In the midst of a rise in hate crimes and domestic extremism, such as the recent white supremacist attack in Portland, the Trump administration is cutting down on programs aimed at combating domestic extremism.
As Reuters reported last month, the president’s proposed budget seeks to “cut all funding to a Department of Homeland Security program known as ‘countering violent extremism,’ which provides grants to communities to counter radicalism through outreach.”
According to Reuters, the administration previously considered changing the program’s focus to solely provide “grants that dealt with the Islamic community, not other communities that may have extremist views like white supremacists.”
Yesterday, Voice of America found that despite the “rising tide of violent activity attributed to white supremacists,” the White House has halted funding directed towards groups that work to counteract domestic extremism:
Helping people fill personal needs doesn’t always sound like a viable way to fight extremism. But last year, the Obama administration took a chance on it, allotting $10 million in grants to groups that aim to stop extremists through prevention and personal intervention, a process dubbed Countering Violent Extremism.
Picciolini’s group found out in January, just a few days before the new president was inaugurated, that Life After Hate had been given a $400,000 grant to develop an online way to reach out to teens at risk of joining extremist groups. The idea was to hook those teens up with former members of violent extremist groups who grew disillusioned, dropped out and now are ideal counselors for at-risk youth who are reaching the same crossroads.
Although the grants were supposed to be disbursed within 30 days of the announcement of the winners, there has been no official word from the Trump administration on when or whether those funds will appear in mailboxes. Several groups, Life After Hate among them, have said publicly that they have heard nothing more about whether to expect the money.
The Reuters news agency published a story in February quoting sources in the Trump administration as saying the Countering Violent Extremism funding might be rerouted to programs focused solely on overseas groups such as Islamic State. (The program falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which has not answered repeated VOA requests for comment.)
But a study by the George Washington University’s program on extremism says the number of white nationalists and self-identified Nazi sympathizers on Twitter has multiplied more than 600 percent since 2012.
While this year’s money is in limbo, the Trump budget for fiscal 2018 has wiped out the entire $50 million CVE program at a time when, its supporters argue, the need for preventive and rehabilitative measures is higher than ever.
“Before the election in November, we were getting maybe one to three requests [for help] per week,” Picciolini said. “Now, we get one to four requests per day.”