Shameful Vote on Budget Supplemental Will Hurt Children, Separate Families, and Squander Public Resources
How many children have to die before we realize that billions for detention is not the answer?
CHICAGO, June 28, 2019 — Yesterday, Congress passed a more than $4.5 billion spending supplemental to increase border security funding. Alianza Americas Executive Director, Oscar Chacón and Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente.Org, had the following joint statement regarding the vote.
“For the past week, people all over the world, have recoiled in horror at the horrific conditions in which children and families are being kept in United States migration detention. At the same time, desperate families who find the doors of asylum slammed shut have taken more risky routes, leading to the tragic death by drowning of a young father, Oscar Martinez and his daughter Valeria, this week.
It is shameful and devastating that policymakers chose to provide the Trump Administration an additional $4.5 billion to shore up the very systems that are putting children in cages, where at least six have perished in recent months. So many children dying in government custody is a horrific symptom of the inability of this government to fulfill its basic responsibilities and engage in solutions that uphold the full human rights of our children. The extra funding will not keep children safe, nor will it address the factors that are causing so many people to flee their countries. It will simply waste billions of taxpayer dollars and drive even more profits to private prisons.
Nearly 70% of immigrant detainees are held in privately owned facilities, and private prisons receive more than $1 billion a year in contracts with ICE — almost $5.5 million per day of taxpayer money. With a clear financial incentive for these companies to detain as many people as possible, these companies prey on immigrant communities.
Nevertheless, 305 legislators, including 129 Democrats voted “yes” on the budget supplemental. This action requires us to respond. We are disgusted that Congress is giving Trump’s regime a blank check to continue its agenda of fear and hate. This comes at a time when the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are actually divesting from Trump’s immigration agenda by refusing to finance the private prison industry. This leaves the federal government as the primary funder of for-profit immigrant torture.
Legislators who claim to care about the welfare of children must put aside the misguided punitive approach to asylum-seekers and instead focus on taking real steps to keep children safe, including recognizing their legitimate right to claim asylum in a place of safety and to be with their parents. Alianza Americas and Presente.Org call upon every single person of conscience to visit their member of Congress over the next two weeks. To those who voted “Yes”– demand that they take immediate steps to undo the damage. To those who voted against the Bill, we can express our thanks, but remind them that it is not enough. They must persuade their colleagues of the urgency of providing safety to Central Americans and others who seek a safe place for themselves and their children, not submitting them to a new round of persecution and punishment. In addition, they should make their colleagues, the administration and the detention corporations accountable for the pain, human rights violations and possible deaths that these 4.5 billion will cause.
There are no quick fixes for the problems driving the exodus from Central America, but that just means we have to start now and work together to develop policy responses that will chip away at the inequality and violence that pervade in this region. That is the pathway to a real solution, not throwing more money at prisons and cages.
We will continue to document human rights violations and to work with allies and civil society here and in the region to put pressure on Congress and the Trump administration. Overcome with sadness, we won’t remain silent, we will give voice to every person who will suffer the consequences of policies based on hate and not on compassion. We can and must do better.”
Alianza Americas is a network of 50 immigrant-led organizations representing more than 100,000 families across the United States. It works transnationally to create an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable way of life. Learn more at alianzaamericas.org.
With more than 500,000 member-activists, Presente.org is the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group; advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture.