Defunding Hate: What’s the Budget Got to do with it?

By Linh Nguyen and Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: Now, the budget bill is coming up fast –

This is where the rubber meets the road: the rubber erasers, and the mechanical pencils, and if you’ve got those wacky green eyeshades you can pull them out too. We’re gonna get nerdy and talk about how things really work in DC: how the budget process, and the way this administration has been screwing around with it, has been funding the racist immigration policies we’ve been fighting for the past three plus years. 

First, a look at why the budget process is so hugely important to this administration in making its anti-immigrant dreams come true. A brief glance at some of the lowlights shows something truly remarkable – they didn’t require any new legislation:

The Democratic House has passed a lot of good bills this year, but the Republican-controlled Senate hasn’t taken any of the significant ones up for so much as a debate – except for spending bills. Funding the government through the budget is mandatory; spending bills come up every year, and if the Senate ignores them the government shuts down, as we saw last winter. 

A few quick points about the appropriations process:

In any situation, where we choose to spend our money is hugely important and says a lot about our values. In our current situation, where other ways of lawmaking are cut off, lawmakers are forced to legislate by placing restrictions on how money may be spent. Unfortunately, Congress has so far largely declined to put in the effort to make those restrictions stick.

Now, let’s get into the weeds a bit.

The administration has abused budgetary authority to achieve their racist goals using three principal tactics: overspending, use of reprogramming authority, and failure to cooperate with Congressional oversight. The table below shows how they’ve used each of these:

Abuse of authorities


The following graph shows just one example of how ICE has overspent. ICE ratcheted up its funding twice per fiscal year – once in the final funding bill, when Congress invariably bailed ICE out for its overspending in the first part of the year, and then again by moving additional money into its account through transfers and reprogramming. ICE has consistently been funded to detain an average of 40,500 people per day, but has detained significantly more, peaking at 48,019 individuals in detention in early January 2019 in the midst of the government shutdown.

Overspending on detention beds

 

Immigration detention timeline
Immigrant detention funding fight timeline


Where we are now:
In September 2019, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), a temporary measure to keep the government funded and operating for a limited period of time – in this case, until November 21. The good news: it didn’t fund the racist border wall, and it didn’t increase funding for immigration detention beds. The bad news: it didn’t do anything to keep the administration from stealing money from military families and disaster relief and using it for anti-immigrant purposes, which it’s been doing through its reprogramming authority – allowing money funded for one purpose to be used for another purpose within the Department of Homeland Security. When the CR expires in November, Congress will have to pass a spending bill – and we want it to do the job right.

What you can do:

Tell your Members of Congress:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for refusing to fund Trump’s racist wall and for passing a spending bill in September that didn’t increase funding for immigration detention beds at the border. But I was disappointed the September Continuing Resolution did nothing to keep the administration from stealing money from military families and disaster relief, as it’s been doing all year. When the CR expires in November, I want you to work to pass a spending bill that safeguards our tax dollars from this corrupt and racist administration. If Trump wants to steal more money from the American people, he will need to shut down the government again to do it.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Do you live outside the East Bay, or have friends in other districts or states? Spread the word! Use this link to find contact info for all Members of Congress.

For more info, including a presentation by Indivisible East Bay’s Linh Nguyen of this material and more, watch Impeachment University’s video of the Town Hall hosted by the Equal Justice Society.

For complete slide deck, see IEB - DefundHate-EJS-Townhall
.

Linh Nguyen is one of several IEB congressional procedure pedants.

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

Border to border with love to defund hate

On September 10, volunteers gathered to assemble a giant pro-immigrant, anti-hate collage as part of Indivisible East Bay’s participation in Defund Hate Week. Coordinated by the Defund Hate Campaign, a group of immigration advocacy and immigrant-led organizations, the overarching goal was to put our Members of Congress on notice and remind them we will hold them accountable to fight the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.

For our IEB event — one of over 150 organized! — we chose to create artwork comprised of messages about defunding hate and welcoming immigrants. Our plan – to collect the messages into a collage that we’d send to the border to be added to a Defund Hate petition addressed to Congressional Democrats. 

Our collage came together quickly as participants arrived and got to work.

Defund Hate collage party, organizers Amelia and Fionap, hoto by Ted Lam
Organizers Amelia & Fiona, at Defund Hate collage party, photo by Ted Lam

Submissions ranged from personal written messages to three-dimensional construction paper creations.

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Highlights included paper cranes originally collected to be placed on the gates of a migrant detention camp in Dilley, Texas, as part of a peaceful protest by survivors of Japanese internment camps and their relatives.

