We got a letter from Sen. Feinstein about the Border Supplemental Appropriations Bill

Quick refresher: The Border Supplemental Appropriations Bill (or, the BS Appropriations Bill) was an appropriation of funds for DHS that Congress passed back in June, just before a brief recess. It had some strings attached, such as a requirement that MoCs be able to visit border facilities on two days’ notice, but was still an infusion of money into the inhumane detention system that the US government maintains on our southern border.

As you might guess, we disagreed with giving ICE and CBP more money—especially in the House, where Speaker Pelosi could have held out and refused to put the bill up for a vote, and instead conceded, in what the NY Times called “a striking defeat for Pelosi”. But we also let Sen. Feinstein know how we felt, since she voted for the Senate version.

At our most recent meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s staff in her SF office, we received a letter addressed to seven Indivisible chapters, including us. In it, she laid out her reasoning for voting for the bill, including substantive responses to our concerns.

We thank the Senator for this letter, which is a shining example of respectful disagreement. And, of course, we look forward to the Senator “keep[ing] your thoughts in mind as the Senate considers future legislation on these issues”, and hope she will defund hate.

The text of the Senator’s letter follows.

July 18, 2019

Dear Indivisible Members of California,

Thank you for writing to me to express your views on recent federal funding legislation. I always appreciate hearing from the members of Indivisible, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

Like you, I am deeply concerned about the treatment of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is unconscionable that children and families are forced to remain in overcrowded facilities where they lack access to necessities such as clean water and medical services. If you would like to read in greater detail my assessment of the appalling crisis at the border, you may find it in my op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle here: https://sen.gov/00Z0 .

In order to improve conditions at the border, I voted for the bipartisan border supplemental appropriations bill (Public Law 116-26), which the President signed into law on July 1, 2019. This law provides $2.88 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to care for unaccompanied children and help them reunite with their families. Without additional funding, ORR would have run out of money, and unaccompanied children would have been forced to remain separated from their families, languishing in dangerous Border Patrol facilities even longer.

The supplemental funding bill also included $240 million to fund food, clothing, and medical care for children and families, as well as $30 million for nonprofits and communities that are providing food, shelter, and social services to children and families.

I understand you oppose the supplemental appropriations law because you believe it does not do enough to guarantee the right to enter and inspect detention facilities without warning. However, the law did create a new mandate that Members of Congress must be able to visit ORR facilities with 48 hours’ notice.

Nonetheless, I agree that the Trump administration must be held accountable for improving conditions in detention facilities. That is why I directed my staff to visit border stations and immigration detention facilities in California and to prioritize visiting facilities that hold children. My office has conducted repeated oversight visits to more than 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities and Border Patrol stations in California, as well as each land port of entry with detention capacity along the California-Mexico border. Information they collected has shaped my understanding of the severity of this issue and will continue to inform how we must proceed in making reforms.

I understand you are also concerned that the Trump administration may use these funds to construct a wall along the United States-Mexico border. It is important to note that the supplemental appropriations law specifically prohibits the Trump administration from transferring this funding for any purpose not outlined in the law, such as for a border wall or additional ICE detention beds. Please know that I have consistently opposed the Trump Administration’s efforts to divert billions of taxpayer dollars away from other federal programs to fund the construction of a wall on our southern border.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees our nation’s immigration laws, and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees federal funding levels, I sincerely appreciate hearing your views on this important issue. I will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate considers future legislation on these issues.

Once again, thank you for writing. Should you have any other questions or comments, please call my Washington, DC. office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at https://feinstein.senate.gov/ .

Best regards. [signature]


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