The U.S. immigration system is filled with suffering, inequality, and incarceration. Policies and political talking points that criminalize migration and reject the right to asylum are deeply embedded in the federal government’s funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Right now, Congress is preparing its 2023 spending legislation. These appropriations bills will define federal migration priorities for the upcoming year.
Right now, Congress is preparing its 2023 spending legislation. These appropriations bills will define federal migration priorities for the upcoming year. Sadly, choices around spending are often disconnected from the real and immediate impact it has on the lives of millions.
What follows is an analysis of migration-related appropriations proposals as of the start of the August 2022 Congressional recess and our recommendations for a path forward.
Where are we in the appropriations process?
The House and Senate recently released drafts of several spending bills for the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23), including funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for immigration enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which administers several important programs, including funding for refugee resettlement and care for unaccompanied migrant children, and the State Department’s migration and refugee work. Both branches of Congress are now working to refine their funding proposals with the goal of reconciling the different versions of the bills and passing a law defining government spending levels for the coming year.
From what we’ve seen so far, unfortunately, Congress continues to prioritize spending for immigration enforcement, while neglecting the needs of immigrants and their families.
- Funding that sustains the mass incarceration of migrants: The proposals include over $8 billion for ICE, continuing Trump-era levels of enforcement spending. This funding, which reduces the overall number of detention beds, will still support the daily detention of 25,000 adults.
- Increased Dollars for Border Patrol: The Senate proposed $16.4 billion for border patrol, nearly $700 million more than House and $1.7 billion above last year’s levels. This funding perpetuates an immigration system focused on prosecution. When we organize our immigration system around enforcement, immigrants experience higher rates of racial profiling, family separation, and a greater likelihood of detention.
- Dangerous Proposal to Keep out Asylum Seekers: Also included in both the House’s HHS and Homeland Security bills are amendments that indefinitely extend Title 42, the Trump-era policy that uses public health as an excuse to block the right to asylum.
- Addressing environmental concerns caused by the border wall: Both DHS bills include instructions to repurpose border wall funding for initiatives such as environmental mitigation.
- Improvements to the Legal Process: The House and Senate proposals include funding to shorten wait times for immigration hearings and for migrants to access legal representation..
- Investments in Programs for Asylum Seekers: The Senate has also proposed $15 million for a case management pilot project for asylum seekers, which ICE will not operate—a positive step we hope will be expanded as a more humane alternative to detention.
- Funds for Refugee Resettlement: The Senate’s HHS bill adds more than $1 billion to the House’s nearly $8 billion allocation for refugee and entrant services. This is a needed step toward providing necessary services for refugees and at-risk communities.
Some Progress, but Needs Improvement
While Congress continues to invest aggressively in immigration enforcement, funding for humane migration assistance lags behind.
While Congress continues to invest aggressively in immigration enforcement, support for humane migration assistance lags behind. The proposed spending levels for FY23 increase humanitarian assistance for migrants and refugees affected by disasters but fall billions of dollars short of funding the government’s migration and refugee accounts.
As we continue to face unprecedented displacement, conflicts, and emergencies, we need funding that reflects a commitment to those impacted.
Next Steps for Migrant Rights
As Congress finalizes the government’s spending bills, our leaders must transition away from programs that mistreat migrants. We should instead invest in programs that prioritize people, their families, and human dignity. We can’t afford to underfund migration, refugee, and disaster relief accounts.
In the coming months, Congress will finalize the spending levels. This is a crucial time to advocate on behalf of those directly impacted by the U.S. immigration system.