(I wrote this a few hours ago, before we learned that Trump is going the national emergency route. Either way, this is what’s in the law that he’s going to sign.)
Hi from Tijuana. I’m between meetings again and looking over the text of the budget compromise that Congress will be voting on, and that President Trump must sign into law by tomorrow to keep the government from shutting down again.
I only have time to go over the section for Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol, CBP at the ports of entry, and CBP’s Air and Marine office. I’m going to have to leave before I can give a good look to the ICE section.
The language is mostly good on CBP: the Democrats got a lot of what they asked for.
- $58m for 600 new CBP officers at the official ports of entry. (While there are big downsides to increasing manpower of an agency with insufficient accountability, the ports of entry are overwhelmed, and this could help reduce border-crossing wait times, reduce “metering” of asylum-seekers, and interdict more opioids and other drugs.)
- About $600m for new technology / scanning / canines at ports of entry. (Makes sense since well over 80% of all drugs except cannabis go through ports of entry.)
- $1m for rescue beacons for migrants lost in the desert.
- $192m for food and medical care for migrants in CBP custody: $128m for medical personnel, $40.2m for food, infant formula, and diapers; $24.5m for transportation between facilities. (This is fantastic. Democrats were shocked by what they’ve seen of detention conditions, and it’s great that they’re acting on it.)
- Required briefing of committees about improvements in procedures for welfare of migrants in CBP custody. (Great. A public hearing would be even better.)
- $192m for a new short-term CBP migrant processing facility in El Paso; $30m for improvements to the one in McAllen. Specifies that temperatures should be appropriate, no more chain-link cages, no more mylar blankets. (The famous facility with the “cages” in McAllen serves a purpose, as it can take up to 72 hours to place asylum-seeking kids and families. But the conditions in that facility are awful, mainly because of a super-stingy budget. These improvements are welcome.)
- Urging, but not fully requiring, CPB to keep unaccompanied siblings together.
- No increase in Border Patrol agents. (This is great, Border Patrol has quintupled in size since the 1990s. There are enough agents, but they’re poorly distributed geographically.)
- Cuts to funds for recruitment and screening of new Border Patrol hires (to maintain current levels), and to Border Patrol agent relocation and retention. (This is less great. Good agents should get raises, it takes too long to hire replacements because of background-check backlogs, and it makes a lot more sense to relocate than to hire.)
- Reporting on use of force allegations, drug seizures, checkpoint operations, roving patrol stops, deaths in custody, status of port of entry improvement projects, incident cameras. (Reporting is good. CBP needs to submit these reports on time.)
- $1.375b for “pedestrian fencing”: 55 miles in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas. (Language does not specify that the “pedestrian fencing” must follow existing designs, so if Trump wants to make it look like a “wall,” he can. On the other hand, the White House was demanding $5.7b for 234 miles.)
- $10m for additional border drone flight hours.