By Thomas Kennedy
For a big chunk of my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood, my parents and I were undocumented immigrants in this country, working hard to realize the elusive American Dream.
Yet even as my parents worked several jobs to make ends meet and I studied hard so we could find a bright future for our family, we lived under constant fear that our small but tight knit family would be split apart.
More than 10 years later, I am a citizen, but I witness the pain of fellow immigrant families in my community as they face extraordinary threats and more separations under the Donald Trump administration.
My sadness for them has turned to anger and now action as I see Trump weaponizing his budget to use against hardworking immigrants whose singular focus has been on helping their families thrive.
A presidential budget is essentially the beginning of a process in which Congress must come together and compromise. It is a wish list that reflects the President’s priorities. Trump’s budget makes clear that his priorities are making his rich pals wealthier at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to crack down on undocumented immigrant communities living in the United States. This budget offers unusually cruel ideas to match his rhetoric.
One of Trump’s most notorious campaign promises during the campaign trail was getting Mexico to pay for a “big, beautiful” border wall on the southern border. Since his election, the Mexican government has made it explicitly clear that it would not pay any of the cost involved in building the wall and as a result the Trump administration is looking to make Americans pay for a wall that most don’t even want. Trump has requested $1.6 billion just to cover a few dozen miles of the wall, the estimated cost for completing it could cost tax payers a mind boggling $67 billion.
Along with the money for the border wall, his budget proposal includes billions of dollars to severely crackdown on immigrant communities with a bulked up deportation force on steroids. He proposes spending $1.5 billion to detain and deport undocumented immigrants and $300 million to bring on up to 1,500 new immigration agents, a move which already has seen rushed efforts to hire anyone available, lowering the standards and quality of these new officers.
To complement these new immigration agents, the Trump administration is requesting $1.2 billion to expand the nation’s detention centers to their biggest capacity in their history. Considering the fact that border crossings are in record low numbers, these detention centers will likely be filled with people arrested inside the United States. To deal with that eventuality, the Trump administration has asked the Department of Justice to spend $75 million to hire immigration judges and support staff.
But this administration won’t stop there in its effort to hurt immigrant families as much as possible. They want to hurt anyone who humanizes immigrants and considers them assets to building a better America. The Trump administration attempted to sneak in language into the budget that would force local governments to comply with federal detention requests. Trump had signed an executive order in January attempting to do something similar but legal challenges eventually made the order null. The City of San Francisco, which fought the executive order, accused the administration of trickery in its attempts to sneak the language into its budget.
In total, the Trump administration is requesting about $4.6 billion to tear children from their parents, wives from husbands and grandparents from their relatives. He is proposing some of the harshest anti-immigrant policy proposals this country has seen in a long time. This comes at a time when the country is seeing record low numbers of border crossings.
As immigrants and Americans, we need to stop this madness. We need to say no to wasting our money on half-baked executive orders that are not legally sound and do nothing more than attack people for who they are. We need to say no to spending our taxes for border enforcement when crossings are at record low numbers. We need to say no to funding a wall no one wants or detention beds meant to enrich the private prison industry and corporations backing hate.
Instead, we need to protect immigrants, including those people that the administration is taking law enforcement actions against who were protected under President Obama’s enforcement priorities, such as Dreamers.
The Trump budget is needlessly cruel and takes broad aim at immigrant communities living peacefully and contributing to our society. We must make Congress do the right thing and reject this budget.
Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change.