Year in review: How you helped us Defund Hate in 2020

Since 2017, AFSC has worked with partner organizations as part of the Defund Hate Coalition to demand that Congress stop funding cruelty against immigrants. Thousands of supporters like you across the country have joined us in urging Congress to cut funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—and instead invest our tax dollars in health care, education, and other vital programs that benefit all of us.

With the pandemic, our organizing and advocacy work looked a bit different this year. Instead of rallies inside Senate office buildings, we had webinars, virtual rallies, and car caravans. The creativity and innovation of activists this year gives us hope—even through a public health crisis, a vicious election cycle, and injustice in our communities—AFSC supporters show up to ask Congress to #DefundHate and end abusive immigration enforcement. 

The past year has shown how your efforts are as important as ever. Even amid a pandemic, Congress has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars for ICE and CBP to detain and deport immigrants, and to use abusive enforcement tactics that make all of us less safe:

  • ICE detention centers—which are already rife with abuses and unsanitary conditions—have been tinderboxes for COVID-19 transmission. More than 8,500 people in detention have tested positive. 21 people have died in ICE custody this year, and at least 8 of those deaths were tied to the virus.
  • CBP misspent emergency funds from 2019 meant for humanitarian purposes on dirt bikes and dog food, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office released this year—another example of why these agencies shouldn’t be given any additional funds and must be held accountable. 
  • Border wall construction and enforcement have further harmed border communities, violated the rights of Native American populations, and damaged the environment. 
  • More than 600 migrant children remain separated from their families, more than three years after the Trump administration first implemented its “zero tolerance” policy.  
  • ICE and CBP agents were deployed against people taking part in peaceful protests for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd and other Black people.

Thousands of people across the country have helped us push back against ICE and CBP abuses—and make strides in advocating for a federal budget that treats every person with dignity and respect and invests in our communities instead of enforcement. 

Here’s a look back at what we accomplished together in 2020:

Stopping additional funding for ICE and CBP

In February, the Trump administration released a budget that asked for massive increases in ICE and CBP spending in 2021. The administration wanted enough funding to jail an average of 60,000 people every day in ICE detention, $2 billion for the border wall, and money to hire an additional 750 Border Patrol agents. 

Thanks to pressure from people like you, the House Appropriations Committee put out a funding bill that would have significantly cut detention funding, offered no money for the border wall, and recognized the need to get people out of detention during the pandemic. While the bill wasn’t perfect, the progress made in the House shows how we’re making headway in reaching more members of Congress. 

In the final funding bills passed in December, ICE ended up with enough funding to detain an average of 34,000 people a day—much less than Trump’s request and below funding levels in 2020 (though still higher than the number of people currently in detention). Congress also provided $1.38 billion for border wall construction—but no money to hire more Border Patrol agents. 

Thank you to the more than 5,100 AFSC supporters who contacted Congress about these 2021 appropriations bills. While we have a long way to go defund ICE and CBP, the decreases we achieved are an important step toward more cuts. 

Responding to COVID-19

In response to the pandemic, the Trump administration failed to prioritize releasing immigrants from detention to keep them safe. Instead, it requested $800 million in extra money to establish quarantine facilities, despite ICE and CBP’s track record of inadequate medical care and misspending resources. 

Hundreds of AFSC supporters emailed their members of Congress to insist that no money for immigration enforcement was included in coronavirus relief funding. Thanks to your advocacy, no ICE or CBP money was included in the CARES Act, the bill that provided the first round of stimulus payments, or the second stimulus package. 

In addition to blocking extra funds for these agencies, AFSC joined with communities across the U.S. in calling on public officials to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19 by releasing people from prisons, jails, and juvenile and immigrant detention centers. 

Engaging and mobilizing communities nationwide

All year long, AFSC and the Defund Hate coalition kept up our efforts to engage more people in our work to defund ICE and CBP. 

Community members joined car caravans in Florida, Colorado, California, and New Hampshire—honking in support of communities affected by immigrant detention and calling attention to the issue.  

Activists also mobilized online. In December, the Defund Hate Coalition coordinated three Days of Action. They include an online townhall where over 2000 people learned how to advocate for investment in our communities, instead of in immigration enforcement; a virtual phone bank that generated calls to Congress; and a petition that collected over 4,000 signatures from people in all 50 states. 

Our call to Defund Hate grew in 2020, thanks to your support. 

This year we must build on the momentum of our collective efforts. That includes urging the Biden administration and Congress to support funding cuts to ICE and CBP—as well as monitoring and holding both agencies to account for their abuses and mismanagement of our taxpayer dollars

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Thank you for all that you have done to help Defund Hate in 2020, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the new year!