The House of Representatives, emboldened by a new Democratic majority, passed a federal budget amendment Wednesday that would prohibit the government from transferring funds to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purposes of expanding immigrant detention facilities or building new ones.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) re-introduced the amendment, which was last heard on the House floor in August 2017, to address the roughly $200 million the Trump administration transferred from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and other government programs to fund detention beds and ICE’s Transportation and Removal Program.
“ICE continues to spend far above its appropriated funding to detain people, but these funds are being transferred from other critical agencies in clear violation of congressionally mandated funding,” Rep. Jayapal said on the House floor. “As of January 1, more than 48,000 people were being held in ICE custody even though they only have funding appropriated by Congress to detain 40,520 people.”
BREAKING: Congress just passed my amendment to bar @DHSgov disaster relief funding from being used for detention beds.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 16, 2019
The budget amendment was drafted with the help of Freedom For Immigrants, a non-profit dedicated to ending the mass detention of immigrants, and loosely modeled off a similar bill passed in the California legislature last year. The Dignity Not Detention Act prevents California city governments from entering new or modifying existing contracts with ICE for private or public detention facilities, effectively limiting the growth of immigrant prisons across the state.
“The federal budget amendment would prevent more taxpayer dollars from being directed toward President Trump’s aggressive and unnecessary plans to expand U.S. immigration detention,” Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, said in a statement. “We urge Congressional Democrats to take action and vote for this small but powerful amendment.”
Democrats are intent on using their new majority in the House of Representatives to push back against the Trump administration’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund their draconian immigration policies.
The Government Accountability Office found in a report a “number of inconsistencies and error’s in ICE’s own calculations for its congressional budget justifications. While ICE officials stated their budget documents undergo multiple reviews to ensure accuracy, ICE was not able to provide any documentation of such reviews.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), the incoming chairwoman on the Appropriations’ subcommittee on Homeland Security, has stated one of the biggest items on her to-do list is increased oversight of immigration enforcement, including the treatment of detained children, pregnant women, and asylum seekers.
“Recent reports from the Inspector General of the Department have made clear that oversight of ICE detention facilities is currently ineffective,” Roybal-Allard told ThinkProgress in a statement. “We must ensure that immigrants are treated with dignity and respect while they are in the care of the U.S. government.”