U.S. President Donald Trump is weighing funding cuts for the country's Coast Guard, its natural disaster emergency agency, and airport security arm so he will have money to start building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and crack down on illegal immigration.
Trump vowed during his run to the White House to build the 3,200-kilometer wall to thwart illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central American.
But now, Trump is faced with finding money to fund the massive project. He has estimated the wall would cost $12 billion, although the Homeland Security Agency says the cost could be as much as $21.6 billion.
Figures released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials show a 40 percent drop in illegal border crossings from January to February at the country’s southern border as measured by apprehensions. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement that since Trump took office January 20 there has been a dramatic drop in the numbers of those trying to cross illegally into the United States.
Although Trump has yet to present a government budget proposal to Congress, a draft of his spending priorities related to the wall is circulating among Washington officials for their comments, with vocal opposition expected from the agencies targeted for funding cuts.
The president is planning to present a complete budget plan in the coming weeks.
Under the draft, Trump would cut 14 percent of the $9.1 billion in funding for the country's Coast Guard, whose personnel guard ports and coastlines, intercept drug couriers and capture illegal migrants trying to enter the country by sea.
The draft budget would trim 11 percent, $500 million, from the Transportation Security Agency, whose agents guard security checkpoints at the country's 5,000 public airports.
In addition, the budget proposal calls for slashing 11 percent, $370 million, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including money for countering violent extremism. FEMA is best known in the U.S. for its rescue efforts after tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
The draft spending plan said the White House is prioritizing Homeland Security law enforcement operations, "critical investments in front-line border security" and "robust cybersecurity defenses." It said the budget "aggressively implements the president’s commitment to construct a physical wall along the southern border.”
With the proposed cuts and other funding, the draft suggests that $2.9 billion would be available to start funding construction of the wall, with another $1.9 billion for “immigration detention beds” and $285 million to hire 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.