The House Appropriations Committee this week is scheduled to mark up and vote on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for fiscal year 2019, even as thousands of parents whose children were taken by CBP remain in ICE prisons and it becomes increasingly clear that the Trump administration never had a plan to reunite their families.
The DHS budget bill provides $51.4 billion in discretionary funding, a massive increase for an agency whose enforcement budget has already more than doubled since its inception in 2003.
“Members of Congress must vote no on this bill and, just as importantly, hold DHS accountable for its fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible actions by cutting funds for immigration detention and enforcement,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “American taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an incarceration and deportation system that routinely operates outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, laws, fundamental human right principles, and basic morality.”
The bill going to mark up on Wednesday, among other things, provides: $5 billion for an unnecessary and harmful border wall; 400 new ICE officers and 375 new CBP officers; and the expansion of immigration detention to jail approximately 44,000 people daily, totalling nearly 375,000 immigrants jailed on a yearly basis.
As House appropriators meet to debate the DHS funding bill:
- NIJC attorneys are scrambling to find clients who were taken from their children by CBP officers and prosecuted as they sought asylum. The government’s reunification efforts have been chaotic, including ICE’s failure to notify attorneys when clients have been released from custody or transferred to new detention centers.
- DHS and the Department of Justice continue to explore new methods for jailing families together, including the use of military bases, as a cruel so-called “alternative” to separating them, even while the government’s own medical experts engage in whistleblowing to warn about the grave harms DHS detention causes to children.
- Evidence mounts that DHS cannot ensure the basic health and safety of the people it jails. Medical negligence has led to tragic deaths in custody and sexual assault and harassment is pervasive throughout ICE’s patchwork network of more than 200 jails. DHS’s own Inspector General has confirmed that the inspections system governing ICE detention is a sham, with one ICE employee noting that it is “very, very, very difficult to fail” an ICE detention inspection.
- CBP regularly refers asylum seekers for prosecution under federal misdemeanor illegal entry charges, in blatant violation of international law, criminalizing the act of migration in a manner that is sowing chaos in the federal courts.
- ICE’s enforcement dragnet increases the day-to-day terror felt in immigrant communities, in reliance on racial profiling and other constitutionally suspect police practices. Among those caught up include domestic violence survivors targeted in courthouses, a practice one public defender described as sending the following message to the community: “Come to the courthouse at your own risk of being arrested and caged by the federal government.”
- DHS makes a mockery of congressional oversight, routinely overspending its appropriated detention budget and blatantly violating critical reporting obligations outlined in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill. The Government Accountability Office found in April that ICE “is not positioned to ensure the credibility of its budget requests.”
Enough is enough. NIJC calls on Congress to VOTE NO on the FY19 House Appropriations DHS spending bill.