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Today, NIJC and partner organizations delivered a letter to the Biden administration outlining the top immigration priorities that must be included in the country’s budget for Fiscal Year 2024.

Immigrants bring vibrancy and resilience to the United States. Yet, for decades, the United States has placed enforcement and deterrence at the heart of immigration policy, spending billions of dollars annually on enforcement and surveillance of immigrant and border communities - more than we spend on all other federal law enforcement combined. The consequences have been deadly and disproportionately harm Black, Brown, Indigenous, and border communities.

Our letter urges the administration to move funds away from punitive detention and enforcement policies and instead invest in our communities and life-saving social and legal services. Throughout the United States and at the border, community-based organizations are receiving newcomers with open arms. Anti-immigrant governors seeking to politicize human needs are instead proving the opposite - that American communities are ready to welcome newcomers with dignity. In Chicago, NIJC is proud to be among the community organizations providing urgent housing, legal and social services to newly arriving migrants. All eyes now turn to the federal government, which is overdue in providing sustainable funding and support to welcome migrants and asylum seekers with dignity.

Our letter urges the Biden administration to address the following priorities for immigrant communities in its Fiscal Year 2024 budget:

  1. Fund a more humane immigration policy: decrease funding for detention and surveillance-based monitoring; increase funding for community-based case management.
    • The FY2024 budget should seek significantly decreased funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Custody Operations.
    • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget should include language that limits unnecessary prolonged detention.
    • The White House and DHS should significantly decrease the funding request for surveillance-based monitoring of asylum seekers and immigrants.
    • The FY2024 budget should propose increased funding for community-based case management and support services funded outside of ICE. 
  2. Fund due process: provide sufficient funds to ensure legal representation for all indigent adults, families and children facing removal.
    • The White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) should continue to pursue robust funding for legal representation for immigrants in immigration court proceedings, including robust funding for know-your-rights programs as well as new funding to ensure all indigent people facing removal are provided lawyers.
    • The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should continue to pursue robust funding for services for unaccompanied children, including increased funding for post-release services and child advocates and sufficient funding to ensure universal representation for all unaccompanied children facing removal.
  3. Right-size the immigration budget: decrease Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) surveillance programs and ICE and Border Patrol’s over-sized agent corps.
    • The FY2024 budget proposal should sharply reduce DHS surveillance technologies.
    • The FY2024 budget should request significantly scaled down funding for both ICE and Border Patrol agents, and should include a plan to terminate the 287(g) program (which deputizes local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law) and phase out all existing 287(g) agreements.
    • The FY2024 budget should not include any funding for border wall construction and instead increase more funds to mitigate environmental and other harms caused by the construction of 18- to 30-feet tall border walls.
  4. Ensure a fair and efficient immigration and asylum system: request sufficient funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promptly reduce the growing backlog and ensure efficient intake and processing.
    • The FY2024 budget should provide increased and targeted funding of at least $400,000,000 to address reductions in the crippling backlog of applications for benefits, intake delay, and facilitate efficient processing of cases at USCIS asylum, field, and service center offices.
    • The FY2024 budget should request appropriated funds for DHS to provide regular reports detailing how appropriated funding is being utilized, as well as its impact on backlog reduction and overall efficiency.
  5. Support a nationwide response to arriving asylum seekers: increase federal funding to state and local governments and organizations assisting newly arrived migrants.
    • The FY2024 budget should pursue a significant increase in funding for emergency funds to support newly-arrived migrants released from DHS custody who need assistance navigating the asylum process.
    • The White House and DHS should develop a long-term sustainable funding program to replace the current emergency funds provided on a reimbursement basis for migration assistance.
  6. Ensure formerly separated families successfully reunify: allocate funds for the provision of comprehensive and holistic services.
    • The White House should seek increased funds in FY2024 to to fast-track work authorizations for all separated family members and related beneficiaries.
    • The FY2024 budget should seek new designated funds for HHS to provide housing for at least six months for returning and recently returned families who lack work authorization immediately upon arrival and therefore cannot work to pay rent.

Heidi Altman is NIJC's director of policy.