National Priorities Project: Budget Matters blog

Oct 04 2023 - Latest entries

  • The Biden Asylum Ban Swings Back and Forth in Judicial Courts
    11 August 2023 @ 12:42 pm

    Photo by Lightspring on Shutterstock

    A federal court of appeals has allowed the Biden administration’s asylum ban to stand - in likely violation of U.S. and international law. 

    In May of this year, the Biden administration announced a new policy to turn back migrants at the southern border by making it virtually impossible to apply for asylum. The policy was the administration’s answer to problems posed by lifting the Trump-era, anti-immigrant Title 42 policy.  

    Among these policies was a federal rule preemptively denying eligibility for asylum to certain migrants. This asylum ban violates existing U.S. and international law that promises asylum to anyone who comes to the border to seek safety. The administration also proposed more heavily investing in the country’s deportation and detention machines.

    Opposing the Asylum Ban

    Several Members of Congress, including a dozen Senators, along with 30,000 human rights and faith-based organizations have denounced the asylum ban. A few key groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), also filed a lawsuit against the administration challenging the asylum ban, titled East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Biden

    Efforts to end the asylum ban got off to a promising start on July 25 when Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California decided that this new asylum ban was illegal. Read this fact sheet from NIJC to see the judge’s reasons for the ruling.

    However, the good news didn’t last for long. The judge’s decision allowed 14 days for the Biden administration to appeal the decision - and appeal they did.

    The Asylum Ban Remains In Effect - For Now

    On August 3, within the two-week buffer, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the asylum ban to remain in effect as the appeal is heard. The appeal has been put on an expedited process with filings due this month and September, which could at least limit the possibility for more punitive immigration actions - but only if the court eventually overturns the ban.

    For now, the asylum ban is still here, and every day that it is in effect is a day that thousands of asylum seekers are turned away from the border on top of the 2.7 million denials justified under Title 42. Under this ban, asylum seekers have no choice but to return to the very place they left due to violence, or to wait at the border as they try their luck with the unreliable and glitchy CBP One phone app that resembles a lottery for a chance at legal entry to the country. A new lawsuit targets the CBP One app for presenting unreasonable hurdles to request asylum - in order to use the app, migrants fleeing violence and poverty must have a smartphone, a data plan, and access to electricity.

    Even for those lucky enough to win the app’s lottery and get an audience with immigration officials, they face the threat of deportation in initial interviews conducted not with lawyers or caseworkers, but detention and deportation officials - an aspect of the process that advocates including some members of Congress have also called to end.

    Ending the Rollercoaster Ride for Immigrants

    The rollercoaster of court rulings and interference from the administration is representative of the broader U.S. immigration system as a whole: immigrants are in a limbo when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform and permanent pathways to residency and citizenship. 

    While programs like TPS and DACA provide widespread relief for immigrants (and I am a benefactor of this), they are temporary policies at the end of the day. Keeping up with court decisions that impact the entire trajectory of immigrant lives and communities – from belonging, to safety, to life goals and ambitions, to simple necessities and joys – can be exhausting. Immigrants are always at the edge of our seats.

    I hope the asylum ban federal rule is ultimately vacated at the end of this court process. I’m calling for our country’s leaders to instill transformative and humane immigration policies beyond the enforcement paradigm. Groups like ACLU and NIJC have been powerful in the fight for good immigration policies. Each sign-on letter, each lawsuit, and each court case counts – otherwise, existing punitive measures and violence at the border become the norm. 

    It will take everyone to get on the good side of this fight for immigrant communities to win.

  • On July Fourth, Let’s Celebrate by Reimagining Immigration Policy
    6 July 2023 @ 11:40 am

    Twitter post with link to take action asking President Biden to reform immigration and spend less on deportations and detentions

    Take action to ask President Biden to support funding cuts for deportations and detentions.

    This July 4th, it's time to fight for national immigration reform.

    On May 11, the pandemic-era immigration measure Title 42 ended with 2.8 million total migrants deported. The next day, the US renewed a decades-old immigration law, Title 8, which covers everything from asylum and refugees to deportations. Under Title 8, migrants rejected from asylum will be banned from re-entry for five years. But we shouldn’t settle for decades-old laws governing immigration. It’s past time for a more modern, humane and fair immigration policy.

    Taxpayers spent a record $26 billion on border patrol and deportations this year with little to show for it. Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has deported more than five million people, the majority of whom were living their own lives, having committed no legal offense but their existence in this country. To put $26 billion into perspective, we could pay the salaries for 285,888 public elementary school teachers, or more than 3 million public housing units. Instead, both public schools and federal housing programs face budget cuts or freezes under the recently negotiated federal budget deal.

    We should redirect federal dollars toward real community needs, and fix the immigration process to help both immigrants and our communities. Instead, states left to their own devices to address migrants in a broken system are undermining both federal law and the basic humanity and dignity of immigrants subjected to harsh treatment. The ensuing court cases bare these realities. The ACLU filed a case against the inhumane conditions of state immigration practices. Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the federal government to set deportation priorities, over challenges from Texas and Louisiana. Still, the case has narrow implications. We’ve repeatedly seen state governors hype immigration as a political issue by bussing desperate immigrants to other states. These struggles will continue, and immigrants will suffer, until federal policy steps up with humane and just solutions.

