The Justice Department’s $28 billion budget proposal reflects Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s priorities to fight the opioid crisis and crack down on illegal immigration with millions of additional dollars going toward new immigration judges and attorneys working on border security.
The proposal, which is roughly the same as last year’s budget, includes an additional $295 million to fight the opioid epidemic and support law enforcement safety and an additional $65.9 million in immigration-related funding to “enhance border security and immigration enforcement. An increase of $109.2 million is allotted for federal law enforcement to reduce violent crime.
“The Department of Justice has the noble task of keeping the American people safe from drugs, gangs and terrorists, and this budget proposal reflects our commitment to do just that,” Sessions said in a statement.
Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus told reporters at a news briefing that $2.175 billion from the administration’s infrastructure budget — not the FY19 budget request — would be added to FBI funds previously set aside for a new FBI headquarters. He said the total $3.3 billion would afford “a modern and secure building” across the street from the Department of Justice headquarters but there is no timeline available yet.
The new money is part of the administration’s infrastructure package, but still has to be approved by Congress.
The budget proposal also transfers Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s responsibilities related to alcohol and tobacco enforcement to the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. ATF will focus solely on its enforcement responsibilities over firearms and explosives. Lofthus said there are no plans to change the agency’s name.
The federal Bureau of Prisons, which accounts for 32 percent of the Justice Department’s budget, plans to close two regional offices and two stand-alone minimum security prison camps in an effort to save more than $122 million. An additional $10 million is proposed for an “apprentice program” to give inmates skills for employment when they are released.
Of the $65.9 million allocated for immigration programs, $39.8 million is allotted for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the nation’s immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. The funding will go toward 450 more positions, including 75 new immigration judges, 150 attorneys and support staff.
One office that will be eliminated is Community Relations Service, a “peacemaker” office that was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to help ease tensions in communities facing conflicts over race, gender, religion and other issues. The duties of the office, which is not an investigative or prosecutorial unit, will be merged into the Civil Rights Division, which does investigate crimes. Lofthus said jobs will be eliminated when the office is moved.
The administration’s budget also allocates $10 million to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office, overseeing the Russia investigation, for the period of October, 2018 through the end of September, 2019, although it is unclear how long that probe will go on.