WASHINGTON – Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told lawmakers Tuesday that the Justice Department needs more money for the Biden administration's priorities, including fighting domestic extremism, racial inequality, environmental degradation and gender violence.
In his first congressional hearing since his confirmation, Mr. Garland popped up for the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department to discuss its $ 35.2 billion budget request for the fiscal year beginning in October, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
The budget proposal, which includes funding for security measures for weapons and immigration courts, reflects a commitment to safeguarding "the civil and civil liberties" of Americans, Mr. Garland said in his opening speech.
It also showed that Mr. Garland prioritized efforts to fight domestic terrorism and protect civil rights over the Trump administration's focus on street crime and gangs.
Democrats generally expressed support for the proposed budget. Pennsylvania Democrat Representative Matt Cartwright and chair of the subcommittee called the funding request a "historic opportunity to address systemic barriers to full participation in society, ensure access to economic opportunities, and protect the right to vote."
The budget request includes $ 209 million for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights programs, up nearly 16 percent from the previous year, to protect voting rights and prosecute hate crimes. Mr. Garland called that work "crucial to protecting the American dream".
The department is also seeking an additional $ 101 million to address the growing threat of domestic terrorism, including $ 45 million for the F.B.I. and $ 40 million that federal prosecutors can use to manage their increasing domestic terrorism caseloads.
Republicans on the House committee said they were concerned about any decision to diminish the federal fight against violent crime and drug addiction, and pushed back on Mr. Garland's request for an additional $ 232 million to curb gun violence.
The additional funding would be used to enforce federal gun laws, provide grants for community violence intervention programs, and to provide enhanced background checks and more comprehensive red flag laws that allow the police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are considered a danger to themselves or others.
"I am concerned that if this budget is implemented, it would irresponsibly invest taxpayer dollars in initiatives that do not have the right foundation for evidence or insights," said Alabama Representative Robert B. Aderholt, the top Republican in the US. subcommittee.
Representatives from both sides asked Mr. Garland about the immigration crisis on the southern border as the United States grapples with the increasing number of migrants trying to enter the country from Mexico. President Biden on Monday lifted a Trump-era limit to allow as many as 62,500 refugees fleeing war, violence and natural disasters to enter the United States in the next six months.
Mr. Garland noted that the Department of Homeland Security was primarily responsible for border security and said the role of the Justice Department was largely to manage the immigration courts, which have nearly 1.3 million open cases.
Mr. Garland said the department was aiming for a 21 percent increase in funding for immigration courts, which would support 100 new judges and technology to reduce the backlog of cases.
He said the department's current budget included $ 2.2 billion for the F.B.I. and the D.E.A. for immigration and drug enforcement on the southwest border and that the United States wanted to work with Mexico to fight crime.
“One of the first things I did as Attorney General internationally was speak to the Attorney General of Mexico to seek and confirm his cooperation in the fight against transnational narcotics organizations, and he also pledged his support for this, said Mr. Garland. . "This is a serious problem."
Mr. Garland also said the Department was seeking $ 1 billion for Justice Department programs related to the Violence Against Women Act, nearly double the level in 2021.
The government has said the money would fund services for transgender survivors of domestic violence, support women in historically black colleges and in Spanish and tribal settings; and providing funding for domestic violence hotlines, financial assistance programs, medical services and emergency shelters.
It would also help address the country's backlog of unprocessed rape packages and fund new training programs for law enforcement and prosecutors dedicated to investigating gender-based violence.
The Justice Department also wants $ 1.2 billion – $ 304 million more than the previous year – to support community-based police work and programs that address systemic inequalities in police operations.