Defund Hate collage, photo by Fiona Woods
Defund Hate collage, photo by Fiona Woods

There were also great submissions from the staff of 1951 Coffee, the local non-profit cafe that provides barista training to the refugee community. There was so much art we had to add an extra panel to the original banner to fit everything!

In between creating submissions for the banner, we also wrote postcards to our Members of Congress in support of Defund Hate Week’s goals. We urged our MoCs to cut funding for ICE and CBP, to vote to reject bills that include funds transfers to ICE, and to support deportation alternatives while opposing dangerous “third-country agreements”. 

We mailed our banner on Weds., September 11, and it reached San Diego in time for the Defund Hate rally there on Friday — the culmination of Defund Hate Week.

A very special thank you to the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers for graciously allowing us to use their space to create our collage, and to all of the volunteers (including some highly creative kids!) who contributed beautiful submissions.

Join us for Defund Hate Week!

Immigrant families are under an all-out assault: from caging children and families at the border and refusing them access to basic necessities like showers and toothbrushes, to launching raids that rip people away from homes where they’ve lived for years or even decades. Fueled by racism, hatred, and fear, the Trump administration has continued to pursue these unpopular and harmful policies – and Congress has continued to fund each and every one. As an official member of the Defund Hate Coalition, Indivisible East Bay stands with immigrant families to focus our collective power on defunding hate. 

Now, IEB is collecting creative messages from Bay Area members and allies to put together into a collage which we’ll add to a Border to Border with Love Petition, addressed to Congressional Democrats, as it makes its way down the West Coast to San Diego. There, we’ll get together with Native, Indivisible and local leaders for a rally to #DefundHate. Join us in this project! And keep reading to find out about more activities going on during Defund Hate Week, September 9-13.

What you can do:

Create a message!

Create your own messages to add to our collage! This action is both about defunding hate (specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection) and celebrating and welcoming immigration – feel free to focus your piece on either or both. 

The only requirements are that the piece must be:

  1. six inches or smaller and flat
  2. made of paper or an equally light substance
  3. On-message: pro-immigrant and anti-hate!

Possible messages might include how immigration enforcement affects you personally, or our demands for Congressional action. For example:

  • Cut funding for ICE and CBP
  • Vote NO on any Department of Homeland Security funding bill that doesn’t prohibit funding transfers to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (see our article)
  • Vote NO on any DHS funding bill that doesn’t cut ICE and CBP funding to fiscal year 16 levels
  • Require the DHS Inspector General to monitor detention and enforcement spending and report to Congress 
  • Support alternatives to detention: close the camps and end immigration detention 
  • End the “remain in Mexico” policy and dangerous “safe third country” agreements

For more complete guidelines and talking points, look here and here

Spread the word:

Better yet, do this with your friends and families! Create cards with like-minded coworkers during lunch, or bring some paper and markers to your book club or your kid’s soccer game. Be sure to collect contributors’ email addresses on a separate sheet so we can send everyone a photo of the final product!

Drop off pieces for the collage:

  • Any time (during open hours) before noon on Tuesday 9/10, leave your pieces in our drop box at the Rockridge branch of 1951 Coffee at 6021 College Ave, Oakland.
  • Any time (during open hours) before noon on Tuesday 9/10, leave your pieces in our drop box at Sports Basement Berkeley, 2727 Milvia St, Berkeley
  • Bring them to our special event on September 10 in Oakland (see below)!

Defund Hate Week Events:

  • Come to our main event: Tuesday, September 10, 5:30-7:30 PM at IFPTE Local 21, 1440 Broadway, Suite 610, Oakland, CA – we’ll be assembling the collage, writing postcards, and learning about other actions we can take. RSVP appreciated, but not required; we’d love to have you help out at the event, too!
  • Find us at Oakland Pride on Sunday, Sept. 8 (details and RSVP). 
  • Call your Member of Congress on the Defund Hate Call-In Day, September 9. Call script and details here.
  • Participate in Indivisible SF’s Defund Hate National Week of Action event, Friday September 13 in the plaza near the Ferry Building in SF.

Defund Hate

And also… 

  • Want to help us get this project to its destination? Please consider chipping in a few dollars toward priority shipping costs. You can donate cash at any of our events, or use our secure ActBlue online donation site.
  • A huge thank you to our partners and the organizations helping us make this project happen:
    • 1951 Coffee, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues. You can support them by buying a cup of coffee in their cafes, buying or gifting their merchandise and whole bean coffees online, donating to support their services like the Barista Training Program, or volunteering at one of their open houses.
    • Sports Basement, Berkeley is hosting one of our drop boxes, and has hosted so many of our other meetings. If you shop there, please mention IEB and thank them!
    • And thank you to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 for letting us use their space to assemble our collage.

