At FCNL, we often talk about the federal budget as a moral document. At its core, it outlines the priorities of this country. Congress’s autumn has been full of important budget decisions, and these decisions have major economic and moral significance for immigration issues.
As lawmakers look towards finalizing the 2022 budget plan, we offer a review of recently enacted immigration-related funding legislation and currently debated spending proposals.
Here’s a look at existing immigration fiscal commitments and what’s at stake as negotiations unfold.
Lasting Protections for Undocumented Communities
Despite suffering generational instability due to congressional inaction, our undocumented siblings have selflessly supported this nation. Investing in undocumented communities—including the 5 million essential workers who tirelessly kept the United States afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic—is an overdue, conscientious spending decision.
Investing in undocumented communities is an overdue, conscientious spending decision.
In August 2021, the House and Senate made notable progress when they passed the first step in reconciliation legislation that could allocate $100 billion to provide work permits for undocumented immigrants and protections from the fear of deportation. Congress must continue this trajectory and clear a path to citizenship through future legislation.
Protections for the Persecuted and At-Risk
As people of faith, our call to welcome refugees and care for the vulnerable is rooted in scripture and our history. We were encouraged when the Biden administration announced a 125,000 person ceiling on refugee admissions for FY 2022, an increase from the dismally low 15,000 set by the previous administration.
Both the House and the Senate Democrats’ FY 2022 funding recommendations support this vision, proposing approximately $345 million for refugee programs and to reduce the enormous backlog of people waiting to have their applications for resettlement or asylum reviewed. These investments are urgently needed—the current backlog contains roughly 400,000 asylum seekers, with up to a four-year waiting period.
Of additional concern are the needs of Afghan arrivals to the United States, who were forced to flee their home following the withdrawal of U.S. troops earlier this year. The good news is that Congress has passed the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (H.R.5305) , which President Biden then signed into law. It provides $6.3 billion to facilitate refugee resettlement benefits for Afghans receiving humanitarian parole status, a protection that permits internationals who do not have a visa to enter the United States in times of emergency.
A Need for Humanitarian Border Reception and Alternatives to Detention
The U.S. government has the power to defund dangerous agencies that misuse funds, utilize abusive enforcement tactics, and promote inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees. Until both congressional chambers agree on funding for FY 2022, the temporary budget extensions will continue the Trump administration’s spending levels for detention, enforcement, and border militarization.
We hoped the new Congress and administration would reduce detention and focus on community-based alternatives. So far, this hasn’t been the case.
We hoped the new Congress and administration would reduce detention and focus on community-based alternatives. So far, this hasn’t been the case. Although family detention has been defunded, Democrats have proposed more than $2 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This spending would maintain an average daily population of 28,500 detention beds—more beds than the current detained population. Appallingly, the administration also plans to reopen detention facilities at Moshannon Valley Correctional Center and Berks County Detention Center. This is in complete contradiction to the administration’s commitments to end harmful immigration systems.
While the current Democrat-led appropriations recommendations would decrease funding for ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we remain deeply disappointed that these proposals continue to distribute more than $20 billion for these two agencies’ punitive immigration system. Government leaders must reject inhumane immigration practices and instead redirect funds to create welcoming and safe border practices, community-based programs for migrants, and alternatives to detention led by nonprofits—not ICE.
Accountability for Federal Funds
As long as federal funding supports agencies like ICE and CBP, vulnerable immigrant communities will continue to be targeted. Both Congress and the Biden administration must reverse harmful spending that sustains border militarization, unconscionable detention, and custody practices, and instead prioritize a just and accountable immigration infrastructure. We must be persistent in our advocacy for reductions to ICE and CBP funding and amplify the call for investments in our immigrant, migrant, and refugee communities.