Ever since his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed to the U.S.-Mexico border as a major source of drug trafficking into the country. Tensions escalated to a new high last month as Trump threatened a complete border shutdown “if the drugs don’t stop,” Newsweek reports.
But his 2020 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency budget proposal appears to cut funding for technologies extremely effective at detecting and stopping contraband, including drugs and weapons, by roughly 90 percent.
During a Thursday hearing on Trump’s 2020 budget proposals for immigration agencies, New York Democrat Rep. Kathleen Rice pressed top officials to explain the huge cut in funding, arguing that Trump’s words did not match his actions surrounding drug crackdown at the border.
Rice called the inconsistency “one of the most shocking parts of the budget” and told immigration agents that, although Trump calls drug trafficking “our biggest problem at the border,” he suggested a budget cut in contraband identification technology from $500 million to $59 million–an 88.2 percent drop.
Specifically, the cut slashes funding for the Customs and Border Protection agency’s “Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems” program, which allows agents at the border to "inspect and screen conveyances or cars, trucks, rail cars, sea containers, as well as personal luggage, packages, parcels and flat mail through either x-ray or gamma-ray imaging systems,” according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
Speaking to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director Matthew Albence, Rice said, "If you look at any public statement that the president makes and people in his administration, whether it's his spokesperson or other people, about our biggest problem at the border, that then becomes an interior problem in this country, it's drugs.
"So, I think it doesn't make much sense to me that in his budget, he would cut from $500 million to procure new NII systems, to the 2020 budget where he requests just $59 million. Do you think that's a wise decision?" she asked.
In response, Albence wanted to “defer to his colleague” CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez, who explained that the CBP had funding from fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to “recapitalize” roughly 75 percent of its NII programs.