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NIJC Calls On Members of Congress to Stand with Immigrant Communities in Opposition to Another Year of Fiscal Impunity for DHS’s Abuses

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) condemns congressional leadership’s failure to hold the Trump administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable in the latest federal spending bill, the text of which was unveiled this afternoon. The bill as written would sign a blank check for the agency to continue building a wall on the southern border, expanding the detention system, and blocking asylum seekers from access to the United States.

“It is deeply disappointing that members of Congress, including many who position themselves as supporters of immigrant rights and opponents of this administration’s abusive immigration policies, continue to turn a blind eye to ICE and CBP taking money from wherever they choose and redirecting taxpayer dollars toward its anti-immigrant agenda,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman.

The fiscal year 2020 budget, which Congress is expected to vote on as early as today, continues to fund DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies at the same levels as in 2019. The deal fails to set any restrictions on the agencies’ ability to take money from other DHS agencies’ accounts, through mechanisms known as transfers and reprogramming, to pay for new detention beds or wall construction. The spending bill also continues funding for, among other harmful policies, the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) program which has trapped more than 50,000 asylum seekers in Mexico and prevented them from entering the United States to request asylum protection. While the package includes critical accountability and transparency measures, these measures fall short in the context of an overall bloated budget that will continue fueling abusive agency actions.

This new spending bill marks one more year in which Congress fails to assert its own constitutional spending authority, even with agency officials brazenly flouting checks and balances. A DHS official bragged to the press in February that the agency intended to use its transfer discretion to continue to expand ICE detention despite congressional instruction to shrink the system. DHS has repeatedly moved millions away from the Federal Emergency Management Administration in order to make up for ICE’s overspending on detention.

NIJC calls on Congress to stand with immigrants and demand a morally responsible budget that invests in the health and wellbeing of all communities.