Now that Donald Trump has made arresting migrant families his top priority, resources are being diverted from other government law enforcement initiatives such as fighting drug smuggling into the United States.
In order to fund his zero tolerance policy the Trump administration has taken money over the past month from various federal agencies involved in drug interdiction efforts, such as the DEA, the DOJ, and the Coast Guard. And given the large expected costs of maintaining the program in the future, these diversions of money are expected to continue.
U.S. prosecutors recently sent out an email saying they had begun to divert resources from drug-smuggling cases to handle the thousands of new immigration criminal cases resulting by Trump’s zero tolerance policy. The email was to border authorities and said that “immigration cases will occupy substantially more of our resources in the future.” It also said that “the U.S. Attorney’s Officeis diverting staff, both support and attorneys, accordingly,” and that prosecutors needed to “streamline the work on smuggling cases.”
What this means is that there will be far fewer drug smuggling cases prosecuted in the future. With thousands of new federal criminal cases against the migrants, along with the need to separate children from adult parents and guardians, there simply are not enough resources to continue to prosecute drug smugglers.
It is being reported, however, that federal border authorities are now trying to prosecute drug smugglers in state courts instead of federal courts. This could overburden the state court systems and lead to less convictions and lighter penalties.
The state The District Attorney’s office in San Diego, for example, said on Friday that the number of drug cases referred to them by federal border authorities had more than doubled since the zero tolerance policy went into effect.
The U.S. military is also diverting resources to help Trump and Sessions administer and enforce their new immigration policy. The Washington Post reported that the new federal budget takes away $77 million in funding from the U.S. Coast Guard which plays a huge role in the war on illegal drug smuggling. For example the Coast Guard set a record last year, confiscating more than 455,000 pounds of cocaine at sea.
In addition to that, military authorities have been notified that some bases will have to be modified to house up to a total of 150,000 arrested migrants, including adults and children. This will also require a large investment of resources that must be diverted from other federal priorities.
The diversion of federal money from the war on drugs is puzzling because earlier this year Donald Trump announced he was going to crack down on drug smuggling and he wanted to require the death penalty for drug dealers. He reportedly said at the time, “You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.”
Clearly the zero tolerance program was not planned out carefully by the Trump administration. They did not consider what resources would be needed nor what the impact would be on other federal agencies and programs. This is typical for the bungling, dysfunctional administration of President Donald Trump.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.