Washington, DC—On Tuesday July 18, the House Appropriations Committee will consider a version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill that would fund a border wall and security build-up along the U.S.-Mexico border, and increase the deportation capacity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill matches many of the Trump administration’s requests.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) released an analysis of the bill, describing key border security and migrations provisions as “ineffective, costly, and a threat to the human rights of migrants.”
“Spending $1.6 billion on the wasteful ‘border wall’ is just one piece of the problem,” said Adam Isacson, an expert on border security and migration at WOLA. “Increasing the number of Border Patrol and ICE agents, without first ensuring proper vetting, risks more abuse and susceptibility to corruption. And funding a massive deportation force will cause suffering to families who have lived in the United States for many years.”
The bill includes $1.6 billion for a border wall. An estimated 1,317 miles of the 2,000-mile border between the US and Mexico lack fencing. The request would fund 74 miles of fencing in FY2018—at the cost of $21.2 million per mile—bringing the total estimated cost of a barrier along the entire southern border to over $28 billion.
Border Patrol and ICE would both see increases in hiring. The legislation will add an additional 500 agents, at a cost of $100 million, to a force that has already expanded dramatically in recent years. In 2016, Border Patrol employed almost 20,000 agents, compared with 12,000 in 2006 and 4,000 in 1993. $186.5 million would pay for massive hiring of ICE agents and support staff. This threatens continued mass deportations, and raises concerns about recruitment standards, oversight, and accountability.
The bill also provides $4.4 billion for detention and removal programs, most of it to increase the number of beds available in detention centers. The pressure to fill beds will lead ICE to detain more people in the interior of the United States, without discretion regarding their vulnerability. Asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants who have lived in this country for years and raised their families here could get caught up in the rush to detain.
“The proposed measures are costly, counterproductive, and inhumane. They would create a climate of fear, threaten civil liberties in the United States, and put the lives of thousands at risk,” said Isacson. “They are a waste of money.”