With Over 276K Dead from COVID-19, Congress Must Not Sign Blank Checks to Fund DHS’ Abuse of Immigrants Instead of Prioritizing Pandemic Relief to All

Washington, DC — As Congress negotiates budget funding, Defund Hate coalition members call on Congress to avoid the mistake of continuing to fund the Department of Homeland Security’s cruel and inhumane immigration system. Over the years, the department and its two deportation arms —Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)— have wasted billions of dollars jailing, abusing and deporting Black and brown immigrants with zero regard for their safety, humanity and well-being. 

Now, at a time when COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 276,000 nationwide and many communities continue to lack access to basic healthcare, COVID-19 testing and stimulus checks, Congress is focused on funding a cruel and inhumane immigration system that values profit over people instead of pandemic relief.

Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream, said: 

“It’s outrageous and inhumane that Congress is spending its time debating more funding to ICE and CBP when they’ve failed to pass an inclusive COVID-19 relief package that protects everyone, regardless of immigration status. Prioritizing funding to DHS is a reckless abuse of Congressional power that must end immediately. As thousands more continue to die, there’s absolutely no time to waste in providing everyone with access to health care and pandemic relief now.”

Gabriela Viera, Advocacy Associate of Detention Watch Network, said:

“Now is the moment for change. ICE’s death toll is the highest it’s been in 15 years while stories of gynecological procedures without consent in ICE detention centers have caused mass outrage. Members of Congress must take this opportunity to significantly cut funds to ICE and CBP — fraught agencies that have proven time and again that they are fundamentally flawed. Our elected officials must prioritize the well-being of whole communities and invest in critical priorities like COVID-19 relief for all instead of funding a deadly and abusive immigration enforcement system.”

Heidi Altman, Policy Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, said:

“At a time when our nation has a real opportunity for transformative change, for Congress to pass a budget that hands billions of dollars to ICE to detain immigrants at rates that match those at the height of the Trump administration would undermine communities’ calls to end this abusive system. Budgets are a reflection of our values. Members of Congress must not end this session by tacitly approving the continued demonization of immigrants, and should instead invest funding into communities who desperately need support at this time.”

Sarah Gardiner, Policy Director of Freedom for Immigrants, said:

“If elected officials want to prevent another year of catastrophic, preventable deaths in ICE detention, they must begin to divest from cages and invest in systems of care that benefit all communities. There is no reason why U.S. taxpayers should fund an immoral system that profits from human suffering when a world without detention is possible and more cost-effective than the status quo. Instead of wasting billions of dollars on detention and enforcement, Congress should act now to invest in health care, housing, and economic relief for our communities during this global pandemic.”


The #DefundHate campaign, composed of organizations representing directly impacted communities, faith leaders, and civil rights and immigrant rights advocates, is committed to divestment from agencies that tear apart our families and terrorize our communities. For too long, our representatives have said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement and deadly immigration jails. They must be held accountable to keep their promises and stand with the immigrant community. We call on our members of Congress to say no and vote against wasting taxpayer dollars on an abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system. Instead, we want our tax dollars used to strengthen our families and communities by investing in education, housing, nutrition and health care programs that provide opportunity and increase well-being.