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The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) urges Congress to oppose the proposed funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is up for a vote this week.

With this bill, Congress is poised to relinquish its constitutional “power of the purse” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), two agencies with a long track record of human rights abuses and fiscal mismanagement. Members of Congress who vote for this bill will be giving the executive branch a blank check, allowing it to lock up and deport as many immigrants as possible, including established members of our communities and refugees who arrived at our borders seeking safety.

“Expanding immigration detention and giving the administration carte blanche to use funds to lock up women, men and children, undermines the legislative branch’s responsibility to hold the administration accountable, and betrays our country’s values,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “NIJC urges Americans to call members of Congress and demand they oppose this bill.”

Every day, NIJC staff provide critical legal representation for people locked in ICE-contracted county jails in the Midwest and in for-profit ICE prisons throughout the country. These individuals have been swept into the system as a result of racial profiling and punishing immigration laws, or came to the United States seeking liberty from persecution and were detained when they arrived. The federal government has consistently shown it is incapable and unwilling to ensure access to justice or human rights protections of people trapped in detention, the vast majority of who face the system without legal counsel. Funding more detention beds will lead to more deaths, more due process violations, and a further deterioration of America's human rights record.

NIJC, as a member of the Defund Hate Coalition, calls on members of Congress to commit to:

  1. Cut, not increase, funding for ICE and CBP’s abusive and wasteful immigration enforcement spending, and spend not one penny on any border barrier construction; and
  2. Create real accountability for federal spending by prohibiting the Trump administration from raiding other accounts (through transfers or reprogramming) to fund a wall, immigration detention, or any other anti-immigrant program.

The proposed funding bill:

  • Increases funding to expand immigrant detention by 12 percent, from an annual average daily population of 40,500 people locked up in fiscal year 2018 to about 45,000 people in fiscal year 2019. Although appropriators may intend the funded level to force ICE to decrease the jailed population by year’s end, the bill has no teeth requiring the agency to comply. At least one ICE official has already anonymously commented to the press that this bill will allow the agency to aggressively ramp up its incarceration of immigrants.
  • Fails to restrict ICE’s and CBP’s discretion to transfer and reprogram massive sums of money into its detention and enforcement apparatus. For the past three years, ICE has overspent its appropriated funds to continuously expand the system using money from other accounts within DHS. The agency used this strategy to drive the detention population to a record high of 49,057 individuals on February 6, despite only being congressionally funded to hold 40,500. President Trump has already openly stated he will reprogram funds from other government accounts to pay for his border wall without congressional approval, and this bill does nothing to prevent such overreach.
  • Provides $1.375 billion for new border wall construction. Roughly 700 miles of our nation’s border region already are marred by a wall that harms communities and the environment. Americans have consistently rejected the president’s demands to extend the damage.

For questions about this vote recommendation, contact NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman by email or at (312) 718-5021.