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Trump Administration Transfers FEMA Funds to Expand Immigration Detention

Trump Administration Transfers FEMA Funds to Expand Immigration Detention

Published: August 28, 2019

The Defund Hate campaign protests in the Senate Rotunda to honor those who have died in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to demand cuts in funding to both agencies.

Photo: AFSC / Carl Roose

Defund Hate Coalition Members Call on Congress to Oppose any Transfer of Money to ICE

WASHINGTON, DC —  Yesterday, news broke that the Trump administration is transfering $271 million in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding -- including $158 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and $116 million from the Coast Guard -- to expand immigration detention and fund Trump’s dangerous “Remain in Mexico” program. 

In response, the Defund Hate Coalition issued the following statement:  

We call on Congress to publicly speak out against  any transfer or reprogramming of DHS funds that would expand the ICE detention system or Trump’s “Remain in Mexico Program.” It is egregious that the Trump administration is once again taking money from FEMA during hurricane season to expand an already deadly and inhumane immigrant detention system. Clearly, they are more committed to locking up immigrants than to ensuring public safety.

DHS has continued its pattern of massively overspending its budget in order to expand immigration jails, border militarization, and interior enforcement. Congress funded DHS in fiscal year 2019 with a clear directive for ICE to reduce the number of people it jailed to 40,500 by year’s end. Yet today, less than two months from the end of the fiscal year, ICE is locking up an unprecedented 55,000 people each day-- in clear breach of congressional intent.

Congress has allowed ICE to get away with this fiscal mismanagement because of the discretion it gives DHS under current appropriations law to move money within and between accounts through mechanisms known as transfers and reprogramming. A DHS official bragged to the press in February that the agency intended to use its transfer discretion to continue to expand ICE detention despite congressional instruction to shrink the system. Last year, DHS also made the dangerous choice to transfer millions away from the Federal Emergency Management Administration during hurricane season in order to make up for ICE’s 2018 overspending on detention.

We were glad to see that Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard did not concur with the transfer request. But more is needed from Congress. 

The Defund Hate Coalition calls on members of Congress, particularly congressional appropriators, to pass a fiscal year 2020 spending bill that finally puts an end to DHS’s ability to manipulate the appropriations process to expand the immigration detention and deportation systems and significantly cuts funding to ICE and CBP. 

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The Defund Hate campaign, composed of organizations representing directly impacted communities, faith leaders, and civil rights and immigrant rights advocates, is committed to divestment from agencies that tear apart our families and terrorize our communities. For too long, our representatives have said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement and deadly immigration jails. They must be held accountable to keep their promises and stand with the immigrant community. We call on our members of Congress to say no and vote against wasting taxpayer dollars on an abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system. We want our tax dollars used to strengthen our families and communities by investing in education, housing, nutrition and health care programs that provide opportunity and increase well-being.