‘A Failed Approach’: Will Congress and Mayorkas Continue Status Quo Funding to CBP & ICE?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, thousands of people from national, state, and local organizations sent a letter to Congress urging them to cut funding to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The letter asks Congress to ‘turn a new leaf’ as they negotiate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s budget for FY2024. Yesterday, immigrant rights advocates and members of Congress also reintroduced the New Way Forward Act, a bold vision for our immigration system that advances shared values of compassion and respect. 

The NGO letter and federal legislation are opportunities presented to Congress with the utmost urgency. This week because of multi-government reliance on asylum restrictions, detention, and deportation, at least 38 people, of whom many were Indigenous Maya, lost their lives in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Others are in critical condition.

Last year, the federal government appropriated a combined $25 billion dollars to CBP and ICE, despite two decades of documented abuse and harm. The Defund Hate campaign led the delivery effort as Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended DHS spending in front of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

Increasing deaths at CBP’s militarized border and ICE’s immigration jails should be reason enough to consider an entirely different approach. In FY 2022, CBP reported a record number of migrant deaths, 853, since it began tracking in 1998. Earlier this month, a father named Cristian Dumitascu died at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, adding to more than 220 people who have died in ICE custody. Every day, CBP and ICE target Black, brown, and immigrant communities for expulsion, arrest, detention, deportation, and surveillance. 

“Besides the immense trauma these agencies inflict on immigrant communities, ICE and CBP also woefully mismanage taxpayer dollars,” the letter reads. “For years, advocates sounded the alarm at the agencies’ consistent disregard for and manipulation of Congressional appropriations. Last year, despite receiving its highest-ever appropriation, ICE still took advantage of DHS’ transfer and reprogramming authority to compensate for what it claimed was a $345 million shortfall. Meanwhile, records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) revealed that long-time misreporting on ICE’s so-called “Alternatives to Detention” by contractor BI, Inc.—a subsidiary of private prison company the GEO Group—may have resulted in inflated payments, and therefore reported costs, by as high as 31 percent. Recently published research has also exposed how ICE engages in “circular transfer” practices as methods of retaliation and labor trafficking, wasting millions in federal funds each year to torture immigrants in custody.”

The letter urges Congress to stand by immigrant communities through action and prioritize the following items:

  • Reduce ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) funding, particularly for Custody Operations and Alternatives to Detention
  • Reduce U.S. Border Patrol Operations funding, particularly for additional Border Patrol agents 
  • Reduce funding for CBP border security technologies
  • No new funding for border barriers and rescind previously appropriated, unspent funds for border wall construction 
  • No further restrictions on asylum, including any amendments to extend or codify Title 42
  • Restrict DHS’ authority to transfer or reprogram funding into ICE ERO, U.S. Border Patrol, or for the purposes of border barrier construction

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.

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