Fiona Woods, Ann Daniels and Amelia Cass contributed to this article

Tell our Senators: Keep ICE’s hands out of the cookie jar

UPDATED September 5, 2019

Under the US Constitution and federal law, it’s the responsibility of Congress and the President to create a federal budget and spending bills. The process is complex, but one thing is clear: federal agencies shouldn’t be able to decide, on their own, how federal funds get spent, or to take money that’s been allocated for another purpose. And yet, that’s exactly what has been going on – Department of Homeland Security is essentially taking hundreds of millions of dollars from federal agencies like FEMA and giving it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use for Trump’s racist, deadly immigration agenda.  They deceptively call it “reprogramming and transfer authority,” but we call it sleight of hand. Or theft. Relatedly, on September 4 it was revealed that states from Virginia to Arizona will lose millions in the administration’s plan to divert $3.6 BILLION from Pentagon-funded military construction projects to build a wall along the border.

In the current budget process, the House of Representatives has passed a good DHS Appropriations bill, which sets overall spending limits by the agency. The House bill (1) puts some limitations on how ICE/Customs and Border Protection can spend its money, and (2) rescinds the DHS Secretary’s ability to move money from any part of DHS (such as FEMA) to CBP and ICE Enforcement and Removal. 

Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Senators Feinstein and Harris both signed a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations supporting reduced funding for the administration’s immigration and detention agenda, and opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. But they need to hear from us, because there will be pressure for the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill. Tell our Senators you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority. Also: Indivisible’s “Defund Hate” week of action is September 9-13, and we have lots going on: check out our article and plan to join us and our partners for crafting, calling, rallying, and more!

Read on for a call script and contact info; and below that, for more information and resources.

What to do:

1. Contact our Senators, tell them you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority.

What to say:

My name is _________, my zip code is _________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for opposing the administration’s horrible immigration agenda, and also opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. I hope the Senator will work for a DHS appropriations bill like the one passed by the House. We need a bill with protections for immigrants and an end to using all of DHS as a slush fund for immigrant detention, deportation, and abuse.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: email (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: email (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

 

2. Check out Indivisible National’s “Defund Hate” campaign and mark your calendars for their September 9-13 Week of Action. If you text Defund Hate to 977-79, Indy National will send you the latest updates on our plan for the Week of Action, including telling you when events are registered near you. And be on the lookout for IEB and partners’ action items coming your way!

3. Spread the word! Got friends outside California? Send them this link so they can contact their Members of Congress.

 

More information: 

As if the administration’s immigration policy weren’t devastating enough in terms of the threat to life and health, last year, just as hurricane season was about to start, ICE raided $10 million from FEMA (the agency responsible for coordinating disaster response efforts). This year they’re raiding $155 million from FEMA and a total of over $270 million from agencies dealing in safety. And remember when Trump declared a national emergency so he could build his wall? That money he wanted – billions of dollars – was to be transferred from other agencies to which Congress had budgeted it. That, in a nutshell, is how “reprogramming and transfer” is happening – Congress budgets money for things that are not Trump’s immigration and detention program, and then he and DHS sneak in or bully their way in and take it anyway.

This ability to steal money that isn’t theirs lets ICE make a mockery of Congress. Congress appropriates money to the various parts of the government? Meaningless! Congress tells ICE to decrease immigrant detention to a specific level? Not happening – ICE thinks it’s above the law.

This budget cycle the Democratic House of Representatives is working to put a stop to these shenanigans with an appropriations bill for DHS that approaches the problem from several angles, such as:

  • Prohibits construction of border barriers, except with funds appropriated for that purpose.
  • Prohibits funding transfers to ICE Operations and Support for Enforcement and Removal Operations.
  • Prohibits ICE from removing sponsors of unaccompanied children based on information provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as part of the sponsor’s application to accept custody of the child.
  • Limits future detention facility contracts or renewals from having an indefinite period of availability. 
  • Ensures access by Members of Congress to detention facilities.

California’s Senators have spoken out in favor of curbing funding for ICE and CBP and in favor of “language limiting the DHS Secretary’s ability to transfer funds for the purpose of detaining immigrants.” While not as strong as the House version, that’s pretty good. But the appropriations process is about to heat up in the Senate, and at this point in the proceedings there will be pressure on the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill – meaning that it’s going to take support from us to keep our Senators fighting to keep ICE’s hands off money we don’t want them to have.

Bottom line: If we don’t want the administration to keep stealing millions of dollars that we need for health and safety and other critical issues that Congress has budgeted it for, we need to act NOW.

Resources:

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

Graphic “Money” by TaxCredits.net, edited by Heidi Rand.
FEMA logo.