Feb 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's budget proposal requests "wildly large" ICE funding

Protestors hold signs that read "abolish ICE" and other anti-ICE language

Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

The White House is asking for a boost to this year's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) budget, a proposal that includes 60,000 detention beds — 6,000 more than last year's budget proposal and around 15,000 more than ICE actually received.

Why it matters: It is a "wildly large" ask, an administration official told Axios. "It's almost too much money absent any sort of immigration reform."

By the numbers: The administration's immigration focus seems to have shifted from the border wall to detention.

  • The White House has proposed funds to hold an average of 55,000 adults and 5,000 family members each day in ICE detention centers. In the past two fiscal years, ICE has only been granted enough funding to fill an average of 45,000 beds each day.
  • Meanwhile, the administration is asking for just $2 billion for the border wall, significantly less than the $5 billion for the wall it requested last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The proposal also includes funds for 4,600 new ICE personnel.
  • At $9.8 billion, the administration wants nearly $2 billion more in ICE's total "operations and support" budget than they received for this fiscal year, as Politico reported.

Between the lines: ICE held record numbers of migrants in detention during and shortly after the border crisis last summer — reaching an average of 55,000 detained migrants per day.

  • But the detained population never reached close to 60,000. The annual White House budget proposals are generally interpreted as a wish list and are expected to be negotiated with Congress.

The big picture: Next to Trump's border wall, funding for ICE detention space has caused the biggest headache during Congress budget negotiations.

  • It's become especially controversial in the wake of the family separation crisis in 2018, after which "abolish ICE" became a rallying cry among many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
  • Over the past couple of years, congressional Democrats have tried to lower the number of immigrants ICE is legally allowed to detain, while the White House, Republicans and the Department of Homeland Security have pushed to expand that capacity.
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