The Justice Department fared better overall than most other parts of the federal government, but only through programs that fit the president’s areas of interest. The administration’s plan would allocate $26 million for the hiring of 300 new assistant U.S. attorneys, who are more commonly known as federal prosecutors, “to prosecute violent criminals and ensure our neighborhoods are freed from their threat.” Trump frequently invoked the specter of rising crime on the campaign trail, pitching himself as a “law and order” president who would end what he described as “this American carnage” in his inaugural address.
Trump’s choice to lead the department echoed those themes. “The Department of Justice is dedicated to advancing the safety, the security, and the rights of all Americans—and the FY 2018 budget reflects the president’s commitment to keep America safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “One of the Justice Department’s top priorities is to protect the United States from threats to our national security both foreign and domestic. The department will enforce our laws and put criminals behind bars.”
A wave of new hires would also realign the department toward large-scale deportations and more intense immigration enforcement. Seventy of the 300 federal prosecutors would be hired “to protect our borders and restore our sovereignty by prosecuting immigration-law violations,” the department said, marking a substantial shift in resources and power toward one of Trump and Sessions’s key policy priorities. Twelve lawyers would be hired for the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division to litigate land claims during construction of the border wall. Another 15 attorneys would be slated to join the department’s Civil Division to defend the Trump administration in court “against programmatic and individual challenges to federal immigration policies or actions.”
The proposal also takes aim at the massive backlog in U.S. immigration courts. My colleague Priscilla Alvarez noted in April how staffing woes and sheer case volume were straining the system even before Trump’s enforcement escalation. To that end, the administration wants $75 million to hire 150 attorneys to substantially expand the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which operates the nation’s immigration courts; the attorneys serve a judge-like role there. (Their name aside, immigration courts are technically administrative panels instead of genuine judicial bodies.) Forty new deputy U.S. marshals would also be hired for $8.8 million to “ensure timely detainee processing” in immigration cases.
Framing these requests to expand the machinery of prosecution and deportation is the Trump administration’s looming effort to crack down on immigrants, legal and otherwise. “An increase in [unauthorized-immigrant] apprehensions will result in more fugitive investigations for individuals with immigration warrants; more protective investigations and details for members of the judiciary; and more prisoners to receive, process, and detain,” the department said in its proposal.