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Policy Experts, Advocates Discuss DHS Transfer of $271 Million to Pay for More Trump Immigrant Detention

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A recording of the call is available here. 

Earlier today, policy experts and advocates discussed the newly-revealed transfer of $271 million from top-priorities such as disaster relief to pay for tremendous overspending on mass immigrant detention and funding of the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) – a striking 40 percent increase from what Congress approved for fiscal year 2019.

On the call, speakers discussed how the transfer is nothing more than a DHS-backed effort by the Trump administration to fuel its anti-immigrant agenda, and called on Congress to impose meaningful accountability measures in the fiscal year 2020 spending bill.

Kerri Talbot, Director of Federal Advocacy at the DC Immigration Hub, said, “The Department of Homeland Security will be pulling from various homeland security accounts including FEMA, the Coast Guard, and TSA to fund its detention and deportation agenda, blatantly ignoring congressional direction and allocated appropriations. We’ll continue to see a rise in detention rates, all while they block asylum seekers and force them to wait, despite the dangers, in Mexico or Central America. This is all part of the White House’s ongoing attacks on immigrants and people of color.”

Heidi Altman, Director of Policy at National Immigrant Justice Center, said, “The document DHS has sent over to Congress stands as a clear reflection of the priorities the White House is advancing, and those priorities are shameful. The administration has – again – prioritized the jailing and deportation of immigrants over the safety and well-being of all of our communities. Congress must guard against these abuses in the 2020 funding cycle: there is no excuse for the abdication of oversight that allows these abuses to continue.”

Julio Lopez, Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy, said, “As we come up on the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria and are watching for what Tropical Storm Dorian may bring to Puerto Rico, we know that the island is far from recovered, with more than 30,000 still living under FEMA tarps. Taking needed recovery aid to weaponize it against families seeking refuge shows once again how this administration devalues the lives of immigrants and people of color. One thing is becoming clear, nature is not the enemy of our communities, it’s the man made disasters that enable the destruction of our communities to fulfill the Trump agenda.”

Madhuri Grewal, Policy Counsel for American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Under President Trump, DHS is consistently seizing funds that were meant for crucial government services and redirecting taxpayer dollars to jail and deport more immigrants, and support its unlawful policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. The agency’s reckless disregard for constitutional checks and balances has grown its budget to the largest ever — and led to the detention of an unprecedented number of immigrants. An agency that cannot be trusted to maintain its spending within the bounds set by Congress, that consistently disregards congressional authority and the Constitution, and continues to inflict pain and suffering in our communities and at the border should not be rewarded. Congress must restrict the agency’s ability to manipulate the budget process and cut funding for ICE and CBP. ”

Gabriela Viera, Advocacy Associate at Detention Watch Network, said, “Throughout this administration, the detention and deportation budget has ballooned by over $1 billion, and right now, we’re just watching these same strategies play out again. This is ICE purposely mismanaging its money and abusing its authority to subvert Congressional intent. It’s the fuel behind this administration’s clear directive to detain as many people as possible without any discretion or due process. Congress must cut funds to ICE and CBP and eliminate the agency’s ability to transfer and reprogram funds.”

Mary Small, Legislative Director at Indivisible, said, “This unethical money grab is further proof that the administration is willing to ignore vulnerable people to inflict harm on immigrant communities and asylum seekers. Using funds that could be vital for humanitarian assistance in the event of a disaster to instead expand detention and implement the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is an example of how this administration will go out of its way to maximize cruelty. As part of the funding bill for DHS this fall, Congress must end ICE’s transfer and reprogramming authority to stop these abuses.”