Trump administration aims to shift money to immigration enforcement

By Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes

The Trump administration wants to pour more federal funding into Immigration and Customs Enforcement by shifting money out of other Department of Homeland Security accounts, two House aides and a congressional office confirmed to POLITICO.

The move is sure to rile Democrats already angered by what they see as President Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies, most recently ICE raids across seven Mississippi food-processing plants that resulted in the arrest of 680 workers.

Congressional appropriators are reviewing a request from Homeland Security to redirect more money to ICE, aides said. It’s unclear how much the administration wants to move around through a process known as reprogramming, what the funds would be used for or whether the request would require congressional approval. Aides declined to provide details or a copy of the request.

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), however, was quick to throw cold water on the Trump administration’s bid for more ICE funding.

“ICE is not going to win an award in the Democratic caucus for popularity,” Lowey (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I certainly cannot see our caucus supporting taking money from other programs and putting it into ICE ... I can assure you there would not be support for adding additional money for ICE.”

The Trump administration’s request comes after Homeland Security redirected $200 million last year from various accounts into ICE, pulling from the Coast Guard, TSA aviation security and more. Nearly $10 million was diverted from FEMA at the start of hurricane season, sparking congressional backlash.

Federal support for ICE, which falls under Homeland Security’s umbrella, has become a hotbed of progressive ire, especially when it comes to the administration’s desire to pay for additional immigrant detention beds. Democrats have also tried to limit the administration’s reprogramming authority, particularly when it comes to shifting money around for the construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

ICE referred a request for comment to the Homeland Security Department, which did not immediately respond.

“This administration has thumbed its nose at congressional authority over and over again by taking millions of taxpayer dollars earmarked for other priorities and using them to jail and deport more immigrants,” said Heidi Altman, director of policy for the National Immigrant Justice Center, an organization that provides legal aid to immigrants and opposes Trump’s policies, in a statement.

Altman also called for the reprogramming request to be made public.

“It’s a threat to checks and balances that is hurting our democracy while lining the pockets of private prison company CEOs and devastating immigrant communities,” she said. “Congress is sitting on a document explaining from where ICE took money to fuel its anti-immigrant agenda. The public deserves to see it.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (D-Calif.) office confirmed the reprogramming request in a statement, adding “that we are not at liberty to discuss the details at this time.“ Roybal-Allard serves as chairwoman of the House Homeland Security spending panel.

Ted Hesson contributed to this report.