WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 200 non-governmental organizations sent a letter to Congress today calling for members to cut the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget for detention, enforcement, and border militarization, and to put accountability measures in place to stop the agency’s pattern of abuse of the appropriations process.
In the letter, human and civil rights advocates and faith-based organizations call on members of Congress, who are debating the federal government’s fiscal year 2020 budget, to reassert their authority over federal budgeting decisions, “in the face of a White House that chips away at the norms of good governance each day.” The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda has fueled unprecedented spending over the past three years to fund DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its surveillance of immigrant communities, militarization of the border, and rapidly growing detention system.
The advocates, including members of the Defund Hate Coalition, tell Congress: “We are clear-eyed about the motivations behind DHS’s machinations in the budget process: the agency seeks to direct as much funding as it can toward measures that will further the White House’s enforcement-only approach to immigration policy — building additional border wall, putting more CBP and ICE agents between immigrants and their loved ones, and jailing more immigrants, including children, in inhumane conditions for longer periods of time.”
Since fiscal year 2016, CBP’s budget has increased from $13.3 billion to $18.4 billion, and ICE’s budget has increased from $6.2 billion to $8.1 billion. Many of these increases have occurred through the transfer and “reprogramming” of funding outside of the usual congressional budgeting processes, and often in violation of the expressed intent of congressional appropriators.
In August, DHS told Congress that the administration would move $271 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, and other agencies in order to further expand the immigration detention system and implement the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols,” a program that returns asylum seekers to Mexico where many face extreme violence. This news was followed by revelations that billions of dollars would be taken from military construction projects for construction of the president’s border wall.
The letter outlines four priorities Congress must fight for in its budget negotiations to ensure DHS is held accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars and for respecting human rights:
- Cut funding for ICE and CBP, including decreased funding for detention and agents, and no border wall funding.
- Terminate DHS’s authority to transfer and reprogram funds for the purpose of detention and enforcement.
- Terminate the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or MPP program.
- Place strong guardrails on the treatment of people in ICE and CBP custody, particularly ensuring that no person is held in CBP custody for longer than 72 hours.
Throughout U.S. history, enforcement-only immigration policies have only led to the dehumanization and gross abuse of people who have made immense contributions to our nation’s culture and economy and to those who come to our borders seeking a better life or fleeing violence. Congress must do its job and cut funding for an agency that thumbs its nose at our nation’s laws and the Constitution.
The Defund Hate Coalition, composed of organizations representing directly impacted communities, faith leaders, and civil rights and immigrant rights advocates, is committed to divestment from agencies that tear apart our families and terrorize our communities. For too long, our representatives have said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement and deadly immigration jails. They must be held accountable to keep their promises and stand with the immigrant community. We call on our members of Congress to say no and vote against wasting taxpayer dollars on an abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system. Instead, we want our tax dollars used to strengthen our families and communities by investing in education, housing, nutrition and health care programs that provide opportunity and increase wellbeing.