Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at Full Committee Markup of Fiscal Year 2022 Homeland Security Funding Bill

2021-07-13 10:38

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2022 Homeland Security bill:

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Let me begin by thanking Ranking Member Fleischmann for his input and collaboration in putting together the bill before us. It has been a pleasure working with him over the years and I very much appreciate his friendship and the value he brings to the subcommittee.

My sincere thanks also to the members of the subcommittee, on both sides of the aisle, for their contributions and indispensable participation in our hearings and throughout the appropriations process.

I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding staff of the subcommittee who worked day and night to find the right balance in funding the critical needs of the Department.

They are: Darek Newby, Kris Mallard, Karyn Richman, Bob Joachim, Mike Herman, Elizabeth Lapham, Justin Smith, and Alex Stewart on the majority side. On the minority side, it has been a pleasure to work with Dena Baron, Adam Koziatek and Daniel Tidwell. And of course, on my personal staff Isabel Sanchez.

As with prior year bills, we do not agree on every funding level or policy priority, particularly when it comes to immigration.  But outside of that challenging and controversial area I believe there is strong bipartisan consensus on most of the bill’s funding priorities.

This year has been exceptionally challenging for our country. Yet the 240,000 personnel of the Department of Homeland Security have continued to carry out their important missions, often at great personal risk.

Since January 2020, the Department has had 52 line of duty deaths, 44 of which were reported as related to COVID-19. 

It’s important for the women and men of the Department to know that – no matter our disagreements about immigration policy or anything else – this Committee appreciates what you do every day to help keep our nation safe.

We will continue to do our best to provide you with the resources necessary to protect your health; protect the country; and protect the rights and dignity of individuals, whether it be the traveling public, disaster survivors, or migrants fleeing desperate circumstances.

I would be remiss if I did not also recognize the pandemic’s impact on migrants, particularly those held in detention facilities.

Many have contracted the virus, some have died, and large numbers of migrants in detention continue to be exposed to and infected by  COVID-19. 

With adequate supplies of the vaccine now readily available, it is incumbent on the administration to immediately make the vaccine directly available to the Department for those individuals in detention who want it. 

Members, before you are the Committee prints of the bill and report.  We have attempted to address as many of your concerns and priorities as possible, as well as those of House members more broadly.

The bill includes $52.81 billion in discretionary appropriations within the subcommittee’s funding allocation. That is an increase of $387.3 million above the budget request and $934 million above the current year level.

To put this allocation into perspective, the increase above the current year is approximately what is needed just to maintain current services across the Department.

The bill includes $18.8 billion for major disaster response and recovery activities, which is funded above the subcommittee allocation, consistent with prior years.

Throughout the bill, we invest in high priority capabilities and activities across the broad spectrum of homeland security missions, including:

  • $2.58 billion for the Secret Service, an increase of $137.8 million;
  • $2.42 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an increase of $397 million to help address the serious and growing threat of cyber-attacks and intrusions.
  • An increase of $133.7 million to expand FEMA’s capacity to respond to the growing frequency of hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters linked to climate change;
  • Increased funding for firefighter grants; the Emergency Food and Shelter Program; Emergency Management Performance Grants; and transportation and port security anti-terrorism grants.
  • $345 million  for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to help reduce backlogs of immigration, refugee, and asylum applications; and
  • $511 million for R&D at the Science and Technology Directorate, an increase of $67 million to develop and test new technologies for first responders and to help the Department carry out its missions.

The bill provides $9.1 billion, an increase of $653.9 million, for Coast Guard operations, including:

  • funding for new educational opportunities for enlisted personnel, putting the Coast Guard on par with the other military services;
  • expanded support for  recruitment, retention, and training;
  • Investments in housing, training facilities, and other shore facility improvements; and
  • new investments in information technology, cybersecurity, communications, and command and control technology.

The bill also includes:

  • long lead time funding for a 3rd Polar Security Cutter to protect our national security interests in the Arctic against the expanding presence of Russia and China
  • increased funding for the Offshore Patrol Cutter to enhance counter-smuggling efforts in the transit zones; and
  • Funding for the Waterways Commerce Cutter to maintain navigation safety in inland waters.

The bill also includes a rescission of approximately $2 billion from prior year appropriations for border barrier construction and makes available up to $100 million from such appropriations for mitigating the environmental impacts of border barrier construction.

To be clear, rescinding these funds does not violate any agreements from prior Congresses.  On the contrary, the last administration flagrantly violated those prior year agreements almost immediately after they were made, diverting a total of nearly $10 billion from the Department of Defense for border barrier construction. 

That’s more than twice the amount Congress appropriated for border barrier construction during that same time period.  This rescission is taken to partially address that past violation.

The bill also provides:

  • $170 million for multi-agency, integrated migrant processing centers at the border, to be administered by the Management Directorate.
  • $655 million for land port of entry construction and modernization;
  • $50 million to continue the expansion of non-intrusive inspection of vehicles at land ports of entry; and
  • $111.8 million for border security technology, with new transparency requirements related to the impacts of technology on privacy and civil liberties.

In addition, the bill includes $100 million for a new, non-custodial shelter grant program for families and vulnerable individuals. This new approach is in lieu of family detention, for which the bill provides no funding.

There is $475 million for Alternatives to Detention and case management services, an increase of $34.9 million.

And the bill funds an average daily population in ICE custody of 28,500 single adults.

It’s important to note that, while this is slightly higher than the population currently in ICE custody, we are trying to anticipate funding requirements for the coming fiscal year.

Today, the Department almost immediately expels most single adult migrants without due process or the ability to seek asylum. 

With the pandemic waning, any legal basis for those expulsions will soon be gone.

As a result, many more single adult migrants will spend at least a short time in ICE detention while being processed. 

Therefore, we have included provisions intended to reduce the over detention of migrants going through the immigration adjudication process if they do not pose a flight risk or a threat to public safety.

We have also included funding and directives aimed at improving planning for anticipated flows at the border. Over time this should help further reduce our primary reliance on very costly detention facilities to support the Department’s immigration enforcement responsibilities.

I’ll conclude by again thanking the gentleman from Tennessee for his collegiality and constructive input on the bill and report.

And the Subcommittee staff, both majority and minority, and my personal staff, for all their efforts over the last few months. I am proud of the work we have done on the bill, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

Thank you, Madam Chair; I yield back.

117th Congress