Last week in Congress, the House of Representatives was busy hammering out the details of the $46 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security. One lawmaker proposed redirecting $40 million from "Detention and Removal Operations" to fund investigations of human trafficking and child exploitation. The idea was voted down.
My amendment would take $40 million from the Detention and Removal Operations and transfer those funds to the Office of Investigations to support anti-child exploitation and trafficking initiatives.
ICE is one of the key global partners aimed at dismantling criminal infrastructures engaged in child exploitation. These special agents are in many countries throughout the world and in the United States, and I have had the opportunity to meet with them overseas where child exploitation is rampant, such as in Thailand and Cambodia.
That is why I would like to increase the funding to combat child exploitation, and I am requesting $40 million be transferred to them. The funds are coming from an account that is $70 million over the President's budget. I didn't even take all of that excess. I'm just asking for $40 million, leaving roughly $30 million over the President's budget in ICE Detention and Removal Operations.
With women and girls accounting for over 80 percent of the people trafficked throughout the world, including within the United States, this issue is something that is very close to my heart, and I have been a vocal advocate to stop and combat sex exploitation trafficking.
My district represents the largest Vietnamese population in the world outside of Vietnam. The fact is that most of the human trafficking victims originate from Asia. I have a responsibility to the people I represent to seek out ways to ensure that ICE can combat child exploitation globally since it impacts us locally.
Sanchez expressed "outrage that these things still happen in our modern world," and added that the minor change would, "give those people on the front line the tools to stop this."
It bears repeating that Sanchez proposed funding the anti-trafficking initiative by using excess funds from a program that incarcerates and deports run-of-the-mill undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration already budgeted a whopping $2.75 billion for ICE "Detention and Removal Operations"; the $40 million targeted by Sanchez was surplus.
This seems like it should've been a no-brainer--extra money, worthy cause, what's not to like? Here's the counter argument, as voiced by Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, and the sponsor of the omnibus bill:
The concern is that the amendment seeks to gut detention operations just as the administration has tried to do; whereas, this bill holds the administration's feet to the fire and provides the resources to force them to actually enforce the law. The committee recommends $2.75 billion for ICE Detention and Removal Operations, $71 million above the request to sustain a minimum of 34,000 detention beds. Detention beds are a necessary resource to support robust immigration enforcement.Yes, with an extra $70 million, surely ICE can rid us of those 11 million immigrants ruining this great nation. (Never mind that Alabama's undocumented immigrants paid $130 million in taxes last year, or that farmers in the state were forced to plant fewer crops and/or watch produce rot on the vine after migrant laborers were scared off by a recent immigration crackdown.)
Make no mistake. There is a need for these resources. First, by the administration's own estimate, there are at least 1.9 million removable criminal aliens in the United States. There is the general acknowledgment of an illegal alien population of approximately 11 million. With the expansion of Secure Communities and ICE's prior utilization, there is no doubt they need at least 34,000 beds. Despite the fact that Congress has funded every request that ICE has provided for bed spaces, we have gotten excuses that they do not have the resources needed. Now the resources are being provided, and the committee insists that ICE intensify its enforcement efforts and fully utilize these resources.
Sanchez's amendment failed after a vote that was split almost exactly down party lines. The final count: 249 for, 167 against, 16 abstentions. Only one Republican -- Judy Biggert of Illinois -- offered support, while 14 Democrats broke rank.
Among Washington's delegates, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, and Adam Smith supported the amendment, while Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings, and Jaime Herrera Beutler were against it. Rick Larsen abstained.
Ultimately, a second amendment, proposed by Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, secured at least some funding to help ICE/DHS combat human trafficking. After a voice vote -- meaning the names or numbers of legislators voting on each side are not recorded -- the House dedicated a grand total of $20 million to the cause.
Do the math and $20 million works out to just over 0.007 percent of the total ICE budget for "Removal and Detention Operations." What's that say about the priorities of our elected officials?