[While all of the information below is accurate regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2016 budget request, it turns out we’re already in 2016. I should have written about the FY 2017 budget request (and meant to), but in a late-night blogging oversight I instead wrote about year-old material. My apologies. I’ll try to get to the FY 17 budget request next week. I’ll leave the FY 16 analysis up as a comparison.]
In the last budget request he will make to Congress, President Obama hopes to boost the Department of Homeland Security’s detention network, increase the number of people supervised through an alternative to detention regimen, and increase the number of ICE attorneys who prosecute migrants for alleged violations of immigration law. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Security, Budget in Brief: Fiscal Year 2016 (2016).
Tucked within DHS’s requested budget of $41.2 billion for fiscal year 2016 are $6.3 billion for ICE and $13.6 billion for its Customs and Border Protection division. Combined, the portions requested for ICE and CBP constitute thirty-one percent of the total amount requested for DHS. Id. at 9. By comparison, twenty-nine percent of the department’s budget request is for the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, and Secret Service combined. Id.
After having reduced its detention population in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, ICE appears ready to boost its detention capacity once more. Interestingly, calls by activists to reduce the number of detention beds ICE pays for seem to have fallen on deaf ears within the Administration as it requested funding for 34,040 beds per night—a tad bit more than the 34,000 beds that the so-called “bed mandate” has long required ICE to fund. Id. at 54. This includes 31,280 beds for adults and 2,760 beds for families. Id. At an average cost of $123.54 per night, the adult beds can be expected to cost ICE $4,145,851 per night or $1.5 billion annually. Beds for family units, meanwhile, will run the agency $342.73 per bed per night. This amounts to $945,934 per night nationwide and $345,266,202 annually. In total, ICE has budgeted approximately $2 billion for detention beds in FY 2016.
Details about the Administration’s request for ICE also illustrate a profound commitment to expand ICE’s ability to maintain some form of custody over migrants. Alternatives to detention, often criticized as expanding the pool of people who the government supervises, would receive a funding boost that would allow the agency to put an average of 53,000 people in some form of ATD every day. Id. at 55. At an average cost of $5.16 per day, this would cost ICE $273,480 per day and $99,820,200 per year—just shy of $1 billion.
Meanwhile, ICE would also receive money to hire 311 new attorneys whose principal responsibility is to prosecute migrants for removal. Id. at 54. DHS says that this staffing increase is needed to handle added workload created by the addition of new immigration judges, an anticipated “border surge” of migrants, and more requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act. Id.
For its part, CBP would get additional funding to deal with a possible increase in the number of children coming to the United States alone and without authorization. First, DHS asked Congress to give CBP $29.1 million to apprehend and detain unaccompanied minors. Id. at 41. This funding would go toward supplies, food, and other ancillary items; it would not pay for CBP detention facilities directly. Id. The department also requested additional funding to hire more drone operators. Id. at 43. According to DHS, more drone operators are needed in case a large number of young migrants come to the United States without authorization. As the budget request states, “[t]he positions are needed to provide CBP aerial surveillance, enforcement and security posture for surges similar to that of unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S.” Id.
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