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Contact NIJC Communications Director Tara Tidwell Cullen at (312) 833-2967 or by email.

Members of Congress Must Reject Any Budget Negotiations Using Asylum Seekers as Political Pawns

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) yesterday released the text of a new supplemental government spending package which, in addition to providing funds for foreign military aid, would put more than three billion dollars into the coffers of the Department of Homeland Security to further expand costly and inhumane border surveillance and immigration detention.

National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy responded to the proposed legislation with the following statement:

“Cruelty is embedded in U.S. border and immigration policy. Today, members of the U.S. Senate will decide whether to proceed to vote on a supplemental spending bill that would further cement punishment as the U.S. government’s  primary response to migration. This bill also fails to adopt critical solutions to address the significant humanitarian needs at the U.S.-Mexico border, instead placing further pressure on migration processing systems. The National Immigrant Justice Center urges members of Congress to reject this approach.

“The supplemental spending bill proposes funding for immigration detention that would surpass levels reached during the Trump administration. It aims to support the hiring of more than 1,000 new Border Patrol agents even as the agency is under greater scrutiny than ever for persistent abuses and corruption. This bill puts billions of dollars toward surveilling and expeditiously deporting people who are arriving at the southern border seeking a safe place for themselves and their family. Critical funding which could help reduce the asylum and work authorization backlog, support reception services for new arrivals, and expand access to legal representation are also included in this bill, but largely overshadowed–and likely to be undermined–by the billions that would flow toward harmful enforcement measures. This bill largely mirrors the funding amounts requested by the White House in October which NIJC and dozens of immigration groups opposed.

“NIJC measures legislative and policy proposals against fundamental civil and human rights norms. The Senate’s supplemental spending bill falls far short of those standards. In recent months, we have been shaken to see members of the Democratic and Republican parties consider legislative changes that would fundamentally undermine the U.S. government’s international obligation to ensure access to asylum for those in need. And now we are alarmed to see Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) attempting to bring to the Senate floor a bill that would use taxpayer dollars to grow an immigration detention system infected with abusive conditions and impunity.

“We all want our loved ones to be safe from harm. People arriving at the border want no less, and we are grateful to Chicagoans and Americans in countless other cities who are welcoming our new neighbors with open arms. There are many challenges as the United States responds to unprecedented levels of global displacement. But the path being charted by the White House and Congress will exacerbate, not alleviate these challenges. Solutions are clear: states, localities and civil society need funding and coordination to support new arrivals; Department of Homeland Security processing and adjudication functions must be buttressed and strengthened; and long-term integration efforts require robust and continuous support. Jails are not the answer. Bans to asylum access are not the answer. The U.S. government must shift course.”