Immigrant-rights groups lashed the administration for a missed opportunity in President Biden’s new budget, which cuts ICE’s detention capacity and imposes new accountability checks but otherwise leaves the government’s immigration enforcement apparatus largely intact.
The blueprint, submitted to Congress on Friday, is a blow to the “Abolish ICE” wing of the Democratic Party, which had been hoping for deep cuts to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But ICE’s budget for detaining migrants awaiting deportation was merely trimmed, and the Border Patrol, which activists argue has become too intrusive, sees an increase in funding.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the budget “betrays” Mr. Biden’s promises and “fails to make a sharp enough break from the Trump administration’s wasteful and harmful spending on the detention and deportation machine.”
“We have been encouraged by President Biden’s rhetoric, which speaks of building a just and humane immigration system. We urge him to fund that vision appropriately by divesting from the programs that abuse, degrade, and criminalize immigrants and reinvesting in our communities,” said Naureen Shah, a lawyer at the ACLU.
The American Immigration Council called the immigration enforcement budget “deeply disappointing and a missed opportunity for meaningful change,” and pleaded with Capitol Hill to slash what Mr. Biden wouldn’t.
“Congress can and must consider reducing funding for detention and instead investing in appointed counsel and community-based support services for immigrants navigating our immigration system,” said Jorge Loweree, policy director at the council.
Administration officials said the budget changes the trajectory of immigration policy by imposing new accountability on the enforcement side and sending additional money to Central America to do some nation-building with the hope that people won’t want to flee those countries in the future.
And the bed budget for ICE — a 30,000 average daily population for the year — is below the average for the last decade.
The budget comes as Mr. Biden is trying to solve a 20-year high surge of illegal immigration across the southwest border. Yet Customs and Border Protection’s budget is significantly lower in the new proposal, with border wall funding deleted.
ICE and the Border Patrol are part of the Homeland Security Department, which overall saw funding held flat in the new Biden proposal, even as other departments see significant hikes.
Some Democrats complained that level of funding wouldn’t cut it given the scope of issues the department handles.
“I am concerned that a flat DHS budget will not provide enough resources to address growing cybersecurity, border security and vetting, and violent extremism threats facing the United States,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Democrat, wrote in a letter to the president’s budget chief.