Some of the increased funding is needed to tackle domestic terrorism, which Garland says keeps him awake at night.
“We are increasingly concerned about domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism. These two things keep me awake at night every morning, pretty much every morning I get a briefing from the FBI and one or the other or both areas, ”the attorney general said. mentionned.
“The lethality of the weapons available to this type of terrorists, both foreign and domestic, has increased,” he added, noting that the way extremists communicate has also changed.
“The consequence of the Internet and encryption means that they can send information and make plans much faster and in greater secrecy than could have been done before,” Garland said. “So we have an emerging and accelerating threat. “
Garland and her leadership team, including Vanita Gupta, who was confirmed as Associate Attorney General just two weeks ago, have moved quickly to tackle some of the biggest civil rights issues facing the country.
Hate crimes, violence against women and immigration
The attorney general included voter rights protection in his multi-million dollar increased budget for the Civil Rights Division and noted that “prosecute hate crimes like those suffered by our Asian and Islander communities. Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil rights work of the DOJ is essential. to protect the American dream. “
Meng asked how the Justice Department will help bring “restorative justice” to communities plagued by hate crimes and violence, Garland admitted that while he is aware of the increase in such crimes, he only “recently” realized the “extremely important” need to increase the Department of Justice’s community relations efforts.
“Unfortunately, I learned that we only have about 26 or 27 members of the Community Relations Department in total at this point,” he said. “A significant portion of the money will also increase for the Civil Rights Division, go to hate crime prosecutions… and the extra money that we can look at further is that prosecution is not the only solution. “
The budget, Garland said, will include $ 120 million for the Justice Department’s office on violence against women “to expand our efforts to address the widespread backlog of rape kits and to fund new investigative training programs for law enforcement officers and prosecutors in units dedicated to gender-based investigations. violence. “
Garland said he was “very concerned” about the backlog of almost 1.3 million pending immigration court cases and supported “a 21% increase in the budget of the Executive Office for the review of the immigration will help support 100 new immigration judges, improved technology and other efficiency mechanisms. to reduce the “backlog.”
Rules against ghost weapons are in the works
Garland told lawmakers that the Justice Department’s Office of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) should come up with an effort to tackle phantom weapons, self-assembled guns that can be built within 30 minutes for illegal acts.
“ATF is currently working on a regulatory proposal which should be called a regulatory proposal notice, which is expected to come out. Pretty, very soon. To answer that question, there will be a regulatory period, ”Garland said of New York Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat, about how the department can tackle phantom weapons.
President Joe Biden has ordered his administration to tighten restrictions on phantom weapons, with gun reform remaining a priority for his administration.
“We are looking to increase our support for the fight against gun violence by $ 232 million for fiscal year 2022, by supporting both federal law enforcement resources in the DOJ and by providing funding for programs to “community violence intervention, improved background checks and more comprehensive red flag laws,” Garland said. .
He also told lawmakers on Tuesday that traditional police officers should be prevented from handling emergency mental health calls.
Cartwright raised another issue that struck close to home for Garland, who served as a federal appellate judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly 24 years. The President asked the Attorney General if he agreed if the federal justice system faces a more dangerous security environment now than in the past, specifically referring to the gunman who killed the son of Federal Judge Esther Salas in July 2020.
“Yes, Mr. Chairman,” Garland told Cartwright. “I think that with the rise of domestic violent extremism, as is the case with many other government officials, federal and state governments are increasingly likely to be targets. So this is something that we have to be very, very concerned about. “
Garland added that the budget for the US Marshal services, which are responsible for protecting federal judges, should increase to expand judicial security.
This story has been updated with details from Tuesday’s hearing.