CHIRLA for decades has demanded that Congress pass humane and comprehensive immigration reform. After the terrorism of 9/11 and the creation in 2002 of the Department of Homeland Security, it also called for an overhaul of the immigration enforcement system.

From its inception, DHS was an unprecedented centralization of federal power. Twenty-two agencies comprised it, including the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the Secret Service. Four agencies were in charge of immigration enforcement: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement and Removal Operations (EOR), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Only one, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was dedicated to immigration processing as a service.

Even before DHS, the government’s budget for immigration enforcement grew every year, tripling between 1995 and 2001. That growth reflected a new, hard-line approach to immigration: “prevention through deterrence.” After the birth of DHS, that outlook intensified -- and the budget ballooned.

In 2013, spending for enforcement was $17 billion. In 2014, it grew to $18.6 billion. In 2015, it was $18.8 billion. In 2017 it was nearly $21 billion, and in 2020 it is more than $30 billion. This ever-growing budget, paired with an image campaign to criminalize immigrants, has forged a sophisticated deportation machine that both parties invested in and the Trump administration has made the centerpiece of its narrative.

We must rethink immigration enforcement. The point should not be maximizing suffering and tearing apart immigrant families. This country must look at the root causes of migration, including violence, corruption and food insecurity. DHS’s constantly expanding budget wastes taxpayer money while the department runs roughshod over our national principles of justice and due process.

Midsection of police forces outdoors, Nikon Z7

CHIRLA’s Enforcement Priorities

CHIRLA works to dismantle the U.S. immigration enforcement system that profits from tearing apart immigrant families. This includes private immigrant prisons as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has four enforcement agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement and Removal Operations (EOR), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Our chief goals:

Defund inhumane enforcement

End the multi-billion-dollar funding of the U.S.’s repressive enforcement machine and tie budget cuts to disregard of basic human rights

Full transparency and oversight

Immigration enforcement must follow constitutional policing rules everywhere in the nation

Invest in legal migration and prioritize family unity

Fully fund U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so stops relying on service fees for its budget. Invest more in clarifying and simplifying legal immigration processes to clear backlogs and right-size demand while reducing the need for more enforcement

End indefinite detention

End immigration detention without defined limits and due process. End punitive bail and replace it with community-based reporting and alternative monitoring programs. Keep children with their parents in a non-prison setting

Decriminalize immigration

End federal punitive programs like Secure Communities, 287(g) and Priority Enforcement Program that deputize local police to enforce immigration. End  persecution of immigrants based on INA Section 1325.

Demilitarize the border

Take military troops away from the border and separate immigration enforcement from the budgets and functions of the Department of Defense, USCIS, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

End for-profit detention

Dismantle private immigration prisons that detain immigrants for profit and are accountable to no one

Focus on protection and security of human beings

U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (CBP), must focus on dismantling human and drug trafficking networks that victimize and abuse migrants

Protect immigrants’ labor rights

Bring interior immigration enforcement under the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, to better investigate and end labor exploitation of immigrants