The Justice Department’s $27.7 billion budget reflects Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s priorities of being tough on crime and cracking down on illegal immigration, with millions of additional dollars going toward fighting violent crime and increasing the number of immigration judges and lawyers working on border security.
The department’s proposal also indicates that Justice officials could withhold grants or other funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, but it did not specify which programs could be affected.
In its budget, the FBI will receive a 3 percent increase, of $249 million, including $61 million more to fight terrorism and combat foreign intelligence and cyberthreats, $31 million for biometric research, and $9 million for firearms-purchase background checks and violent crime data. The Justice Department is asking for an additional $175 million to target “the worst of the worst” criminal organizations and drug traffickers.
Sessions, who as a senator vigorously opposed all efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system in ways to benefit those in the country illegally, now leads a department that has proposed almost $80 million — or 19 percent — more to hire 75 additional immigration judge teams to adjudicate removal proceedings.
The department also proposes enhancing border security and immigration enforcement by adding 60 border prosecutors, 40 deputy U.S. marshals and 20 attorneys to pursue efforts to obtain land to secure the Southwest border. An additional outlay of $171 million would go toward more short-term detention space for federal detainees.
The $27.7 billion for the Justice Department represents a decrease of $1 billion, or 3.8 percent, from last year’s budget. The department wants to eliminate about $700 million in unnamed “outdated programs.” One program on the chopping block reimburses state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants. Eliminating the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program would save $210 million, but it may face resistance in Congress and from local officials. The Obama administration tried to trim or cancel the program, but it has survived.
About $1 billion will be saved this year in federal prison construction spending because of the 14 percent decrease in the prison population since 2013.