Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at Full Committee Markup of Fiscal Year 2023 Homeland Security Funding Bill
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 2023 Homeland Security bill:
“Let me begin by conveying my sincere appreciation to Ranking Member Fleishman and the members of the subcommittee for their contributions to this bill and for their thoughtful participation in our budget hearings.
“The Homeland jurisdiction includes some of the most controversial issues this Committee faces. That makes it even more important for the Subcommittee to work collegially.
“As a founding member of the Subcommittee, I believe we have done that relatively well over the years, and I very much appreciate the contributions of the Ranking Member and all the members of the subcommittee to maintaining that approach.
“This includes subcommittee staff from both sides of the isle.
“My sincere thanks to my incredible majority subcommittee staff, Darek Newby, Kris Mallard, Bob Joachim, Mike Herman, Victoria Allred, Takeena Strachan, Tony Lawrence and Sofia Perez and Bob Evans on my personal staff.
“My sincere thanks to the minority staff Paul Anstine, and Tom Huntley and Daniel Tidwell on Mr. Fleishman’s personal staff for their hard work and congeniality.
“I also extend my deep gratitude to the Department’s personnel for the critical work they do every day to protect our country and for the information they have provided the Subcommittee which has been extremely helpful in crafting our bill.
“The Subcommittee’s responsibility to provide the Department’s personnel with the resources they need to carry out the Department’s broad set of missions is always at the forefront of our deliberations.
“I believe Members of the Committee will agree on most of the funding priorities in our bill, including support for the Coast Guard, CISA, HSI, FEMA disaster response and recovery, the Secret Service, the Science and Technology Directorate, and CBP trade and travel.
“As in past years, disagreements on this bill will primarily be in the areas of border security and immigration enforcement in the interior of the country. Unfortunately, those disagreements have been exaggerated by inaccurate characterizations of this bill’s approach. So, I want to set the record straight.
“I have been consistent in my view that physical barriers can be effective tools in some contexts, such as near population centers where someone could quickly cross the border without the ability of the Border Patrol to apprehend them.
“However, there are many places where physical barriers make no sense such as – in less populated areas where any marginal tactical benefit is far outweighed by the significant construction and maintenance costs of barriers and the negative impacts on property owners, communities, and ecosystems, including wildlife.
“Border barriers, which could take years to build, are not a panacea for border security and as we have seen, even the newest ones can quickly be scaled or penetrated.
“And in many places, barriers cannot be constructed directly on the border, so a physical barrier simply cannot stop migrants from crossing.
“Therefore, no one should be under the illusion that physical barriers will stop or significantly reduce the number of people crossing the border.
“In fact, the Border Patrol has told our Subcommittee that most migrants who cross the border turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents, at the first opportunity.
“Another area of disagreement will be the number of ICE beds funded in the bill.
“Consistent with the budget request, the bill provides funding for an average daily population in ICE custody of 25,000 single adults.
“Some of my colleagues will suggest that is not enough and that we should be detaining many more people.
“But immigration detention is civil detention. It is not meant to be a punishment, and those detained are not serving time for having committed crimes.
“As the Chief of the Border Patrol recently told our Subcommittee, the vast majority of migrants are escaping violence and looking for a better and safer life for themselves and their families and pose no threat to our country.
“It is my belief they deserve our empathy and are entitled to due process.
“Detention is extremely expensive. We cannot detain our way out of the immigration enforcement challenges we face today.
“Since 2019, we have funded an increase in Alternatives to Detention capacity from approximately 83,000 to more than 180,000 participants.
“This bill expands investments in ATD programs and related case management services with an increase of $127 million, for a total of $569 million.
“Despite statements to the contrary, ATD programs are effective in ensuring compliance with immigration court proceedings and other requirements, particularly when paired with case management service.
“Today, the bill before you prioritizes the resources on the best and most effective ways to protect our borders and address the most critical security and public safety threats we face.
“The mark includes $60.3 billion in discretionary appropriations within the Subcommittee’s funding allocation.
“That’s an increase of $2.8 billion above the current year and $3.6 billion above the budget request.
“The bill also includes $19.9 billion for major disaster response and recovery activities, which is funded above the subcommittee allocation, consistent with prior years.
“Members, just to maintain the Department of Homeland Security’s current level of services, it needs approximately $1.5 billion, which is more than half of the increase above last year.
“To maximize the impact of the remaining increase, our bill invests in high priority capabilities and activities across the broad spectrum of homeland security missions.
“Here are some examples:
“$180 million for border security technology to help improve Border Patrol effectiveness.
“$135.5 million for Border Patrol personnel, including 300 new Border Patrol Agents and 300 processing coordinators.
“Due to the difficulty the Border Patrol has had over the past few years in hiring new agents to keep pace with attrition, the Subcommittee has proactively funded processing coordinators to free up Agents to spend more time in the field.
“In this bill, we are providing funding for both Agents and coordinators in anticipation of improved hiring and reduced attrition.
“To help improve morale and reduce attrition, the bill includes funding for employee childcare services, tuition assistance, and on-site mental health clinicians.
“In addition, if we are truly serious about border security, a primary focus must be the land Ports of Entry, where we know more than 90 percent of hard drug seizures occur.
“We also know we are finding only a fraction of the drugs and other contraband that makes it into the United States.
“By expanding non-intrusive inspection of commercial and passenger vehicles, we will significantly improve the interdiction rate as will the $120 million in this bill to hire more customs officers at the land, sea, and air ports of entry.
“Other priority investments include:
“An increase of $194 million for Homeland Security Investigations’ mission to disrupt and dismantle terrorist, transnational, and other criminal organizations that threaten the customs and immigration laws of the United States.
“An increase of $589 million above the current year for Coast Guard operations to protect our interests at sea and to counter the presence of China and Russia;
“$2.3 billion for procurement of Coast Guard vessels, aircraft, and shore infrastructure, an increase of $271 million above the current year, including continued investments in the Polar Security Cutter; Offshore Patrol Cutter, and Waterways Commerce Cutter programs.
“An increase of $24 million for Secret Service operations, including $5 million for the National Threat Assessment Center.
“An increase of $334 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including important investments in critical infrastructure cyber defense.
“A $169 million increase for FEMA operations.
“Increased funding for firefighter grants; Emergency Management Performance Grants; Non-profit Security Grants, and floodmapping;
“$40 million for the Next Generation Warning System; and
“$683 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including an increase of $274 million to help reduce backlogs of immigration, refugee, and asylum applications and help Lawful Permanent Residents become citizens.
“The bill also provides $616 million to allows TSA to compensate its workforce at levels commensurate with those of other federal agencies, and to extend other equivalent rights and protections. This is a matter of basic fairness to TSA personnel and will help address the agency’s long-standing recruitment and retention challenges.
“The fact is we have limited resources which makes it critical for this bill to prioritize funding to have the greatest impact on the Department’s ability to protect the country. I believe the bill before you, reflects the focused and balanced approach that is required.
“I am proud of the work we have done on the bill and report, and I urge my colleagues to support it.”