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White House asks Congress for $2.6 billion for border wall

Echoing promises made during the campaign, President Donald Trump is seeking to hire more than 1,500 law enforcement officers this year, while spending $2.6 billion to begin construction of a Southwest border, and another $1 billion on detention and deportation efforts, according to a proposed budget released Thursday by the White House. 

Homeland Security's budget would rise to $44.1 billion, an increase of nearly seven percent, or nearly $2.8 billion, with new border security spending balanced by cutbacks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration. 

In the proposed budget, nearly $2.6 billion will be focused on "high-priority tactical infrastructure" and "border security technology" along the southwestern border.

This includes $999 million for "planning, design, and construction" of the first installment of the border wall, along with another $179 million for access roads, gates, and "other tactical infrastructure projects." 

Another $243 million will be ear-marked for technology, equipment, and infrastructure along the border, the White House said. 

The spending for this year would be a mere downpayment on the total cost of Trump's proposed wall, according to an internal report written by DHS, which estimated that Trump's "wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border, really a series of fences and walls could cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct. 

The proposed budget also includes at least $314 million for the recruitment, hiring and training of 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Border Patrol has already struggled to hire new officials, and in the last six years, the agency has actual shrunk despite efforts to maintain the agency's staffing as agents as retired and moved to other federal law enforcement agencies. The proposed budget did not outline how the agency would increase recruitment, however, the proposed budget did increase funding for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and Operations by $88 million. 

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DHS would also spend an additional $1.5 billion to expand the nation's system for detaining and deporting people by ensuring that DHS "has sufficient detention capacity to hold prioritized aliens."  

The proposed budget would also begin the implementation of a mandatory nationwide E-Verify Program, requiring businesses to check the employment eligibility for new hires. 

The Justice Department would also receive new funding for its own role in detention and deportations, while facing cutbacks in other areas. 

The White House is seeking nearly $80 million to hire 75 new immigration judges, increasing the total number of "judicial teams" to 449. The DOJ would also be directed to hire 60 new prosecutors and 40 Deputy U.S. Marshals for the "apprehension, transportation, and prosecution of criminal aliens." 

The Justice Department will also be tasked with helping the federal government seize private land to help build the wall. According to the proposed budget, the White House wants 20 attorneys to "obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border." Another 20 attorney will be hired for unspecified "immigration litigation assistance." 

While the Justice Department will receive new funding, the proposed budget slashes funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which provides funding to states and county governments to help cover the costs related to holding unauthorized immigrants in jails and prisons. 

In the proposed budget, the White House said that the program was "poorly targeted" and that "two-thirds of funding primarily" goes to just four states. 

In FY2015, the state of Arizona received nearly $5.7 million from the Justice Department for SCAAP. 

Maricopa County received $792,124 to cover its own costs for jailing immigrants for federal officials, while Pima County received $203,949 for the same year. 

At the same time, the White House wants to spend $5 million to expand the Section 287(g) program, a controversial program that deputized local law enforcement agencies to conduct immigration enforcement. 

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While border security will receive large increases, other Homeland Security priorities may fall away. 

Included in the new budget are sharp cutbacks to the National Flood Insurance Program, saving $190 million by eliminating the NFIP's Flood and Hazard Mapping Program and instead "explore other more effective and fair means" of funding flood mapping efforts. 

Additionally, the new budget would eliminate or reduce grant funding by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to state and local governments. The move would save $667 million the White House said, by slashing programs managed by FEMA that include Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants. 

The move could eliminate federal funding for an effort in Pima County to mitigate the spread of bufflegrass, an invasive weed that can lead to dangerous grass fires. 

"The Trump budget provides the latest window into this administration’s disturbing penchant for the politics of fear and hate, and puts the president’s disregard for working families on full display," said Jackie Vimo, an economic justice policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center. 

"Trump is attempting to rob all Americans of investment in our communities to enact his mass deportation agenda and perpetuate the terror he’s already imposing on immigrant communities," he said. "Rather than throw away billions of dollars to separate families and build a border wall that will do nothing for our national security, we should be looking for the best ways to ensure that everyone in our communities has access to resources that will help set them up for success." 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

The U.S.-Mexico border wall near Nogales, Arizona.