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The Trump administration is reportedly considering deep budget cuts for the Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard to pay for the proposed border wall and other measures to crack down on illegal immigration.
Politico reviewed internal budget documents that proposed a 14% cut to the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget and an 11% reduction in spending from the TSA. This would contribute to a 6% hike in the Department of Homeland Security’s budget, which would go up to $43.8 billion.
Lawmakers and security experts say the plan could hurt US efforts to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks.
Retired Adm. James Loy, a former Coast Guard commandant who was deputy homeland security secretary and TSA administrator under President George W. Bush, told Politico that cuts to the TSA, which was established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be a “terrible black eye” for the agency.
“Now they would have to figure out how to do their job with significantly less resources,” he said. “This is the amazing reality despite the fact that the bad guys have a love affair with commercial aviation as a target.”
The $500 million in proposed budget cuts for the TSA would include $65 million in funding for behavioral-detection officers and $55 million for local law-enforcement grants to airports, according to Politico. The plan also includes increasing the TSA security fee in fiscal 2018 to generate $470 million in revenue.
This plan could also undermine border security itself, considering that the Coast Guard intercepted thousands of undocumented migrants last year.
“As you harden the land border you open up the maritime border,” Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander and director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University, told Politico. “It makes no sense.”
The plan would give an extra $3 billion to Customs and Border Protection and $2.1 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement – of which $1.4 billion would pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border, according to Politico. Some of the rest of the money would go toward hiring additional border agents and ICE officers.
The plan would likely face opposition in Congress.
The border wall was a major focus of President Donald Trump’s campaign, but he also ran on protecting the US against terrorism. His executive order banning travel from six majority-Muslim countries is intended to keep potential terrorists out of the US.
Trump also insisted during and after his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, but it now appears that the US might front the cost and seek repayment from Mexico through other means.
An internal DHS report said the wall would take more than three years to build and cost $21.6 billion, Reuters reported last month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said the estimated cost of the wall was between $12 billion and $15 billion.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said that Mexico would not pay for the wall.