A significant portion of the money planned for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that already manages most of the U.S. border with Mexico, has been diverted to fund President Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new budget of $23.4 billion for fiscal year 2020 that includes $2.7 billion for Customs and Border Protection.
But that is not what Customs and Border Protection has in their coffers.
Over the years, the department has already gotten nearly $2 billion from the Treasury and $8.4 billion from the Department of Defense. A DHS spokeswoman said on Tuesday that all of the money was used to support the agency’s important mission.
“Customs and Border Protection takes enormous pride in our border-security mission,” said Julie Myers Wood, the Homeland Security assistant secretary for policy, on Tuesday. “Customs and Border Protection is leveraging every resource available to them to make our border stronger and to protect our nation.”
The agency proposed diverting funds from its existing annual budget of $16.3 billion to fund the wall.
“We will go to the Congress, we will make the case, we will ask for additional funding for it,” said Wood, about the need for a wall. “But we’re not cutting any critical homeland security functions to do that.”
An internal intelligence report earlier this month suggested a partial shutdown of the federal government could come as early as next week, after Trump ordered his cabinet secretaries to begin preparations in the event it takes place.
Punting money from existing budgets could allow Trump to blame Congress for the lack of wall funding without having to admit that his own administration – operating under the executive branch’s authority – has intentionally jeopardized the mission of the already embattled agency.
The Trump administration has frequently called for more funding for the DHS, from its own budgets and the ones it receives from Congress, arguing that it is a national security priority.
But the agency has received billions of dollars less from the Trump administration and Congress since he took office in 2017 than it did in his predecessor’s first three years. After the 2010 recess, there was no legislation passed for the agency to receive more funding; DHS leaders repeatedly tried to have their plan for the agency be approved as part of a defense authorization bill in the last two years of Obama’s presidency.
According to an analysis by The Washington Post and Axios, the federal government, not the Trump administration, initially proposed a wall for just over $25 billion during the Obama administration, while Republicans were also in control of Congress and the White House. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2018, this figure – which was significantly higher than those originally proposed for border security measures by both the Bush and Obama administrations – eventually dropped to $14 billion.
Previous plans for the government to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border have met resistance from Democrats, who have argued that such a project would infringe on the rights of those who live along the border. Under the Trump administration, hundreds of miles of fencing has been built in Texas and California as well as along stretches of fencing in urban areas, though more land has been acquired to clear the way for new walls in parts of central Texas and in Maryland and New York.
The inspector general for Homeland Security recently warned that nearly 7 percent of the workforce had been forced out due to budget cuts, “undermining” the agency’s ability to carry out its mission. The Washington Post first reported about the inspector general’s memo, which cited “more than 900 planned layoffs over the next few months.”