Homeland security appropriations bill takes one step forward, one step back
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in the first Appropriations committee mark-up meeting of the year, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security considered the Fiscal Year 2009 funding legislation for the Department of Homeland Security.
The bill includes vital funding to strengthen
U.S. homeland and border security. However, the legislation also contains record spending increases, several over-reaching regulations that delay the construction and implementation of important security programs and projects, and new restrictions and funding cuts to critical state and local homeland security partnership programs.
“This bill is a good start, but it’s far from perfect,” House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis said. “The good news is that this legislation is going through a proper and normal appropriations process, so there are opportunities to fine-tune the language to ensure that we properly fund our security efforts, support programs to keep our homeland as safe as possible, and spend taxpayer money in a responsible and prudent way.”
The bill totals $39.9 billion, which is $2.3 billion above the President’s request and $2.3 billion more than last year’s total. Highlights of the legislation include funding for an additional 2200 border patrol agents for a total of over 20,000, detention space for an additional 1000 illegal aliens for a total of 33,000, and $775 million in additional funds for border security infrastructure. Also, the bill matches last year’s funding level for first responder grants – which is $1.9 billion above the President’s request.
However, the legislation also contains language that will cause protracted delays in security infrastructure efforts along the border, including a withholding of $1.3 billion for border security fencing, coast guard, and other programs until new, complex regulations are met. Because of these increasingly complicated policies, border fence funding provided last year through the appropriations process has yet to be released.
Another problematic provision in the legislation would cut funding for state and local “287(g)” agreements – a program to give local law enforcement agencies an opportunity to team with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to combat specific challenges in their communities.