A U.S. border patrol agent walks along the border fence separating Mexico from the United States near Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – The United States Congress should reject President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2017 supplemental funding request for a dramatic expansion of immigration detention and enforcement, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to congressional leaders. Congress will vote within the next several days on a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating through September 2017.

Trump has asked Congress to include a US$3 billion down payment toward his plan to expand immigration detention facilities and hire thousands of new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Recent reports indicate that Trump may be open to postponing discussion of part of his funding request, for construction of a “wall” on the US-Mexico border, if Congress approves his requests for more immigration enforcement resources. Congress should reject any deal along those lines.

“Congress shouldn’t allow discussions over the wall to distract it from the devastating toll of Trump’s cruel and unnecessary immigration enforcement policies,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, co-director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch. “The broken and already bloated system tears people unfairly from their families, returns asylum seekers to persecution, and detains people who don’t belong behind bars at all in dangerously substandard conditions.”

Trump’s request for additional funds would include billions of dollars in resources to expand immigration detention facilities, where substandard medical care puts many people’s lives in danger.

Congress shouldn’t allow discussions over the wall to distract it from the devastating toll of Trump’s cruel and unnecessary immigration enforcement policies.

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

Co-director of the US Program

The president’s proposals would also add thousands more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, which would ultimately increase the number of people torn from their families through deportation without consideration of their ties to this country, and contribute to a tremendous climate of fear. The administration also seeks to add more Customs and Border Protection agents, who have a track record of abuse fueled by inadequate oversight, including sending asylum seekers back to countries where they would find themselves in dangerous situations.

“Trump wants to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on a dramatic expansion of the Department of Homeland Security’s deportation machine that is likely to rip apart more families and exacerbate ongoing human rights abuses in the immigration system,” McFarland Sánchez-Moreno said. “Congress should reject Trump’s appropriations request and refuse to consider any increase in the size and reach of the immigration detention and deportation system without first taking steps to rein in the abuses that pervade it.”