Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 DHS Budget Request

2020-02-26 10:45

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security:

I thank Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Fleischmann for holding this hearing today.  And thank you to our witness for joining us.

The Department of Homeland Security’s mission to secure our nation from persistent and pervasive threats is not an easy task.  In New York, we know that better than most.  To ensure safety, different parts of DHS must effectively coordinate and cooperate, while simultaneously working with other federal, state, and local agencies.

That is why the state of affairs at the Department of Homeland Security is so troubling.  As I told the last Acting Secretary who testified before our committee, it seems like the car is driving off the cliff with no one to take the wheel.  In three short years DHS has been through five Secretaries. 

Your four predecessors instituted inhumane policies of ripping children from their families and jailing decent people for non-violent infractions.  Ensuring the integrity of our borders and enforcing immigration laws are difficult and necessary jobs.  But this administration has taken it too far, with a heartless obsession with immigration enforcement. 

I have recently received calls from local officials in my district with heartbreaking news that our young people are being pulled over and roughed up by ICE enforcement officers for no apparent reason.  This creates a culture of fear and works directly against the community policing work local law enforcement does on a daily basis to build trust and keep us safe.

In addition, the Department deployed CBP personnel from the southern border including personnel from law enforcement tactical units to augment ICE’s interior enforcement operations. 

This action was meant to punish localities like the ones I represent, that refuse to participate in your cruel and unlawful immigration enforcement initiatives.  It also came on the heels of another decision meant to target my constituents: suspension of CBP trusted traveler programs in New York, which will affect more than 200,000 New Yorkers by the end of the year. 

Turning to Fiscal Year 2021, the budget yet again calls for the unnecessary hiring of an additional 2,844 ICE law enforcement officers and proposes an outrageous increase to 60,000 detention beds.  The Administration appears to have learned nothing, as Democrats will not fund unnecessary whims of the President or his campaign promises, particularly for an agency that lacks transparency and whose enforcement tactics are out of control.

The request again misses the point, by focusing on a political agenda instead of securing our homeland. 

The budget would cut:

  • $239 million from the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which assists high threat, high density urban areas where the consequences of attacks would be most catastrophic; and
  • $228 million from the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which enhances law enforcement’s ability to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism or other disasters. 

These cuts could have disastrous consequences. Late last year my district witnessed a horrific anti-Semitic attack.  The cuts you propose are a slap in the face to my constituents who live in consistent fear that they won’t have the security and funding needed given the sharp rise of such attacks. 

The Committee remains eager to support the Department’s core missions.  But we will not be a part of a political act that distracts from the real threats facing our homeland.  I look forward to a productive discussion today. 

116th Congress