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The National Immigrant Justice Center and 11 human rights and government accountability organizations called on Congress to reject the Department of Homeland Security’s anticipated requests to transfer money from the U.S. Coast Guard or other DHS budgets to fund the construction of immigration detention camps that could hold as many as 47,000 people at proposed locations including abandoned military airfields, a former naval weapons station, and military training facilities.

The letter to members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees details DHS’s failure to protect the health and wellbeing of people in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prison system. It also highlights DHS’s ongoing disregard for spending limits and reporting obligations set by Congress.

“Now is not the time to treat the appropriations process as business as usual,” the letter states. “Immigration detention facilities are filled with parents who have been torn from their children at the border, the administration is seeking judicial consent to expand the jailing of asylum-seeking families in unlicensed facilities, and medical negligence continues to result in deaths in custody.”

DHS’s recent violations of human rights and fiscal responsibility, described in the letter, include:

  • Flagrant disregard for appropriated funding levels for custody operations
  • Failure to make public a list of detention facilities
  • Failure to abide by reporting requirements regarding inspections and deaths in detention
  • Failure to provide congressionally required protections against sexual abuse in custody
  • Widespread disregard for congressionally imposed obligations regarding access to phones, counsel, and visitation services for people in custody

The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Immigration Council, Center for American Progress, Detention Watch Network, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Open the Government, Project on Government Oversight, and Women’s Refugee Commission.

“The Department of Homeland Security is jailing asylum seekers and immigrants in facilities that put lives at risk, flouting basic transparency requirements imposed by Congress, and straight up ignoring the spending limits placed on it by the appropriations process,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “Our democracy demands checks on this sort of executive overreach. The legislative branch must respond in the only way that counts — by depriving DHS of the funds it needs to continue engaging in state-sponsored abuses.”

NIJC continues to advocate for the defunding of the DHS immigrant incarceration system. To learn more and speak out, visit