The bill that President Trump touted as a shutdown-ending compromise is doomed to stall in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but its boost to ICE’s detention powers is worth considering because it maintains a recent trend.
Tucked into page 417, the bill dedicates $4,989,158,000—that is, just shy of $5 billion—to ICE’s enforcement, detention, and removal operations. This is a slight bump from the $4.1 billion that the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division received through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 . ERO is one of ICE’s four units, though it carries out most of the agency’s highest profile policing activities. It also runs ICE’s network of hundreds of detention centers.
Importantly, the bill grants the Secretary of Homeland Security power to transfer funds allocated to other tasks to ICE “as necessary to ensure the detention of aliens prioritized for removal.” § 208. Obviously, this would free up more dollars. More meaningfully, it would let DHS shift resources Congress appropriated for other purposes to ICE’s detention operations. Such authorization would likely increase ICE’s already enormous detention population. The 2008 budget bill included identical language, helping explain the agency’s recent moves to take money from other units.
Like other bills, the proposal expected to come to a Senate vote this week includes a minor limitation. It would require ICE to cut off any detention center that receives a “less than ‘adequate’” score on its two most recent performance evaluations. Past funding bills have included similar language. ICE rarely ends a detention center contract over problems inside the facility. Moreover, its performance evaluation system is notoriously shoddy.
Unlike its promised changes to asylum procedures, the bill would not radically transform ICE’s detention powers. Instead, it would give ICE more money to do more of what it is already doing.