1. Update
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

Immigration Enforcement Spending at Historic High in FY19 Omnibus

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) need meaningful oversight and reduced spending authority.

By Gabriela Viera, Hannah Graf Evans, February 15, 2019


FCNL remains committed to seeking reduced spending and emphasis on detention and border militarization. We urge members of Congress not to use current historic levels of enforcement spending as the starting baseline for upcoming negotiations.

While the omnibus passed last week provided much needed relief and stability to millions relying on government programs, services, and jobs, it also included a concerted increase in both border militarization and immigrant detention.

Fencing & Walls

While President Trump’s full request went unfulfilled, the $1.375 billion for physical barriers included in the bill for 55 new miles plus $100 million for increased surveillance between ports of entry will further disrupt communities on our border. It will also force migrants into dangerous routes as they make their journey to the United States. Walls are costly, damaging to ecosystems and economies, and do not deter forced migration.

We unequivocally oppose President Trump’s choice to circumvent congressional spending authority to further expand construction of barriers. The real national emergency is that of separated children, lethal detention conditions, illegal asylum bans, and congressional apathy to these crises. Unchecked spending on border enforcement and more barrier construction is no solution. We urge Congress to ensure that tax dollars are being spent responsibly and that border communities’ needs are being met.

Letter 41 Faith Leaders: A Border Wall is Immoral 

Today, President Trump announced a national emergency declaration in order to build the border wall. FCNL Executive Secretary Diane Randall joined 40 other faith leaders in a statement condemning the border wall as immoral.

Press Release Quaker Lobby Welcomes Budget Deal; Deplores National Emergency Declaration 

Washington, DC – The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) today welcomed the bipartisan budget agreement negotiated by Congress to keep the federal government funded through the rest of the fiscal year. However, FCNL deplores the declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.

Detention

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) also included an increase in ICE detention bed funding. While the bed number was marketed as a cut from the unprecedented 49,000 people behind bars this month, Congress only allocated funding for 40,520 beds in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). This bill allocates enough money to detain an average daily population in detention of 45,274 in FY19.

The underlying expectation is that ICE will have to lower the number of beds to around 40,000 by the end of this fiscal year to stretch their funding through the end of the year. However, in FY18 Congress tried the same thing. Instead of detaining fewer people, ICE transferred money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Coast Guard, and other DHS agencies into immigrant detention, allowing the number of people detained to reach historic highs.

ICE habitually overspends what is allocated to them and conditions in detention remain dire. The vast majority of immigrants navigating the system have no reason to be detained, yet we’ve seen ICE and CBP use detention on increasingly vulnerable populations including children, asylum seekers, pregnant women, and primary caregivers.

It is critically important that Congress conduct robust oversight over ICE detention practices and restrict DHS authority to transfer funds into ICE detention in Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20).

Looking Forward to Future Spending Processes

Every year Congress increases funding for a machinery of detention, deportation and border militarization, now spending around $26 billion annually. We urge Congress to reverse course in future negotiations and reduce spending on a punitive immigration system.

Here are two ways that your member of Congress can help speak out against this trend:

  • Make a public statement opposing new levels of DHS enforcement spending. Commit to working to invest instead in community-based alternatives to detention, legal services, and responsibly addressing the root causes of migration, such as poverty and violence in the Northern Triangle.

  • Weigh in publicly and directly with leadership about the need to increase oversight over ICE detention practices and restrict transfer authority into additional ICE detention in FY20.

Thank you for advocating for spending choices that protect the rights, safety, and dignity of migrants, refugees, and immigrants.

Gabriela Viera

  • Program Assistant, Immigration & Refugee Policy

As the Program Assistant for Immigration and Refugee Policy, Gabriela Viera lobbies for fair and just immigration policies. She meets with Congressional offices to ensure that supported legislation respects the humanity of vulnerable migrant populations. Her responsibilities also include providing the necessary research and support to maintain the connection between FCNL and our network.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans lobbies for compassionate immigration policies. Our immigration system should empower immigrants and the American communities to which they belong, lift up the voices of border communities, and ensure adequate protections for refugees, asylum-seekers and victims of trafficking. Hannah co-chairs the steering committee of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, made up of over 45 faith-based organizations.