Faith Organizations: Urge Congress to cut funding for immigration detention, deportation, and border militarization

March 7, 2018

Dear Members of Congress:

As XX faith leaders and faith-based organizations from many different traditions, we call on members of Congress to cut funding for immigration detention, deportation, and border militarization. We ask that instead of fueling unnecessary, dangerous detention and deportation policies, Congress immediately enact a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth without compromising family unity or undercutting other immigrant populations. Communities and families across the nation are suffering due to overreaching, extreme immigration enforcement. We call on Congress to use the "power of the purse" to protect immigrants as you determine funding for the rest of this fiscal year and prepare spending bills for fiscal year 2019.

Our concern about current spending on immigration enforcement stems from shared values rooted in all of our sacred texts that remind us to love our neighbor and welcome the sojourner among us. We are mandated to recognize and respect the dignity and humanity of all of our immigrant community members, and we have a faithful responsibility to ensure our government institutions protect and promote the well-being of all persons.

Our nation is already not living up to this faithful obligation, yet the administration is doubling down on the same, failed approaches that have plagued our communities for decades. President Trump has requested Congress fund immigration enforcement for the rest of FY 2018 at a total of $21.5 billion - $3.1 billion over already-elevated levels from last year. More money will sweep long time contributors to our communities into detention and place them at immediate risk of deportation. It will immorally keep families and asylum seekers in detention. It will perpetuate harmful border policies and additional wall construction at the U.S.-Mexico border. Every dollar further entrenches an immoral system fueling mass incarceration, family separation, human rights violations, and unaccountable enforcement in our communities.

The administration's FY18 proposal requests an astounding and unprecedented 51,379 jail beds to detain immigrants on a daily basis. This is despite ongoing, well-documented and unaddressed abuses and abhorrent conditions in detention facilities - including the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement, abuse of force by officers, and deaths attributable to medical negligence. People of faith who accompany or represent immigrants in detention facilities witness firsthand the toll incarceration takes on those detained, their families, and our communities. Congress should be pursuing policies that reduce the use of detention and improving existing detention facility conditions. Congress should reject funding this wholesale, permanent expansion of unjust and dangerous immigrant detention.

President Trump also requested 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and an additional 500 new Border Patrol agents to terrorize communities, apprehend any undocumented person they encounter, and carry out deportations. ICE and CBP agents have operated with impunity for years, wreaking havoc and sowing distrust in communities. Reports have documented abuses by BP agents without accountability and oversight. This administration has exacerbated these issues by directing ICE and CBP agents to carry out detention and deportations indiscriminately, such as by targeting all undocumented immigrants including a Methodist lay leader in Kansas. Congress should cut funding for ICE and CBP agents to operationalize the deportation machine, and instead should ensure that ICE and CBP operate with accountability, transparency, and humanity. We cannot live out our sacred honor to care for the most vulnerable while hundreds of individuals are being detained and processed for deportation.

The impulse to pour more money into further militarizing our border communities, and build additional border wall is a waste of taxpayer dollars and will not make our communities any safer. It will have profound moral, environmental, and legal consequences. The dramatic militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border region has already stifled the economic vitality and overall well-being of U.S. border communities. The construction of a new physical barriers or the expansion of unrestricted technology and military equipment serves only to harm American communities, businesses, and landowners. Border communities do not want to be suffocated by more unchecked enforcement; Congress should listen to them.

Adding billions of dollars for immigration detention, deportation agents, and border militarization does not represent a faithful way forward. Beyond the long-term damage caused by enforcing unjust immigration policies, funding for endless enforcement comes at the expense of vital community programs like education, housing, and nutritional assistance programs that promote public safety and alleviate poverty.

As people of faith, we call on you to find compassion in your discernment process and think about the moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us. We urge you to cut funding for detention, deportation, and border militarization in FY18 and FY19 and instead work on legislative solutions that will allow immigrants to flourish as full participants in our shared nation.

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