1. Update
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

Congress: Choices on Immigration Supplemental Are Clear

By Hannah Graf Evans, March 17, 2017

President Trump’s recently released budget proposal includes a $3 billion supplemental funding request for the Department of Homeland Security for current fiscal year 2017. This supplemental money would begin fulfilling the January 25 immigration executive orders to create a deportation force, expand detention, and further militarize border communities.

FCNL strongly opposes these executive orders due to major concerns about what their implementation means for U.S. communities, especially in the absence of meaningful reforms to federal immigration laws. They offer no solutions to the real problem: a punitive, outdated, and overall broken immigration system. After 30 years of increased enforcement, the current system leaves millions of people who are part of the fabric of the United States with no available option to stay with their families and communities, and pursue lawful immigration status.

In determining whether to fulfill President Trump’s supplemental funding request, we ask members of Congress to consider the choices before them.

Create a Deportation Force or Support Community Safety?

President Trump requested $1.2 billion to build capacity to hire more immigration agents in the field, expand the 287(g) program, which deputizes local police to serve as federal immigration enforcement agents, and expand detention and deportation capabilities.

Already, the enforcement actions following the executive orders that target a wider swath of immigrants have driven even more people underground or into sanctuary. Immigration enforcement agencies have taken new liberties after the orders, including checking IDs of passengers exiting domestic flights and lurking outside of church-run hypothermia shelters. U.S. communities will not be safe if a certain contingent is so at risk of unjust deportation or family separation that they fear leaving their houses, accessing critical protection services, or reporting a crime.

The Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, and the Conference of Mayors & Major Cities Chiefs Association have all issued statements outlining how the implementation of these executive orders make communities they serve less safe. Congress should heed their call, and not fund the creation of a deportation force that would wreak further havoc in U.S. communities without offering opportunities for immigrants to access the immigration system.

Expand Immigration Detention or Increase Equitable Access to Justice?

The supplemental request also includes money to increase the number of beds in immigrant detention to 45,700 on a daily basis by September 2017.

Within the current system, immigrants are detained - sometimes indefinitely - as they await their cases or deportation proceedings. Immigrants in detention have a hard time accessing legal assistance, and it’s rare to find adequate pro-bono services. Expanding detention means even fewer people will have adequate access to legal recourse and due process before deportation. Furthermore, this expansion would be far from temporary; Congress would be allocating additional funds for permanent infrastructure and new multi-year contracts with private prison companies.

Last November, FCNL called on the Obama administration to implement immigrant detention policy changes including an end the practice of contracting with private, for-profit corporations to build and run immigrant detention centers, cease detaining families, asylum-seekers, and other vulnerable migrant populations, and invest in community-based, non-restrictive alternatives to detention. We call on the Trump administration to the do the same. Congress should use the “power of the purse” to ensure no funds are used for permanent expanded immigration detention capacity at the expense of access to justice.

Increase Border Militarization or Enact Community-Oriented Border Reform?

The supplemental requests $1.4 billion for additional border wall construction, surveillance technology deployment, and infrastructure development. This is in addition to $286 million for to begin the process of hiring additional CBP agents, with no articulated plan to remedy the history of impunity within the agency.

The U.S.-Mexico border is home to vibrant, bi-national and indigenous communities, full of wildlife, and made up of federal and private lands. Many in these communities have articulated that a wall and further militarization will adversely affect their quality of life. Elected officials and leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation have also lent their voices opposing the construction of a 30-foot, concrete wall.

Communities have asked for border reforms that would bring more accountability to Department of Homeland Security officials and engage stakeholders in policy development. We encourage Congress to work towards community-oriented border policy reform and refuse to go forward with funding a costly, ineffective, and detrimental project.

Congress: Advance Meaningful Reform, Not Endless Enforcement

Funding the executive orders is not a one-time cost. It would result in permanent, expensive changes to the immigration enforcement machinery and billions of dollars spent without addressing the problem: a punitive, outdated immigration system.

The choice is clear: Congress should oppose President Trump’s supplemental request implementing the border and immigration enforcement executive orders.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Former Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans led FCNL's lobbying for compassionate immigration and refugee policies, with a particular focus on detention practices, the rights of border communities, and protection of vulnerable communities. Hannah served as co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition steering committee for three years.