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Letter to Sen. Richard Riley, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee - Feinstein, Colleagues Oppose Funding for Administration's Cruel Immigration Policies


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

As your Committee considers fiscal year 2020 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations, we ask that you reduce funding for the administration's reckless immigration enforcement and detention operations that are tearing families apart and harming the American economy. We also ask that you include language limiting the DHS Secretary's ability to transfer funds for the purpose of detaining immigrants. Furthermore, we urge you to reject President Trump's FY20 request for a significant increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel and detention beds, as well as his request to fund construction of his costly and ineffective border wall.

First, consistent with our deep concern regarding the administration's embrace of indiscriminant enforcement, we urge the Committee to reduce funding for beds in the federal immigration detention system. The immigration detention system is plagued by limited oversight and accountability and inhumane conditions. Federal oversight bodies have identified extreme management shortcomings, including deficient contracting policies and a lack of reasonable inspections. ICE immigration detention facilities and ICE contractors often fail to comply with ICE's own set of performance-based standards of care for detainees, and ICE does not have systems in place to provide for the comprehensive correction of deficiencies. According to a report published by the DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), problems in ICE detention facilities undermine the protection of detainee rights, the humane treatment of detainees, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment. We are alarmed by the reported mistreatment and abuse of pregnant women in these facilities that in some cases resulted in dehydration, bleeding, and miscarriage, as well as reported instances of coercion and abuse of detained separated parents who have been compelled to forgo their legal rights--including their right to reunify with their children. We cannot in good conscience support increased funding for immigration detention beds that effectively sustain such cruel purposes.

Second, we urge the Committee to reject President Trump's request for funding to hire additional ICE agents at this time. Under current funding levels, the administration has expanded immigration enforcement within American communities indiscriminately, failing to distinguish hardworking individuals with deep community ties and no criminal record from individuals convicted of a serious crime. According to recently released data, ICE has set a record for arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record--arresting an average of 4,219 undocumented immigrants without a criminal record for each month of the Trump administration. Congress should not support an unjustified increase in support for interior enforcement that separated numerous mixed-status families and traumatized American children.

Third, we request that you include the following legislative language: "Notwithstanding Section 503 of this Act or any other provision of law, ICE shall not obligate more than the amount that is appropriated by this Act for enforcement, detention and removal operations." Congress must reassert its prerogative to determine the quantity of funds available to the Department of Homeland Security for specific purposes and return detention funding to Fiscal Year 2016 levels.

Finally, we strongly urge the Committee to reject funding for President Trump's border wall. A border wall would do little to aid drug interdiction efforts, as the majority of narcotics entering the U.S. from Mexico by land move primarily through our ports--a fact confirmed by DHS and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Instead, supporting the use of new technologies to monitor border crossings at ports-of-entry represents a better investment in border security. President Trump's attempt to secure funding for his border wall by circumventing Congress and declaring a national emergency would siphon funds from critical programs such as the Department of Defense's drug interdiction program and the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund. Congress must resist efforts to raid critical and effective public safety programs in order to pay for political theatrics. The president's manufactured emergency cannot justify spending taxpayer dollars on an ineffective wall.

We cannot support the appropriation of funds that would expand this administration's unnecessarily cruel immigration enforcement policies, its inhumane immigrant detention systems, or its efforts to build the president's vanity project.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.