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Defund the Agencies that are incarcerating Immigrant and Terrorizing Communities of Color

We all felt our hearts drop and fill with horror as we listened to the audio of children detained at the border crying out for their parents.

For many immigrant families living in the United States, the sounds and sights of these horrors aren’t new.

For decades, many of us have been affected by our country’s inhumane and racist deportation agencies and immigration policies.

Immigrant youth have had their loved ones, mothers and fathers, detained and deported. After a recent workplace raid in Tennessee, 550 children missed school the next day because their parents or guardians had been detained.

Other undocumented children like Rosa Maria, who has cerebral palsy, are being taken from hospital rooms and locked in detention camps.

And now, thousands of children are being kept in cages in detention camps across our country or in tent cities in the desert.

Many are wondering: How did we become a nation that is unabashedly hunting, locking up and deporting millions of people?

It is important to remember that this is not new: our nation has been committing these atrocities before the current administration took over. Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, has continuously pumped billions of dollars into the Department of Homeland Security’s deportation force and has given it and the Department of Justice unchecked powers to target and criminalize immigrants for years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (and Customs and Border Protection are politicized, armed police forces charged with removing people because of the xenophobic impulses of a handful of politicians and allowed to get away with it because of the complacency of too many others.

The separation of children from their parents isn’t the sole effect of one policy, but rather a product of the systemic problems in our country’s immigration system. Those problems started long before Trump was elected president and he handed Jeff Sessions his sick dream job of hurting as many immigrants and people of color as possible. Under the Trump administration, however, the cruel and abusive treatment of immigrants and communities of color has been amplified.

Yet despite the national outcry against the abuses we’re seeing at the border, Congress continues to pump cash into the deportation force. Just a few weeks ago, a Senate appropriations committee approved the 2019 DHS appropriations bill, which includes $1.6 billion for the wall, 750 new CBP agents, $135 million more for ICE, and money to keep 40,520 immigrants caged.

In order to fix what has been broken for too long, we must stop funding these agencies. We’re calling on Congress to defund the Deportation Force that is terrorizing our communities and deporting our families.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have the power to reject the DHS appropriations bill that is making its way through Congress, and any politician who is serious about ending the separation of families at the border and throughout our country must make the commitment to defund ICE and CBP.

It’s not enough for our politicians to visit detention centers and rubber-stamp symbolic legislation. Any member of Congress who is truly committed to standing with immigrant youth and ensuring that families are not incarcerated will actively call for the defunding of the agencies that bring us pain every single day. This isn’t an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to score against the other side or win political points from their base – we need to see real solutions.

Americans from across the country, documented and undocumented, are ready to continue to fight back if Congress doesn’t act.

The consequences of not fixing this crisis are far too great.

Sanaa Abrar is Advocacy Director at United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the United States. CREDO has donated over $165,000 to the organization since 2013.