The House Appropriations Committee this week proposed a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill for fiscal year 2021 that begins the long overdue process of defunding our nation’s deadly immigration detention system. This bill takes steps to hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) accountable for their wasteful spending, which has torn apart thousands of families and cost more than 55 lives in custody since 2017. The proposed spending bill also reduces money for detention, rescinds money for wall construction, and does not include any new money for border patrol agents.
The Defund Hate campaign issued the following statement about the proposed budget:
“The DHS budget that House appropriators proposed this week shows us that members of Congress are beginning to recognize their responsibility in ensuring that the U.S. government respects the dignity and human rights of all immigrants, families, and communities in this country. They are seeing that their spending decisions directly harm families who are separated by CBP and ICE at the border and throughout the country, as well as immigrants and asylum seekers who end up trapped in deadly detention centers. We are grateful to congressional appropriators who are stepping up to finally hold these agencies accountable. In particular, we welcome these steps in light of more than 2,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two known deaths from COVID-19 complications in ICE detention. Further emphasizing the need for Congress to hold these agencies accountable, a recent Government Accountability Office audit found that CBP misspent millions of taxpayer dollars that should have been put toward humanitarian aid at the southern border.
“Yet even with these important positive changes in Congress’s approach to ICE and CBP funding, the Defund Hate campaign is concerned about the proposed increases for a grant program that would fuel the militarization of state and local law enforcement agencies and expand local police collaboration with CBP. Congress must cut funding to all institutions that perpetuate racism and violence, and redirect those tax dollars toward education, housing, health care, and other programs that provide opportunity and increase our collective wellbeing.
“We believe that transformative structural change in the immigration system is possible. This belief fueled the launch of this campaign three and a half years ago to divest from the harmful structures that attack our communities, and instead invest taxpayer dollars in ways that help all communities thrive together. With this long arc of progress in mind, Defund Hate campaign partners welcome the steps forward in this bill while continuing to fight for the freedom and safety of our communities.”
The proposed DHS spending bill includes the following provisions which the Defund Hate coalition supports, and hopes will signify the beginning of a reenvisioning of immigration processing in the United States:
- More than $1 billion cut in spending for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, including custody operations funding equivalent to a population of approximately 22,000 people jailed each day — less than half of the funded level from FY 2020. Furthermore, the bill requires that only 10,000 of those beds can be used during the current public health emergency.
- A presumption that ICE should limit a person’s time in detention to 20 days absent a finding of public safety or flight risk. For transgender immigrants, the limitation on detention is five days.
- A requirement for ICE to phase out its use of family detention by the end of 2020.
- Elimination of DHS’s ability to transfer funds between its accounts, and significant restrictions on its ability to “reprogram” funds.
- Creation of a new grant program funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support nonprofit organizations in providing case management services via alternatives to detention programming.
The #DefundHate campaign, 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 well-being.