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Media Inquiries

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

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed its funding proposal for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Fiscal Year 2024, which disproportionately favors detention and punitive enforcement at the expense of humane immigration processing and logical border management. Senate appropriators have managed to get around previously agreed upon spending levels by invoking “emergency” use funds to increase spending to surveil border communities and to detain immigrants as they seek asylum or other protection from deportation.

Heidi Altman, Director of Policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center, responded to the Senate measure:

“The Senate Appropriations Committee has put together a funding package that yet again falls short of responding to humanitarian needs by super-funding jails, surveillance, and punitive policy measures that harm immigrant communities. We decry Senate appropriators’ cynical claim that increased funding for detention and enforcement constitute ‘emergency measures’ while again failing to sufficiently fund civil society organizations providing the legal services, social services, shelter and reception services that are actually responsive to the humanitarian needs of people arriving at the southern border seeking safety.

“We are particularly concerned that Congress continues to increase funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention and enforcement programs without engaging in meaningful oversight of the myriad human rights and civil rights violations committed regularly by both agencies. It was only two months ago that 8 year old Anadith died in CBP custody, a tragically preventable death attributable to medical negligence. In recent months, NIJC has documented CBP erecting egregious obstructions to access to counsel for people undergoing asylum screening in its custody. People in ICE custody continue to endure abusive conditions, rampant use of solitary confinement, and preventable deaths.

“We call on Members of Congress to revisit this wasteful and misguided approach when the House and Senate bills are negotiated after the August recess.”


What does the Senate Appropriations bill illogically prioritize?

Wasteful and deadly ICE detention and enforcement: The bill provides $8.8 billion for ICE, $555 million above the administration’s budget request. Even though the White House budget requested a significant reduction in funding for ICE detention, down to 25 thousand detention beds; the Senate Appropriations Committee illogically rejected this, and instead decided to continue wasteful funding for 34 thousand immigration detention beds. There are currently around 31 thousand people in ICE detention; up from 14 thousand from when President Biden entered office. On top of this, the Senate appropriated an additional $686 million in “emergency” slush funds, allowing ICE to waste more public funds for detention and enforcement with little scrutiny or oversight. The funding allocations would provide more of a payday for private prison companies that reap egregious profits from ICE detention at enormous human costs.

Border militarization and surveillance: The bill provides $18.1 billion for CBP, $1.6 billion more than the White House’s budget request. This amount includes funds for 145 new Border Patrol agents and a staggering $263 million for “border security technology” that will increase the militarized feel of already over-policed border communities. "The Senate’s proposed appropriation also includes $799 million designated as “emergency” funds. CBP’s detention facilities have been a black hole, where asylum seekers and migrants are consistently denied basic due process and human rights. For years, CBP’s bloated enforcement budget has drastically increased, leading to a windfall for contractors providing military grade sprawling surveillance that harms border communities, migrants and everyday travelers. At the same time, Congress has failed to provide sufficient funding for border management, and humane processing.


What’s missing from the bill?

Despite a last minute poison pill amendment, Appropriators successfully preserved funding for the Shelter and Services Program, a key grant program that supports localities and non-governmental organizations providing respite and social services to people arriving at the border to seek safety. However, we are disappointed to see that the amount provided is slightly decreased from the FY23 levels, rather than increased. The United States is not alone in responding to increased global migration levels as people flee political repression and instability, seeking safety; civil society and state and local governments urgently need greater support and coordination to meet the need.

The bill further misses many opportunities to shift toward a humane approach to immigration policy, and away from an enforcement-centered framework. NIJC will continue to call upon Members of Congress to decrease funds for enforcement- and surveillance-based monitoring programs and instead invest in community-based services to support immigrants during their asylum and immigration court proceedings.