $14 billion in emergency funds for use at the southern border.
"Those funds are needed for personnel, technology, facilities, and additional support resources critically needed to advance our mission," Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee last week, according to The Washington Times. "We are under-resourced and have been perennially."
Mayorkas' appeal was ironic, coming from someone who spent years supporting spending cuts, a former immigration judge, Matt O'Brien, told the Times. O'Brien is now the director of investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
"There's one of two things going on — either the Department of Homeland Security isn't clear on what its mission is and doesn't know how to fund it, or Alejandro Mayorkas is lying to Congress," O'Brien said. "I tend to think since Alejandro Mayorkas has a record of being less than truthful with Congress; that's what's going on here."
According to O'Brien, the DHS has one of the biggest budgets in the federal government and it has been growing by leaps and bounds. In 2015, the department's budget was $60.9 billion, while in 2023 it received $101.6 billion. President Joe Biden has asked for $103.2 billion for the agency in 2024, or an additional $1.6 billion.
Some of the new funding would go to Health and Human Services to help care for a massive influx of migrant children, while some would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to compensate jurisdictions that are struggling to absorb newcomers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would also receive a portion to speed up asylum processing and the issuing of work permits to illegal immigrants who have been apprehended and released into the United States.
Citing numbers from the Congressional Research Service, the Times reported that when Mayorkas took office in 2021, CBP was funded at $19.3 billion. In their first budget, Mayorkas and Biden proposed cutting $2.9 billion, which would have left CBP with $16.4 billion last year.
Congress approved $18.5 billion instead.
Mayorkas was back the following year, seeking to cut $1.1 billion, leaving the agency with $17.4 billion for 2023. Congress rejected his proposal and approved a record $20.5 billion in funds.
Earlier this year, Mayorkas called for another billion-dollar budget cut for fiscal year 2024. Congress has not yet acted on this, according to the Times.
When Mayorkas began his tenure, ICE was operating on a budget of $8.4 billion. The Times reported that Mayorkas called for no change in funding levels in his first budget, but Congress added approximately a half billion dollars to the funding request. In fiscal year 2023, Mayorkas tried to slash $400 million, but Congress instead added $200 million.
For fiscal year 2024, Mayorkas initially proposed a $400 million cut. Congress has not yet acted on the request, but the secretary now says he needs much more than he previously requested.
According to Adam Isaacson, who studies border issues for the Washington Office on Latin America, the size of the emergency border funds request, which is nearly 15% of DHS' regular budget, indicates that the federal government "failed to foresee some basic needs."
Isaacson said the flow of people at the southern border no longer consists mainly of Mexican adults. It's now 40% children and families coming from all over the world.
"So you've got armed, uniformed Border Patrol agents doing asylum paperwork, kids and families held in jail-like facilities or tents, no reduction in asylum backlogs, and little effort to keep in touch with people awaiting hearings," he told the Times. "This administration clearly doesn't want to throw money at CBP and ICE in their current, outdated form, but they haven't put much political will or resources into reforming them, either."
Nicole Wells ✉
Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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