The Defund Hate campaign’s 2020 messaging study showed that positive, values-based messaging can help build public support for significant cuts to ICE and CBP. Use the guidance below to plan your outreach.
Core messages that work
Our research showed that many demographic and geographic groups were moved by similar, values-based messaging. The messages below can be adapted to fit your organization’s unique voice and goals or tailored for different audiences. Use these messages across your communications, including talking points, op-eds, speeches, and social media posts.
In the United States, every person should be treated with dignity and respect.
- The federal government should not abuse or mistreat people, no matter where they were born or how they came to the United States. Treating people with cruelty goes against our values.
People—including children and the elderly—are dying at the hands of ICE and CBP. These agencies are plagued by system-wide abuses.
- ICE and CBP have heartlessly taken thousands of children away from their parents, abused and neglected people in unsanitary jails and detention centers, and allowed hundreds of people to die in their custody.
ICE and CBP consistently reject oversight and accountability.
- ICE and CBP jail people in unsanitary, overcrowded facilities and suffer no consequences for endangering the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of people.
- ICE and CBP spend taxpayer money recklessly, raiding millions in disaster relief funds to instead spend on jailing, abusing and deporting immigrants.
The federal government wastes more than $23 billion each year on jailing, abusing and deporting immigrants.
- Immigrants—our family members, friends, and neighbors—make our country stronger. Wasting money on abusing, jailing and deporting immigrants—instead of investing in better health care and education for all of us—holds back progress for the whole country.
- Certain politicians and lobbyists for private prison companies that jail immigrants are invested in this status quo. They’re rigging the budget to enrich themselves, while they distract us by telling us to fear people of different races or places of origin.
- ICE and CBP budgets have grown astronomically, and the facilities they jail people in have only grown bigger. Under ICE and CBP’s watch, more people are suffering—and dying—than ever before.
Getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and providing economic relief, are our top priorities.
- Wasting taxpayer money on immigration enforcement means there is less money for our priorities, like controlling the pandemic and providing economic relief.
- The pandemic has shown that we need to invest taxpayer dollars in the things that benefit all of us: ending the pandemic, economic relief, healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
We can do better.
- The U.S. needs a fair and humane approach to immigration, one that respects every immigrant and invests tax dollars in programs that benefit all of us.
Congress must cut funding for ICE and CBP.
- Instead of giving billions of taxpayer dollars to ICE and CBP to jail immigrants, the federal government must redirect federal tax dollars to health care, education, housing, infrastructure, and programs that benefit all of us.
- It’s time to stop writing a blank check to agencies that waste taxpayer dollars and undermine our values.
The U.S. should welcome every immigrant with programs grounded in our communities.
- Fairness, dignity, and respect should be at the core of our immigration system.
- The federal government should allow people navigating immigration cases to live with friends, family or neighbors. It should provide them with access to community-based case management and support services, including access to social service programs and trauma specialists.
Messaging guidance for progressives
Our research showed a number of ways to reach a key group likely to take action on this issue: progressives who view ICE and CBP negatively, and who believe that immigrants have a positive impact on the United States. These respondents were overwhelmingly Democratic and people of color, including the following sub-groups: younger Democrats, women of color, younger people of color, people of color without a college degree, non-Christians, and young people ages 18 to 34.
Use these recommendations tailored to mobilize a progressive audience:
DO highlight deaths in ICE and CBP custody and the agencies’ rejection of oversight and accountability.
- When presented with more than a dozen arguments for cutting funding for ICE and CBP, 61% of progressives responded that this messaging was one of the top three most persuasive messages to them (relative to 31% of the general voter pool).
DO highlight ICE and CBP’s abusive treatment of the thousands of immigrants they jail, including children, putting all these individuals at risk for long-lasting physical, mental, and emotional trauma.
- When presented with more than a dozen arguments for cutting funding for ICE and CBP, 47% of progressives responded that this messaging was one of the top three most persuasive messages to them (relative to 22% of the general voter pool).
DO emphasize family separation.
- When presented with more than a dozen arguments for cutting funding for ICE and CBP, 24% of progressives responded that this messaging was one of the top three most persuasive messages to them (relative to 12% of the general voter pool).
DO test messages that focus on the human suffering and abuse that ICE and CBP inflict.
- Our research showed that progressives were moved by messaging that talked about the human toll of ICE and CBP's many abuses. But we also know from research on related issues that this can contribute to crisis fatigue among our supporters, ultimately leading to burnout and a decrease in motivation to act. Consider testing these messages against others to see what works best for your own supporters, as well as pairing these kinds of messages with positive calls to action to temper the potential for burnout with a sense of hope and purpose.
DON’T lead with the message that our immigration system is ineffective when communicating with a progressive audience.
- When presented with more than a dozen arguments for cutting funding for ICE and CBP, only 13% of progressives responded that messaging about our immigration system as ineffective was one of the top three most persuasive messages to them (relative to 30% of the general voter pool).