With a change in strategy from the border wall started by the previous administration, President Joe Biden’s budget proposal for the Department of Homeland Security focuses on technological advancements to secure the border and increasing the capacity of agencies to process migrants.
The DHS budget request provides $52.2 billion in net discretionary funding, remaining flat from fiscal year 2021. About $1.2 billion is allocated for border infrastructure including modernization of land ports of entry, increasing technology assets to monitor the border, and ensuring that migrants in Customs and Border Protection custody are cared for well.
“The president’s proposed budget will invest in our broad mission set, including preventing terrorism, keeping our borders secure, repairing our broken immigration system, improving cybersecurity, safeguarding critical infrastructure, and strengthening national preparedness and resilience,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Friday. “The budget will provide DHS with the resources we need to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous.”
Biden had previously announced that funding of the tall bollard fencing partially erected under President Trump would be halted. The budget plan “proposes the cancellation of prior-year border wall construction balances that are unobligated when Congress passes a FY 2022 appropriation bill,” says the DHS document.
Construction that is funded in the budget proposal includes $655 million for modernization projects to replace aging infrastructure at land ports of entry, an investment DHS says “will improve the operational capabilities of CBP” at these points.
The budget proposal includes $47 million for investments into Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technologies in order to help CBP better detect illegal goods at points of entry. “NII systems enable CBP Officers to quickly and effectively examine large volumes of traffic at POEs and border crossings,” DHS said. “This funding supports the integration and deployment of 12 large scale NII systems, and the continued maintenance of deployed NII, ensuring detection and interdiction reliability on the frontline.”
The proposal also addresses detection and surveillance concerns in areas of the border between ports of entry, including $28 million to procure a 30th Land-Interdiction Configured K350-CER Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) for CBP Air and Marine Operations (AMO) — “the first with a land-interdiction configuration,” DHS noted. “MEA integration with the U.S. Border Patrol small-Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program will enhance CBP’s surveillance capabilities along the Northern and Southern Borders.”
To address migrants apprehended by CBP, the budget proposal includes $163 million for in-custody medical services that will consist of intake health interviews, medical assessments, onsite diagnosis and treatment of basic medical conditions, medical referrals, follow-up care, enhanced medical monitoring, public health/infectious disease support, and exit health summaries, DHS said. An additional $2 million would go to CBP to buy more rescue beacons that can alert Border Patrol agents to the locations of migrants in distress.
To help clear naturalization and asylum backlogs and strengthen agency capability to process more refugees — up to 125,000 admissions in FY 2022 — the budget proposal provides $345 million in new discretionary funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with an eye to supporting systems and operations and aiding modernization.
The budget allocates $440 million to support expanded access to the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program and “community centric case management” for families seeking asylum. “This enables ICE to monitor an average of 140,000 participants who are moving through immigration proceedings without detaining them,” DHS said. “ATD supervises participants through a combination of home visits, office visits, alert response, court tracking, and/or technology.”
For those who are detained, the budget proposal includes $1.8 billion for a total of 32,500 detention beds — including 2,307 funded by mandatory fee accounts — and, 2,500 beds for short-term processing at Family Residential Centers. “This ensures apprehended noncitizens subject to removal from the United States are held in safe and secure facilities pending their immigration proceedings,” DHS said.
For those slated to be removed from the United States, the budget provides $385 million for transportation and removal costs including air charter flights, commercial flights, and ground transportation contracts as well as “costs associated with engagement with foreign governments for increased and expedited travel document issuance capabilities.”
CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would see their Offices of Professional Responsibility get $470 million — an extra $84 million over the FY 2021 enacted level — “to ensure that DHS workforce complaints, including those related to white supremacy or ideological and non-ideological beliefs, are investigated expeditiously,” the budget proposal states.
Overall, CBP would get 18 percent of the DHS budget, ICE would get 9 percent, and USCIS would see a 5 percent share in fiscal year 2022 under the proposal.
“Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the border has been rising due to ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America,” Mayorkas told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security last week. “This resulted in a substantial strain on the processing, transportation, and holding capacity of the U.S. Border Patrol.”