BREAKING: U.S. House of Representatives Approves Federal Budget Amendment to Prevent Transfer of Disaster Relief Funds to ICE

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a federal budget amendment introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and drafted with the support of Freedom for Immigrants to halt the growth of U.S. immigration detention. Specifically, the amendment to the FY19 supplemental appropriations prohibits the government from transferring disaster relief funds to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purpose of building or expanding immigration detention facilities.

“The federal budget amendment is designed to prevent more taxpayer dollars from being directed toward President Trump’s aggressive and unnecessary plans to expand U.S. immigration detention,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit that provides support to detained individuals. “This is really a historic moment, signaling a change in the political tide toward a more humane response to migration. Since the early 1980s, Congress has passed increasingly aggressive policies under both Democratic and Republican leadership that has resulted in a system that imprisons 48,000 immigrants, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking every day. Today, the House voted in favor of dignity not detention.”  

This amendment was last heard on the House floor in August 2017, and 180 Democrats voted in favor.  Only 5 Democrats opposed. Since then, we have seen this administration implement a draconian policy at the border, which separated 8,000 parents and children, and in the interior of the country.  We have seen the Trump administration, without any Congressional approval, transfer nearly $10 million meant for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ICE.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) diverted over $200 million from other agencies, including $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard, and even from other programs within ICE all for the purpose of detaining and deporting immigrants.  

Freedom for Immigrants worked with Rep. Jayapal to draft this amendment, which takes a cue from California’s Dignity Not Detention Act. The Dignity Not Detention Act, which went into effect January 2018, in conjunction with an amendment to California’s budget bill, AB 103, prevents California municipalities from entering into new, or modifying existing, contracts with ICE for private and public immigration detention facilities, thereby halting the growth of immigrant prisons and jails in the state.

“This move will prevent the federal government from squandering taxpayer dollars on expanding a system that routinely violates the human rights of immigrants. We look forward to working with our elected leaders in the coming years to significantly diminish if not abolish immigration detention in these United States,” said Fialho.