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The Outgoing Congress Shouldn’t Reward Trump With More Homeland Security Funding

Capitol Night
Capitol Night
Madhuri Grewal,
Former Federal Immigration Policy Counsel,
ACLU National Political Advocacy Department
Chris Rickerd,
Senior Policy Counsel,
ACLU National Political Advocacy Department
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November 14, 2018

Before Dec. 7, Congress will have to make a decision: Will they reward the department responsible for separating families, jailing immigrants, raiding communities of color, and abusing its power at the border by increasing it budget? Or will they stand up and rein in Trump’s detention and deportation force?

The Department of Homeland Security is currently funded by a continuing resolution, a short-term bill that extends its budget from last year. It was passed in late September so that Congress could avoid a messy budget fight before the midterm elections. On Dec. 7, it will expire at midnight.

By that time, Congress has to decide how it will fund the government next year — a negotiation that really comes down to how it will fund DHS, as The Washington Post reported. Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is treating funding for a border wall as a foregone conclusion, while Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), his counterpart on the House of Representatives side, said on Tuesday she isn’t interested in negotiating. Republicans, therefore, are going to try to jam through their anti-immigrant agenda in the last gasp of their majority in the House of Representatives, including increased funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection as well as billions of dollars for a border wall.

This is reprehensible and irresponsible, which is why more than 200 organizations wrote to congressional leadership today asking them to pass another short-term continuing resolution for the department until the new Congress is in place. Agencies like ICE and CBP have long shown that their funding finances immoral and wasteful policies that harm immigrant and borderland communities as well as the American taxpayer. Year after year, these agencies are rewarded with increased funding. But in the wake of family separation — when DHS has yet to reunite all the families it separated — we must demand that members of Congress take a stand.

ICE is functioning as a rogue agency, free from oversight, consistently overspending the budget Congress gave them. Last year, Congress gave them a budget large enough to detain just under 40,000 immigrants. Now, they’re detaining an average of 44,000 immigrants —10 percent more than the funding allows. Even more shocking, there have been no consequences for ICE’s deliberate disregard for Congress.

But it’s not just how much money ICE, along with CBP, receives and overspends — it’s how that money is spent that is the problem. These agencies are the Trump administration’s key tool for terrorizing immigrants. They’re responsible for shamelessly separating families at the border and terrorizing immigrant communities throughout the country with warrantless searches. In the past year alone, they’ve harmed thousands of children who might never recover from the psychological torture of family separation. There are countless accounts of sexual abuse by ICE and Border Patrol agents as well as deaths in detention due to lack of medical or psychological care.

The moral and fiscal disasters, however, extend beyond ICE’s immigration enforcement to CBP’s border-wall construction.

This Congress has already spent more than $2 billion funding Trump’s wall. Families and communities directly affected by the wall are barely consulted before their ways of life are devastated. Border walls divide communities and tribal nations, cut through sensitive ecosystems, devastate the environment through flooding and species destruction, eviscerate the rights of private property owners, and contribute to thousands of migrant deaths. Nevertheless, the Senate has allocated an additional $1.6 billion and the House an even more ridiculous $5 billion for border wall construction this fiscal year.

Trump’s pre-election attempts to inflame divisions by creating an immigration crisis underscore how wrong it would be to reward his policies and behavior by further feeding his wall obsession. Even in the minority, Senate Democrats have the power to block more wall funding, and we ask them to fight against sacrificing border residents’ futures. Members of Congress have a responsibility to listen to their constituents, who rejected Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda at the ballot box.

Congress should pass a “clean” continuing resolution that would extend current spending levels and not add any additional funding to the more than $2 billion this Congress already allocated for border-wall construction as well as the billions more allocated for detention and enforcement. This would push the final decision of a long-term budget deal for DHS into the next Congress, where it belongs.

In the end, the choice is theirs: Will they be complicit in the facilitation of policies that abuse immigrants and harm border communities, or will they exercise their constitutional power to speak for the people?

Ask your members of Congress to oppose wall funding and immigration enforcement increases in the 2019 DHS budget.

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