Letter to the Hon. Richard Shelby, Sen. Committee on Appropriations Chairman, the Hon. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, the Hon. Shelly Moore Capito, Chairwoman, and the Hon. Jon Tester, Ranking Member - Demand Rejection of Trump's Deportation Force Budget Request


Dear Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Leahy, Chairwoman Capito and Ranking Member Tester:

As your Committee considers fiscal year 2019 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we ask you to reject President Trump's FY19 funding request for a costly and ineffective border wall, new Border Patrol agents, and a large increase in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel and detention beds. We urge you to reduce funding for the administration's reckless immigration enforcement operations that are tearing families apart and harming our economy. We are particularly concerned about the threat that such operations pose to former and current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who are now at risk as a result of the administration's unilateral and callous decision to end the program.

Under current funding levels, the Administration has expanded immigration enforcement within American communities in an indiscriminate manner, failing to distinguish Dreamers and other hardworking individuals with deep community ties from actual threats to our public safety. ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made repeated statements confirming that ICE is no longer adhering to enforcement priorities that focus resources on individuals who pose the greatest public safety threats. Homan has repeatedly declared, for example, that, "No population is off the table."[1]

During Fiscal Year 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrests of individuals without criminal convictions doubled compared to the prior year.[2] During the last three months of 2017, ICE arrests of individuals who had no criminal background tripled compared to the same period the prior year.[3] Further, over the past year, ICE ERO has dramatically ramped up immigration raids targeting American workplaces and neighborhoods.[4] DHS has articulated no strategy for how it will ensure that Dreamers are not caught up in the expanding enforcement net.

In line with our deep concern about the Administration's embrace of indiscriminate enforcement, we urge the Committee to reduce funding for beds in the federal immigration detention system. This system is plagued by limited oversight and accountability and inhumane conditions -- multiple federal oversight bodies have identified extreme management shortcomings, including deficient contracting practices and a lack of reasonable inspections.[5] Immigration detention facilities do not adhere to a consistent set of performance-based standards, allowing for unsanitary, dangerous, and even life-threatening conditions within some facilities.[6] We are also alarmed by the Administration's announcement of a new policy to expand detention of pregnant women and reporting that DHS is also frequently separating immigrant families and holding children in federal custody for prolonged periods.[7] We cannot in good conscience support funding immigration detention beds that may be used for such cruel purposes.

We also strongly urge the Committee to reject any funding for President Trump's border wall, estimated to cost up to $70 billion, not including projected maintenance.[8] Rigorous study of border security needs and the relative effectiveness of technology and infrastructure investments is essential before Congress appropriates any funds for the construction of a wall along the southwestern border. Investment in port-of-entry security and technologies to monitor border crossings would be a much more effective border security investment than a physical wall. A wall, in fact, would do little to aid federal drug interdiction efforts as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has found -- and DHS officials have publicly admitted -- that drugs entering the U.S. from Mexico by land are mostly concealed in passenger vehicles and tractor trailers entering through ports of entry, while drugs from other sources mostly enter the country via plane and boat.[9]

We urge the Committee additionally to reject President Trump's proposal for funding to hire new Border Patrol personnel at this time. The current Border Patrol workforce is smaller in size than is statutorily authorized and the agency suffers from well-documented challenges in retention of personnel.[10] This stems in part from management failures to retain the talent of existing Border Patrol agents, who face insufficient job mobility and pay. Rather than increase the size of the Border Patrol, current agents should be supported with retention incentives, enhanced training and improved guidance to promote the highest standards of integrity and to enhance public safety.

The Trump administration has fueled great anxiety and undermined the public safety of communities nationwide with its embrace of indiscriminate immigration enforcement. We cannot support the appropriation of funds that may be used by federal officials to support efforts to arrest, detain, and deport Dreamers who have needlessly been placed in a circumstance of immense fear and insecurity by this administration.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and for your considerable efforts on the omnibus appropriations bill.