Republicans in Congress are pushing back on the justice department’s budget request, which includes hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending on Democratic priorities such as combatting domestic terrorism, civil rights violations, and gun violence.
Attorney General Merrick Garland made his first appearance before Congress Tuesday, albeit remotely, detailing for a House appropriations subcommittee some of the specific requests included in the administration's proposed budget, including increased funding for immigration judges.
"There are nearly 1.3 million cases pending before the immigration courts," said Garland in his opening statement.
Garland said the Biden administration inherited a million of those cases, helping to explain the need for an additional $157 million.
"A 21 percent budget increase for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, will help support 100 new immigration judges, improve technology and other efficiency mechanisms to reduce that backlog," Garland stated.
The backlog in immigration cases has grown significantly under the Biden administration, with illegal border crossings at a 20-year high. Republicans said that is the direct result of President Biden's more lenient policies and have been pressing for the administration to acknowledge the surge at the southern border constitutes a 'crisis.'
"I would argue that before we grant a significant increase in funding for immigration judges, we need to see some recognition by this administration that it is, first, indeed a crisis," committee member Rep. Ben Cline, (R) VA-6 said.
DOJ's budget proposal also includes additional funding to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism, prosecute hate crimes and gender-based violence. It would invest in programs that support community-oriented policing and systemic injustice, as well as programs to reduce gun violence.
"Gun deaths continue to occur at a staggering rate in our country," Garland said. "There is more we can do to make our communities safer."
But Republicans on the committee said if the administration wants to address gun crime, it should stay away from "liberal, feel-good programs, like gun buybacks and incentives for licensing restrictions, that infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," Rep. Robert Aderholt, (R) AL-4 said.
In total, the justice department’s fiscal year 2022 budget request is $35.2 billion, approximately 5% more than the department's current year budget.