The Defund Hate Coalition sends letter to congressional appropriators demanding they reject DHS' request to move funds to ICE for more immigration detention and enforcement efforts

July 27, 2022

The Defund Hate coalition, composed of 63 organizations, responds to DHS request for the transfer and reprogramming of funds to ICE

Dear Chairwoman Roybal-Allard, Ranking Member Fleischmann, Chairman Murphy, and Ranking Member Moore Capito,

The Defund Hate coalition, composed of 63 organizations that represent directly impacted immigrant communities, faith leaders, and civil and immigrant rights advocates, writes to urge you to respond to any notification from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the transfer and reprogramming of funds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with public nonconcurrence. For years, ICE has abused this authority as a tactic to undermine Congressional intent, over-spend its appropriated funds for detention and enforcement, and attain wasteful funding increases for the following fiscal year. We urge you to prevent ICE from continuing this pattern of misusing taxpayers dollars for abusive detention and enforcement programs.

On July 13, Axios reported that DHS submitted a notification to Congress of its intention to transfer and reprogram funding to compensate for a reported $345 million shortfall in ICE’s budget. The exact details of the money grab have not been disclosed to the public, perpetuating a dangerous pattern of secrecy regarding how taxpayer dollars are spent. However, ICE’s history demonstrates exactly how we can expect additional funding to be used. In 2019, ICE recklessly transferred over $270 million from other agencies—primarily from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as communities awaited hurricane season—to compensate for its overspending on immigration detention and implementation of the deadly “Remain in Mexico” policy. This harmful spending continues to align with the agency’s current operations. The Axios report refers to expenses like carrying out restrictive border policies and the explosive expansion of ICE’s harmful, so-called “Alternatives to Detention” (ATD) programming that surveils and restricts the liberty of people who could otherwise be navigating their cases freely in community. Meanwhile, ICE is also wasting millions on unused detention capacity, squandering taxpayers dollars on illogical detention contracts.

This is not where our federal dollars should be spent. Policies like “Remain in Mexico” and the Title 42 expulsion program are deadly for migrants—they force people seeking safety and opportunity in the U.S. into increasingly deadly routes to avoid the U.S. enforcement machinery. This inhumane deterrence-based approach, fueled by enforcement spending, is to blame for the incalculable loss of migrant lives, including the tragedy in San Antonio that left 53 people dead in an abandoned truck in June and the deaths of 17 Haitian migrants after a boat capsized on its way to Miami this week. Meanwhile, those who are apprehended and caught up in our immigration enforcement system also face punitive measures and systemic abuse. Earlier this month, four women courageously filed a sexual assault complaint against a male nurse at the Stewart Detention Center, and just last week, 15 more individuals filed a complaint on a range of abuses at the Baker County Detention Center, including excessive use of force, physical assaults, extreme medical neglect, racist harassment and retaliation. These complaints add to tens of thousands of assault complaints filed by people in ICE detention since 2010.

Congress needs to hold ICE accountable for its endless cycle of abuse, as well as its willful mismanagement of funds. The agency’s bloated budget has climbed from $3.3 billion annually in 2003 to $8.3 billion for fiscal year 2022. ICE has a history of ignoring Congress’ approved funding levels, blatantly manipulating the appropriations process to overspend, and relying on Congress to bail the agency out with increased funding the following year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE used its transfer and reprogramming authority in this way for four consecutive years. As the agency plans to waste more taxpayer dollars than ever before, yet faces even the minimal potential funding reductions outlined in existing proposals for the next fiscal year, it is unsurprising that it seeks to re-employ this tactic to ensure its continued growth.

As witnesses to the violence inflicted by our immigration enforcement system, Defund Hate partners understand the invariable outcome of ICE funding—the targeting, incarceration, and deportation of our immigrant community members. As you and your colleagues have done in the past, we urge you to use your leadership authority to send a message that ICE is accountable to Congress by issuing a public nonconcurrence and committing to reduce its FY23 appropriation for enforcement. 


The Defund Hate Coalition