Jul 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: ICE is short $345 million, poised to spend more than ever

Illustration of a prison fence with the fence shaped into dollar signs.

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will run out of money before October unless the Department of Homeland Security pulls millions of dollars from other programs, as the surge of migrants at the border drives up costs, three sources familiar with the details tell Axios.

Why it matters: ICE is one of the most controversial government agencies and a target for progressives because of its role in arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants. But under President Biden, it's poised to spend more taxpayer funds than ever as it closes an estimated $345 million shortfall for the current fiscal year.

What we're hearing: Around $100 million is expected to come from the Coast Guard budget, two sources told Axios.

  • Around $80 million might be achieved by moving existing ICE funds around internally.
  • ICE's request for more cash is the largest — but not the only — within DHS.

The massive reprogramming plan took congressional offices by surprise, two of the sources said.

  • DHS must notify Congress but does not require legislative approval for reprogramming.
  • It's not clear how much of the problem stems from a low early estimate of needs at the border versus management of funds.

The big picture: New policies, court decisions and border trends have added to the agency's expenses.

  • The administration shifted significantly toward alternatives to detention in the face of record arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border. Roughly 300,000 migrants are currently enrolled in these contracted tracking programs, according to internal data seen by Axios. That doesn't include additional migrant spouses or children who crossed with enrollees.
  • It also planned to spend roughly $15 million on training for its officers to adhere to Biden's enforcement priorities, which focused on arrests of convicted criminals. Those priorities have now been struck down by a federal court.
  • ICE had to foot the roughly $100 million bill to restart the Remain in Mexico policy in line with court orders, though a recent Supreme Court ruling will allow the Biden administration to end the program. Another $14 million went toward an increase in detained immigrants making calls, including international calls to family members, according to another source.
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