Washington, DC — As the end of FY2021 approaches, today 192 non-governmental organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership to reiterate the critical need for Congress to take bold action in FY2022 to reduce the United States’ reliance on incarceration for immigration processing by significantly decreasing funding for ICE detention. Today’s letter bookends the appropriation process following a letter sent in March from 245 national, state, and local organizations urging Congress to begin repairing the harms of this country’s enforcement-centered approach to immigration, a critical need to ensure the safety and dignity of immigrant communities that thus far members of Congress are failing to take action on.
In July, the House Committee on Appropriations passed a draft appropriations bill for DHS that proposed funding for ICE to detain an average daily population (ADP) of 28,500 people—more than the 25,292 people detained as of August 13th, and much higher than the approximately 15,000 people who were in detention when President Biden took office. In the letter, the Defund Hate campaign says: “The proposal demonstrates that members of Congress are failing to recognize their critical role in protecting immigrants, refugees, and people seeking asylum from a punitive system that strips people of their dignity and basic human rights, and separates them from loved ones.“
Throughout U.S. history, enforcement-only immigration policies have only led to the dehumanization and gross abuse of people who have made immense contributions to our nation’s culture and economy and to those who come to our borders seeking a better life or fleeing violence. Each year the federal government pours over $20 billion into ICE and CBP’s budgets to militarize border communities and profile, jail, and deport members of our communities and people seeking a better life. Since fiscal year 2016, CBP’s budget has increased from $11.1 billion to $15 billion, and ICE’s budget has increased from $5.8 billion to $8 billion. Many of these increases were compounded by these agencies transferring and “reprogramming” funding outside of the usual congressional budgeting processes, and often in violation of the expressed intent of congressional appropriators.
The letter details how this issue remains as urgent as ever. Despite campaign promises to curb the use of immigration detention, the number of people in detention grew by about 80 percent after the Biden Administration took office. ICE has also been able to grow the detention population at this rate because Congress failed to use its power to rein in the agency’s cruel operations last year—instead funding FY2021 detention levels at an ADP of 34,000, which was more than double the amount of people that were in detention at the time. However, this rate of expansion is not novel for ICE. In just two years under the Trump administration, ICE was able to expand its daily detention population by more than 20,000 people by manipulating and overspending its Congressional appropriation.
The Defund Hate campaign says:
“Congress cannot make the same mistake and allow ICE detention to continue regressing to its previous magnitude. It must take this opportunity to decidedly end ICE’s pattern of expansion and abuse. Congress has the power and the resources to ensure that people navigating their immigration case can do so with their families and with their community—not behind bars in immigration detention. As you consider the FY2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we strongly urge you to recognize the critical role of Congress to protect immigrant communities from the dangers of ICE’s deadly and unnecessary detention system. For the new fiscal year, we call on you to work towards a final negotiated bill that significantly reduces funding for ICE detention.”