    In my home state of Texas, funding for border enforcement and militarization has more than quadrupled in 8 years to $4.6 billion. Texas’ Operation Lone Star, the reason for the surge in funding, is ostensibly aimed at drug trafficking at the border. Yet the majority of arrests are for simple trespassing, nicknamed a “catch-and-jail” program. One arrest of an Ecuadorian migrant for trespassing was deemed unconstitutional, but a single ruling couldn’t change the system. Instead of allowing humane passage for migrants fleeing violence, persecution, and extreme poverty, borders are a site for sweeping militarized crime policy. 

    Migration is a concern for every country on the planet, and increasingly so at a time of growing climate crisis, authoritarianism, and instability. But knee-jerk, politicized solutions also ignore our involvement in the root causes of migration. The US must contend with its role in destabilizing Central American politics among other global interventions. Asylum is truly the bare minimum protection in a country that claims itself as a nation of immigrants and opportunity.

    We should care about immigration policy for how the treatment of migrants is a reflection of our country’s values. But these policies do not only impact migrants. Billions of taxpayer dollars fund border patrol, and every dollar used for militarizing immigration is a dollar that doesn’t go toward public health, education, housing, or other real needs. 

    One group moving us forward is Defund Hate, a coalition for immigrant rights. Defund Hate is composed of 60+ organizations representing faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and directly impacted immigrant communities.

    Defund Hate just launched a campaign to demand that the Biden administration deprioritize funding for deportations and detentions and instead invest in making communities stronger. So far, President Biden’s plans for a more humane immigration system (like under his Build Back Better plan) have gone nowhere in Congress. President Biden has one more presidential budget request in this term, due in February 2024, when he can ask Congress to take a different approach on immigration. 

    It’s not too late for President Biden to set a precedent of treating migrants with care, dignity, and respect, and request that Congress cut spending on deportations and detentions. It would be a powerful first step to remaking our broken, decades-old immigration system.

    Jyotsna Naidu is a Next Leader with the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

  • A Peek into the Poor People's Campaign Moral Poverty Action Congress
    28 June 2023 @ 2:07 pm

    If there’s one thing the Poor People’s Campaign knows how to do, it is: energizing a room full of people with hearty music and mesmerizing messages. 

    The Poor People’s Campaign Moral Poverty Action Congress (PPC Congress) took place last week starting Juneteenth (June 19) in Washington, DC for an action-packed three days. I attended the second day with some colleagues from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

    A sway of the hips there, a clap there, a talented live band driving the beat, and a banner that says “POVERTY = DEATH” plastered onstage – the opening to the second day of the PPC Congress served as a reminder of our collective morals against poverty, laid out as the Poor People's Campaign’s principles and demands, and a morale boost for why we were there in the first place.

    Since 2018, the mission of the Poor People’s Campaign is to rewrite and enact a moral budget that eradicates poverty in the United States. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis are the co-chairs. 

    The message was clear: Poverty is the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. as research shows. Before the federal government implemented temporary relief policies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 140 million Americans were living in poverty. To put that into perspective, 43% of the nation and 52% of children were poor or low-income. Poverty exists and is exacerbated by the denial of healthcare, food, and housing to Americans and is driven by environmental injustices and bloated militarized spending.


    Once we began the day with high spirits, we dove into a plenary about policy #facts led by Shailly Barnes from the Kairos Center and Rev. Kazimir Brown from Repairers of the Breach. Oh, and there were hundreds of representatives and advocates from more than 30 states in the audience – it was a packed room.

    Shailly Barnes and Rev. Kazimir Brown highlighted new national and state fact sheets created with my colleagues at IPS. Where taxpayer dollars go toward the military, those dollars are taken away from critical programs like the Child Tax Credit, Medicaid, and SNAP – due to the military and social programs sharing the same pot in the federal discretionary budget. Our report shows that less than $2 out of every $5 in discretionary spending were available to fund people and communities.

    Here are key points about militarism and poverty taken from the national data fact sheet:

    Again and again we heard: Poverty is a policy choice. So too can the solutions that combat poverty – which is why the Poor People’s Campaign collaborated with lawmakers to reintroduce the Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up spearheaded by Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee. Versions of this bill have seen the House floor for a few years now, and the Poor People’s Campaign continues to demand that our leaders take solutions to poverty seriously.

    Later in the afternoon, hundreds of the same representatives and advocates visited House and Senate offices, with fact sheets in hand, and urged lawmakers that a Third Reconstruction is necessary and that to be poor and low-income in the U.S. is a death sentence.

    That evening, these representatives and advocates gathered again in front of the steps of the Supreme Court for a speak-out program. We heard powerful stories from people across different backgrounds, including mothers, veterans and religious leaders – all united by the unjust realities of being poor and low-income in the U.S.

    What followed was a press conference across the street right outside the Capitol Building. Testimonies continued, and a few lawmakers in attendance showed their support, including Rep. Jayapal and Rep. Lee.

    In our fight against poverty, we must fight for demilitarization and cuts to militarized spending, which includes the Pentagon, border militarization, and carceral systems. We need to prioritize our communities that rely on social programs such as food assistance, healthcare, and childcare. Our federal budget must reflect the people's’ needs.

    As the Poor People’s Campaign chants: Forward together, not one step back.



Oct 2023