by Donna Lieberman
Americans delivered an unprecedented rebuke of President Trump in last month’s wave election, turning out in droves to push back against his policies of fear and division and flipping control of the House of Representatives.
Yet even as House Republicans prepare to hand over the gavel, they want to give a major infusion of your tax dollars to the President’s heartless anti-immigrant agenda.
The Department of Homeland Security’s funding is reliant on a continuing resolution, a short-term bill that extended the nation’s budget from last year. Congress passed one in late September and early this month, avoiding nasty budget wrangling before the midterms and during memorials for President Bush, respectively. But that stop-gap is expiring on Dec. 21.
Having now lost their majority in the House, Republicans see these final days in control as their best chance to jam through increased funding for agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, as well as billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall.
Situated within Homeland Security, these agencies are responsible for separating families both at the border and inside New York State, terrorizing immigrant communities throughout the country with warrantless searches, keeping innocent children locked up and away from their families for months, detaining a soaring number of immigrant New Yorkers with no criminal record and using local law enforcement as pawns in their efforts to detain and deport immigrants and refugees.
There are multiple accounts of sexual abuse by ICE and Border Patrol agents as well as deaths in detention due to lack of medical or psychological care.
As for Trump’s wall, this fiscal year the Senate has already slated $1.6 billion to pay for it, while the House has allocated an absurd $5 billion of your tax dollars.
New Yorkers have had enough. The wall would cause the deaths of untold numbers of migrants; carve into communities, farms, ranches and tribal lands; and ensnare sensitive ecosystems, leading to flooding and species destruction. It would also be a symbol of hate — a rejection of the lives and contributions that generations of immigrants have made.
Congress will have to decide whether it will expand DHS’s budget and reward it and the President for separating families, abusing immigrants and terrorizing communities of color. More than 200 organizations including the ACLU have written to congressional leadership asking them to instead pass another short-term continuing resolution until the new Congress is in place.
New York lawmakers in the House and Senate should take a hard line in funding negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democrats’ position on border wall funding is $1.6 billion and refused to say whether he would agree to even more money. There’s no reason Democrats should be giving in and allocating any funding for the wall.
When he became Senate minority leader, Schumer pledged to give Trump a “strong fight” on matters in which he and the President disagree. The budget will be his biggest post-midterm test.
When CBP agents fired tear gas at screaming mothers and their children, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand demanded that those responsible be held accountable. This type of DHS-sanctioned behavior cannot be rewarded with a raise.
As ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey must sign off on DHS funding decisions. Referring to the President, she said she would “not go along with a wasteful wall that is designed frankly to gin up his base.” Now is the time to back up her words with action.
Until newly elected representatives are seated in January, Congress should pass a “clean” continuing resolution that keeps funding levels where they are, adding nothing to the vast billions already allocated for the wall, detention and enforcement.
New Yorkers expect our lawmakers to stand up to the Trump administration’s cruel anti-immigrant agenda. Those elected on the promise of progressive action face a choice: Either they let Trump’s politics of fear and division carry the day, or they can take a stand now, and use every tool at their disposal to make sure that not one more dollar goes to his deportation machine.