President Trump has argued that protecting the American people from terrorism is so important, our nation must be willing to sacrifice its commitments to human rights and refugees; cripple its own tourism industry; strand immigrants in airports; sour our diplomatic relations with the Muslim world; and kill dozens of civilians while gathering intelligence, just to diminish the probability of an attack on our soil.
But the president also believes that building a border wall is so important, we must be willing to radically reduce funding to the Coast Guard, TSA, and FEMA’s terrorism-response program to finance one — or so new budget documents seem to suggest. Per Politico:
The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO
… Overall, DHS would get a 6 percent boost to its budget, to $43.8 billion. But to help pay for that, the administration would slice the budget of the Coast Guard and cut 11 percent in spending from the TSA — reductions that critics say would weaken safeguards against threats arriving by sea or air.
… FEMA sees a $370 million cut, which includes a 25 percent reduction, or $280 million, in the agency’s program for countering violent extremism and preparations for a wide-scale terrorist attack, as well as a 40 percent cut of $80 million for FEMA’s port transit security grant program. At TSA, the $500 million reduction includes cutting $65 million for behavioral detection officers and $55 million for local law enforcement grants to to airports.
Here’s what the Trump administration hopes to buy with those savings:
New detention beds and transportation costs for deporting the undocumented: $1.9 billion.
Border-wall funds: $1.4 billion.
New border-surveillance technology: $920 million.
“High-priority replacement fence projects”: $560 million.
1,000 new ICE agents: $185 million.
500 new CBP agents: $100 million.
Striking fear into the hearts of America’s most vulnerable workers and all who love them: Priceless (apparently).
In other words: To “make America safe again,” we’re going to make steep cuts to the agency tasked with emergency response; weaken airport screenings; slash $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard’s budget — and spend the savings on the deportation of day laborers; the construction of new fences in the desert; and new toys and members for America’s most fervently pro-Trump unions.
As national-security experts who spoke with Politico note, this plan has a major logistical problem: If you build up security on the land border, more migrants and contraband are going to be redirected toward the maritime border … where a depleted Coast Guard will have less capacity to intercept them. (In 2016, the Coast Guard intercepted 6,346, 201 metric tons of cocaine and 52,613 pounds of marijuana.)
Still, the budget proposal has one great virtue — it clarifies the Trump administration’s priorities.
The president sold his travel ban on the argument that America must be willing to restrict immigration for the sake of preventing terrorism. This argument never made much sense, given the paucity of evidence that the ban would prevent terrorism — and the many reasons to suspect it might actually spur radicalization and anti-American sentiment.
But Trump’s new budget document suggests a more coherent rationale for that infamous executive order: We must be willing to accept a higher risk of terrorism, for the sake of restricting (non-white) immigration.