ICE Requests Larger Funding for 2019 Amidst Calls for its Abolishment

(ESPAÑOL) The Trump administration wants an increase of $8.3 billion in discretionary funding for ICE for the 2019 fiscal year – or $967 million more than the agency’s 2018 budget.

The lack of support from Democrats is a major problem for the Trump administration as well as for congressional Republicans, as both will need support from the other side of the aisle given the current divide within the GOP over fiscal issues.

ICE funding and enforcement was a controversial issue even under President Barack Obama, but Trump’s hardline, “zero-tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration has only heightened tensions.

The debate over ICE funding will be split into four categories – increased funding for ICE agents; more funding for detention beds; funding for construction and infrastructure; and funding for alternatives to detention. Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said that it shouldn’t be hard to get bipartisan support on an issue like alternatives to detention, but detention centers and ICE agents will be where the fight takes place.

Trump administration officials have signaled they want to detain families indefinitely if they cross the border illegally, regardless of whether they are claiming asylum, in part because they say the cases move much quicker. But a court agreement on how children are treated in immigration custody generally prevents the government from holding children in detention longer than 20 days.

Justice Department officials have asked that the agreement, known as the Flores agreement, be modified to allow for longer detentions. Homeland Security requested up to 12,000 more beds for a family detention center at a military base, though it asked for 2,000 to be made available quickly and the rest as needed.

The facilities would have to comply with the standards set by the agreement that governs how children are treated in custody, which include access to medical care, entertainment, counseling and air conditioning; though many who have been detained say the accommodations still feel like prison. Congress would have to approve funding to operate the facility.