Our Turn: Trump’s budget is bad for New Hampshire

Published: 2/12/2020 6:30:21 AM

We’ve all got ideas about how the government should spend our tax dollars. We could fix New Hampshire’s roads and bridges, fund much-needed drug treatment programs, invest in our public schools, build affordable housing and so much more.

What isn’t at the top of our list? Separating families, deporting our neighbors and hurting our communities.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what President Trump has prioritized in his budget proposal for 2021, which he released on Monday. The budget asks for massive increases for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If the president’s budget goes unchallenged by Congress, CBP would get a whopping $18.2 billion and ICE would get $10.4 billion.

ICE and CBP are the agencies that have separated families, forced asylum seekers to wait for months in dangerous conditions in Mexico, and raided the homes and businesses of working people. They detain people in hazardous conditions – sometimes resulting in death – explicitly to deter others from exercising their legal right to seek asylum. ICE even entrapped foreign students by setting up fake universities.

People elsewhere sometimes forget that New Hampshire is a border state. But we see CBP checkpoints on the highway, and CBP officers in our communities within the “100-mile border zone,” asking people for ID who are just trying to visit relatives or get to work. Throughout our state, fathers and mothers are terrified and heartbroken – many have lived here for years and are now facing deportation because of a chance encounter with immigration enforcement. Hundreds of New Hampshire families have already lost a loved one to deportation, leaving children without a parent and the whole family suffering economic and emotional harm.

Leaders of New Hampshire’s immigrant communities – joined by faith leaders and other allies from across the state – gather regularly at the federal building in Manchester to express solidarity with people going to ICE check-ins. We have been showing up since the early months of 2017 and will continue to do so as long as our friends and neighbors face the violence of our immigration enforcement system.

When agencies do harm to our families and our communities, those agencies should get cuts to their budgets, not increases. Instead, the president wants to give them $2.8 billion more than the previous year.

Those billions also come at the expense of essential public services – including massive cuts to environmental protection, housing, health care, nutrition and education.

Fortunately, President Trump doesn’t get to set the budget himself. That job belongs to Congress. And our members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of New Hampshire.

Last year, community advocates and organizations from the Defund Hate campaign banded together across the country to fight Trump’s budget during this appropriations process. Congress eventually gave the president less money for ICE and CBP than he had requested – ICE got $701.1 million less than he requested, and CBP got $3.3 billion less – but they still got more than every previous year.

Now we need to speak with an even louder voice. While Congress debates how to allocate funding, it’s important that they hear from their constituents about how that money should be spent.

Here in New Hampshire, our members of Congress have spoken against the harmful practices of ICE and CBP at the southern border, but they have not followed through to ensure real accountability for these agencies. They have worked hard on behalf of many individuals, but they continue to approve funding increases for ICE and CBP.

It’s not enough for our politicians to speak out against atrocities committed against our immigrant neighbors if they won’t vote to cut the funding that makes the atrocities possible. Many of New Hampshire’s school children are afraid to go to school in the morning knowing that their parents might not be there when they return.

We call upon our congressional delegation to stop writing the checks for President Trump’s dehumanizing and racist policies and practices. Congress must significantly reduce the budgets of ICE and CBP and restrict Trump’s ability to transfer money from other agencies.

We know that separating families, building bigger walls, workplace raids and militarized enforcement won’t make us any safer. Real safety comes when communities have the resources they need to thrive.

To our congressional delegation: We want your courage, we want your leadership. History will judge where people are on this question. Put yourself with your constituents on the right side of history and cut the funds for ICE and CBP.

(Maggie Fogarty is the co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s program in New Hampshire. The Rev. Sandra Pontoh is the director of N.H. Indonesian Community Support.)

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