WASHINGTON, D.C. — Immigrants expecting a rollback of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Democratic rule got a rude awakening Wednesday when the House Rules Committee published the updated text of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill being negotiated in Congress.
The bill increases ICE’s overall funding by $284.7 million, including a $57 million increase for the controversial Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO) division of the agency responsible for the detention and removal of immigrants.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who told Latino Rebels she will vote against any ICE funding in the omnibus. “When I was running and ever since, I pledged to not give one more dollar to ICE and I intend on keeping that promise.”
“I think what’s happening in Ukraine really demonstrates what is possible in terms of policy with respect to refugees,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “We can’t continue this stance of refugees from some areas of the world being accepted with open arms and others being greeted with a detention facility. I think that’s the thing getting lost here is that all of these people are seeking refuge and some of them are fine while some of them have to go through a detention and incarceration system.”
House Rules Committee Chair Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) echoed Ocasio-Cortez’s disappointment with the increase in ICE funding, but said it was a bipartisan compromise.
“I’m not particularly thrilled about it,” said McGovern, “but this bill represents an agreement between four quarters —House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans— so people like me have to get as much done as we can within the reality that we’re living in.”
Advocates sounded off about the bill’s increase in ICE funding.
Also: the FY22 DHS draft bills written in both the House AND Senate decreased detention funding levels, from funding for a detention daily pop of 34,000 down to 28,500. The jump back up in the omni to 34,000 is devastating.
— Heidi Altman (@heidiraltman) March 9, 2022
“Given the continuing abuses in many immigration detention facilities, the administration needs to reduce funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Kerri Talbot of Immigration Hub, a group made up of former governmental staff, officials, and advocates pushing for pro-immigrant reforms. “It is unacceptable that this bill keeps the number of detention beds at Trump administration levels. The administration should be moving forward on closing the worst detention facilities. This White House and Democratic leaders should embrace a 21st-century immigration system that is humane and responsibly managed.”
The nation’s largest immigrant youth-led group, United We Dream (UWD), was quick to note that the funding allocated to ICE was more than the Biden White House had requested of Congress, a slap in the face for progressive advocates in the immigration space.
“All along this federal funding bill has been kept secret, negotiated in backroom deals and left out of sight from the public and the majority of lawmakers. This was no mistake. It was Congress’ blatant attempt to conceal and quickly pass a bill that continues funding the violence of immigration enforcement at obscene levels, all while hoping to evade public scrutiny and backlash,” said UWD in a statement.
The latest FY22 DHS budget bill would fund ICE detention at nearly twice the number of beds currently occupied, despite reductions in both draft bills. While expected at this point, the lack of courage from the Dems on immigration (and so much more) is infuriating #DefundHate https://t.co/idHEaA7I3q
— Silky Shah (@silkys13) March 9, 2022
“Behind each dollar spent for immigration enforcement are millions of lives, families and loved ones —many of whom are Black and brown— who are brutalized, beaten and even killed at the hands of ICE and CBP,” read the statement. “It is appalling and unacceptable that Congress would even consider continuing to fund these abuses, yet that’s precisely what they’re doing.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports