The Defund Hate Coalition responds to scarcity language in DHS memo, calls for significant cuts in funding to ICE and CBP

For Immediate Release

January 21, 2021

Media Contact:
Yesenia Padilla
 [email protected]

Washington, D.C. — President Biden's first day was marked by decisive and swift action on immigration and border policy, including a memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement and a 100-day moratorium on deportations.  

These actions are welcomed, however, in several instances the memo references “limited resources” and the need to “surge resources” to DHS. The Defund Hate Coalition which calls for significant cuts in funding to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is concerned with this language since the federal government wastes more than $25 billion each year on ICE and CBP to profile, jail, and deport immigrants and militarize border communities. 

Both ICE and CBP have seen astronomical budget growth while patterns of abuse, mismanagement of funds and a complete disregard for congressional oversight continue to plague the agencies. Recent and noteworthy evidence on ICE and CBP includes: 

  • ICE’s budget has grown by about 40 percent since 2016 while CBP’s budget has grown by 30 percent.
  • In the 2020 fiscal year 21 people died in ICE custody — the highest death toll in 15 years.  CBP’s decades-long track record of rights abuses and impunity has greatly intensified over the past four years. These include the unaccountable deaths of six children in custody, family separationsarrests of children receiving urgent medical care, and the BORTAC tactical unit’s seizure of protesters in Portland.
  • In 2019 CBP requested millions of dollars in emergency funding for medical supplies, but then wasted this money on ATVs and dirt bikes for their own use
  • At its apex in August 2019, ICE was detaining a historic high of more than 55,000 people on any given day15,000 more than they were funded for. To compensate they raided money from other government accounts that month.
  • In 2019, ICE transferred $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to operate the so-called “Migrant Protections Protocol,” an illegal program that has turned tens of thousands of asylum seekers back from the border.  

Members of the Defund Hate campaign issued the following statements:

Vicki B. Gaubeca, Director at the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said: 

“The Department of Homeland Security budget was inflated by the previous administration to further the militarization of the southern border region and to continue to attack immigrants and those who live, work and travel through our region. While we applaud President Biden’s new approach towards rights-respecting border governance and away from unaccountable enforcement, we recognize that it’s only a first step. We need to not just halt all wall construction and not give the wall a penny more, but start to repair the deep harms from border walls — beginning by taking down as soon as possible the most harmful stretches of wall, ending all eminent domain cases, and providing reparations for communities most harmed by border wall construction, including tribal communities — and shift investments into things like healthcare, education, and job training that help us reach our full potential. We also need to invest in efficient, modern ports of entry to drive our national economy and welcome border region residents and newcomers alike.”

Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream, said: 

“Supported by an ever-growing budget, abuses at the hands of ICE and CBP have gone unchecked for far too long. Under the Trump administration, these agencies transformed into an even deadlier weapon that has been used to disproportionately detain, deport and kill Black and brown immigrants, highlighting the ways trauma and punishment have been the core framework of our country's immigration system. In order to heal and move forward as a community, President Biden must step up and be bold in radically reimagining, transforming and investing in an entirely new immigration system where safety, community, and humanity replace the cruel enforcement apparatus as central tenets."

Tori Bateman, Policy Advocacy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, said: 

“It is deeply troubling that the Biden administration – which has pledged to reform the immigration system – is using language of scarcity when talking about the resources available to immigration enforcement agencies. In fact, Congress just gave ICE enough money to detain about 18,000 more people per day than are currently in detention! The problem isn't limited resources – it’s that resources are being used to jail and deport members of our communities. We need policies that release people from detention and instead fund legal services and community resources that everyone can access.”

Heidi Altman, Director of Policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), said:

"NIJC is eager to work with the Biden administration to ensure that the promise offered by the deportation moratorium is realized. In order for that to happen, DHS must quickly and dramatically reduce the number of people in ICE detention and immediately begin developing a process to end the use of detention entirely and terminate ICE contracts with county jails and private prisons, starting with the facilities with the worst track records of abuse and corruption. Nearly 15,000 people's lives are now in the administration's hands, in dangerous ICE detention centers and at risk during a pandemic.”

Gabriela Viera, Advocacy Manager at Detention Watch Network, said:

“ICE and CBP’s budgets have seen massive growth over the past five years. Bigger budgets have not resulted in better conditions in custody, but rather have proven that the problem is the agency themselves and the systems they operate. Despite being amid a global pandemic where outbreaks in detention have been rampant and resulted in deaths, ICE wasted resources by entering into multi-billion dollar contracts to incarcerate thousands of more people in Texas and California and lock in detention capacity for years to come. These agencies are rotten to the core. Dramatically cutting funding to ICE and CBP must be a priority in the President’s budget proposal, including at minimum a 75 percent cut to the detention budget.”

Clara Long, Associate Director in the US Program at Human Rights Watch, said:

“Rather than ‘surging resources’ to the border, the Biden administration should focus on ensuring that border agencies respect the basic rights of migrants, asylum seekers and border communities. History shows that more money, particularly for Customs and Border Protection, is not a solution to human rights abuses at the border.” 

Oscar Chacon, Executive Director at Alianza Americas, said: 

“We call on the new Administration to redefine and restrict the criteria under which people in removal proceedings, including asylum seekers, are detained, and establish a maximum period of detention, after which they must be released.”

Patrice Lawence, Co-Director at UndocuBlack Network, said: 

Where we as a country spend our money reveals our values. The values of dignity, justice and equity means that the next round of appropriations must see no new money to ICE and CBP and instead a restructuring of funds to provide capacity and resources so the following is achieved: free people from cages and get them home in their communities in the United States; quick and efficient positive processing of current green card applications and expansion of quotas so visa backlogs are cleared quicklyUndocuBlack is a multi-generational network of Black undocumented people across the U.S. and we are still reeeling from unspeakable loss, death and deportations of our members and their loved ones during the last four years. We must allow these stories to be the wind in our sails making decisive demands on day one. Moving forward is going to require radical courage from the Biden administration to stand for justice. We can’t go back to business as usual. This country must urgently defund hate once and for all.”

Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO at Church World Service, said:

"Family and immigrant detention is against the values of our faith and our belief in an immigration system rooted in compassion. We are firmly opposed to any policy or action that would continue the documented abuse, both of individuals in their care and of funding, by ICE and CBP. Families are the basic unit of our communities, so when we fund detention and deportation, when we militarize the border, we are actively undermining the basic building blocks of our nation. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to reversing the mistakes of the past and building a better system than we’ve ever seen.”

Mary Small, Acting National Policy Director at Indivisible, said: 

“Indivisible applauds the initial actions of the Biden administration in its efforts to reform our cruel and inhuman immigration policies. Undocumented citizens have been terrorized by federal agents for far too long. As we move forward, we hope this administration understands that a ‘lack of resources’ or ‘underfunding’ is not the issue with ICE and CBP. These agencies have had far too much at their disposal to carry out a racist and xenophobic agenda, and should not see an increase in funding or staffing.“


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. Instead, 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.


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