President Trump's 2019 budget request captures all the hallmarks of his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration: an expanded border wall to stop undocumented immigrants, more immigration agents to arrest them, and more immigration judges to deport them.
Most other federal agencies would see their funding cut in the 2019 budget, some by as much as 26%, but the Department of Homeland Security would receive $47.5 billion, a 7.8% increase over the 2018 budget.
Trump wrote that the increase reflects his administration's "serious and ongoing commitment" to secure the border and use increased enforcement to "make our immigration system work for Americans."
But critics of his immigration approach say Trump's budget will only make life more difficult for undocumented immigrants who don't have a criminal record but may still end up getting deported.
Peter Boogaard, a former Obama administration official who is now a spokesman for FWD.us, an advocacy group created by technology leaders, said the budget's focus on deportations should put even more pressure on Congress to pass an immigration bill this week that protects DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
"DREAMers are teachers, nurses and engineers, and they are doing their jobs every day in the face of this urgent crisis," Boogaard said. "It is time for Congress to step up and do theirs."
About $1.6 billion in Trump's budget would add 65 miles of walls along the southern border with Mexico. That's part of Trump's request of $18 billion over 10 years to build additional walls and fences along the border. The 2019 money would be used entirely in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the easternmost border sector that has seen the highest number of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S.
The budget would also provide 22% increases in funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency responsible for patrolling the southern border and all ports of entry, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for immigration enforcement in the rest of the country.
That increase would fund 750 new agents for CBP, a mixture of customs agents who work at seaports, airports, and land ports, and Border Patrol officers who monitor all the border regions in between. The number of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. reached historic lows in the months immediately following Trump's inauguration, but they increased for eight straight months are are back in line with illegal immigration patterns of the past decade.
The new money would also allow ICE to hire 2,000 new agents to help arrest more undocumented immigrants living in the interior of the U.S. That agency has ramped up immigration arrests by about 30% in Trump's first year in office, in part by arresting more undocumented immigrants who don't have a criminal record.
While arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased under Trump, deportations have dropped, partly due to a growing backlog of 650,000 deportation cases that are swamping the nation's immigration judges. Trump's budget tries to address that problem by providing $40 million to hire 75 new immigration judge teams, and another $40 million to hire 338 new federal attorneys to prosecute those cases.
And then there's the question of housing them. ICE has the capacity to house about 51,000 immigrants a day in federal detention centers and local jails that house immigrants on behalf of ICE. The 2019 budget adds about 800 new beds in immigration facilities, but does not make clear whether the administration will follow through on attempts to build new immigration prisons.
In October, ICE issued a proposal to identify locations to build new immigration prisons in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and Salt Lake City. But it was unclear whether any of the money requested in the 2019 budget could be used to build those prisons.