The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write on behalf of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and our members across the country, to urge you to release a budget for Fiscal Year 2024 that moves our country closer to becoming a just and equitable United States free from white supremacy, where Black liberation is realized, and all people are thriving. A budget in line with this vision cuts funding from punitive, enforcement-focused systems that have disproportionately harmed Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) for centuries, and instead invests equitably in programs and policies that create the conditions where every member of our communities are safe and can thrive.
You sent a powerful message on day one of your administration when you chose as your very first Executive Order “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”1 We wholeheartedly agree that “the Federal Government should pursue [a] comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” Further, as your Administration noted in the release of your FY23 budget, the President’s budget is an annual opportunity to make “historic investments to support underserved communities and combat racial disparities across the Nation,” and to advance a truly “whole of government” approach to racial equity.2
Though we were heartened to see reduced funding for some enforcement-focused agencies and increased funding for some crucial social safety net programs in your FY23 budget proposal, the budget overall did not live up to the promise of your administration’s stated vision. The final FY23 Omnibus Appropriations package was even further from that vision, even including the continuation of Trump Administration immigrant detention funding levels.3
We urge you to lean into the vision you set out on day one and to improve upon last year’s budget by issuing a Fiscal Year 2024 budget that:
Begins to reckon with the legacy of slavery, repair the harm to generations of Black individuals and families, and corrects the resulting wealth and health disparities4 wrought by slavery by creating an executive Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans, in line with the vision of existing Congressional legislation of the same name;5
Ensures immigrants, refuges, and asylum seekers are welcomed to the U.S. with dignity, and significantly decreases our country’s reliance on immigrant detention by cutting funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations, as well as for e-carceration programs;6
Invests in programs that keep immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with their families and in communities, such as non-profit-run voluntary community-based resettlement services7 and case management programs that have not only proved overwhelmingly effective,8 but are necessary alternatives to detention, and fund these programs outside of the Department of Homeland Security or, at a minimum, outside of ICE;9
Supports the wellbeing of border communities by decreasing funding for Border Patrol Operations, refraining from funding any new personnel, cutting funding for invasive border surveillance technologies which militarize border communities, and rescinding all previously appropriated wall funds;
Leans into the Administration’s stated goal of a “public health-informed strategy”10 for violence prevention, by relocating funding for programs under the auspices of the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) in the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Health and Human Services and other public health-focused agencies instead, in order to protect communities targeted by white supremacist violence without harming, profiling, securitizing, and infringing upon the rights of these same communities, especially Black, Muslim, Arab, and Sikh communities;
Invests in our communities’ safety and well being by funding non-carceral crisis response and violence intervention programs, including unarmed, non-police first responders situated outside of police departments;
Reduces the federal government’s harmful role in criminalizing and incarcerating Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, and addresses the public health crisis of police violence11 by reducing funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)12 Program;
Demilitarizes our communities by stipulating that no funds should be used to operate the “1033 program,” necessarily decreasing the flow of surplus military hardware to state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Budgets are moral documents, a statement of values — for better and for worse. For too many years, our country’s budget, including during your administration, has shown how we undervalue the safety, health, and wellbeing of Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, low income people, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and many other members of our communities. For too many years, government systems — like our immigration and criminal legal systems — have been called “broken” when we know that, in fact, they are working as designed to oppress many and maintain the status quo for the privileged few. For too many years, our country’s budget, which funds those systems, has shown how much we value the status quo, how unwilling we are to chart a new path away from the white supremacy and systemic racism that has shaped our society and government since white Europeans first set foot on this continent, through slavery and Jim Crow, to the present day.
But you, Mr. President, could turn our country’s budget into a clear statement that we value our power to chart a new path for our country, by introducing a budget that, as you said in EO 13985 meets “the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face,” by addressing racism as the “serious threat to the public’s health”13 The Centers for Disease Control has recognized it to be, and enables every person who lives here to thrive.
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action members across the country are also engaging in state and local budgeting work to create a more just, equitable society on all levels of government. The “bully pulpit” power of the President means that through your FY24 budget, you have the power to model for state and local governments across the country what is possible when government officials choose to be led by an antiracist vision.
At the core of the Jewish tradition is the story of the Exodus. We are taught that an erev rav, a mixed multitude, rose up against slavery and despotic rule, and left mitzrayim, the narrow place of Egypt, entering the expansive desert where we had to learn a new way to govern ourselves and allocate our resources. Our American Jewish community is a mixed multitude—a multiracial, multiethnic family, existing at every identity intersection — living within a larger mixed multitude in a nation that is both a narrow place of oppression and a wilderness of possibility.
Every year represents a new opportunity to bring us closer to the promised land of a democratic society where each person in our mixed multitude, each community, has what we need to live and thrive. For all of these reasons, as you finalize your FY24 budget, we urge you to center solutions that address the ways that racism and white supremacy have shaped American public policy, systems, and spending priorities for centuries. We urge you to exercise your considerable power to make our country a more equitable, safer place, where every person can thrive.
CEO, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Washington Director, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Shalanda Young, Director, Office of Management and Budget
The Honorable Susan Rice, Director, Domestic Policy Council
- “Executive Order 13985 of January 21, 2021, On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” Code of Federal Regulations, 86 FR 7009, Page 7009-7013, Document Number 2021-01753.
- The White House, “President Biden’s FY 2023 Budget Advances Equity,” Press release, March 20, 2022.
- The Defund Hate Coalition, “Are We Still in the Trump Years? Defund Hate Coalition Statement on the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” December 21, 2021.
- Mary T. Bassett, “Black Americans’ Poor Health Outcomes Is Proof of Wildly Overdue Unpaid Tab for Slavery,” The Boston Globe, October 4, 2022.
- Human Rights Watch, “‘Why We Can’t Wait’ Coalition Statement on US Failure to Establish H.R. 40 / S. 40 Commission,” August 23, 2022.
- National Immigrant Justice Center, “114 Immigrant and Human Rights Groups Demand Biden Close Detention Centers, Stop Expansion, and Cut Funding for Immigration Detention,” November 21, 2022.
- The Defund Hate Coalition, “Beyond the Enforcement Paradigm: A Vision for a Transformative Budget for U.S. Immigration,” April 20, 2021.
- Women’s Refugee Commission, “The Family Case Management Program: Why Case Management Can and Must Be Part of the US Approach to Immigration,” October 23, 2020.
- National Immigrant Justice Center. “Immigration Priorities for a Just Budget in 2023, Deep Dive: Fund Community-Based Services,” September 2021,
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships | Homeland Security,” n.d.
- Marisa Iati, Steven Rich and Jennifer Jenkins, “Fatal police shootings in 2021 set record since The Post began tracking, despite public outcry,” The Washington Post, February 9, 2022.
- Civil Rights Corps, “Civil Rights Groups Letter Expressing Concerns Regarding Police Funding Bills,” August 11, 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Racism and Health,” November 24, 2021.