Democrats Seek To Reorient Homeland Security Hiring After Trump Era
House Democrats on Tuesday brought forward their measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security, proposing a bill that would reorient the priorities of the workforce.
Unlike the Trump administration, President Biden and the Democrats in Congress are not looking to increase the staffing of immigration enforcement agencies. Democrats said DHS should seek to reduce the number of jobs in customs enforcement and border protection and immigration and customs, where Trump had sought to add thousands of officers and agents. Instead, the DHS spending bill for fiscal year 2022 – approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday – would increase the roles of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and other components.
The pro-party bill would ask DHS to examine the feasibility of reclassifying certain immigration-related law enforcement positions. The committee asked DHS to create an entity to examine whether functions can be performed by non-law enforcement officials to achieve “a more efficient and effective use of resources.” The review is expected to be completed in four months.
“The committee recommends that DHS decrease its dependence on [law enforcement officers] for functions where unique training, expertise and access to firearms [law enforcement officers] is not necessary, such decreasing dependence [officers] for the processing of recent border franchisees in DHS systems, ”the committee said in its report on the bill.
Lawmakers generally followed the White House’s lead – as DHS was one of only two major departments not to receive an overall funding increase in Biden’s budget request – but broke with some provisions . The committee said it supported the administration’s request for $ 345 million from U.S. citizenship and immigration services to hire 1,300 employees and increase overtime, but found the goal unrealistic. USCIS can’t accomplish all of those hires in a year, Democrats said, so lawmakers have allocated just $ 89 million. The owners of the house used the remainder of the money to hire asylum officers, which the White House did not request, to remedy “the significant backlog in processing claims. asylum”.
Further demonstrating the break with the policies of the Trump era, the measure included funding for more than 300 refugee officers. After a significant setback for dragging his feet on a campaign pledge, Biden in May raised the refugee ceiling from Trump’s record low of 15,000 to 62,500 for 2021. He said he plans to raise it still at 125,000 in fiscal year 2022.
Lawmakers have said they will fund some hires simply because they trust the Biden administration more than its predecessor. Noting a move at ICE towards a “more humane use of prosecutorial discretion” – which the agency granted to its employees last month – Democratic appropriators approved $ 15 million for the office of the senior legal adviser. The funds will allow ICE to hire more lawyers to help it deal with the millions of pending immigration cases.
FEMA has requested funding to hire thousands of new employees to ease pressures on its beleaguered workforce and lawmakers said they recognize “the challenges FEMA faces in maintaining a workforce. work ready to be deployed before, during and after disasters “. They requested a briefing on FEMA’s plans for each category of its workers, but said the bill would ultimately increase FEMA’s workforce in the event of a disaster. The measure also made it possible to further fund secret service agents and uniformed officers. The agency seeks to increase its workforce by around 25% by 2026.
While the Trump administration has consistently lobbied for more CBP and ICE staff, Congressional Democrats have been largely successful in blocking funding for these efforts. During this time, the administration has struggled to recruit and retain a sufficient number of employees to reach its authorized staffing floor.
The House bill will now go to the prosecution, but the final measure will have to be reconciled with agreed language in the Senate.