Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at Subcommittee Markup of FY 2021 Homeland Security Funding Bill
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2021 bill:
I’d like to begin by thanking Ranking Member Fleischmann for his input and collaboration in putting together the bill before us this morning.
There are, of course, areas of disagreement, almost entirely in the immigration area. I do believe, however, that most of our bill represents a bipartisan agreement.
But I don’t want to minimize the disagreements on immigration; they are significant, and they are important.
Before discussing the bill, I would like to acknowledge the Department’s personnel who work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic interacting with the public. Many of those personnel have contracted the virus, and sadly several have lost their lives to it. We owe them and their families our sincere gratitude.
I also want to recognize the pandemic’s impact on migrants, particularly those continuously held in detention facilities. Many have also contracted the virus, and sadly, some have died. With infections in ICE detention facilities rising, in my view, alternatives to detention should be used for anyone not a threat to public safety, particularly families.
Given the heightened role TSA and especially FEMA are playing during the pandemic, we are continuing discussions on additional requirements they may have, related to the pandemic in fiscal year 2021. We are prepared to address any additional needs later in our process, based on formal requests from the Administration.
Similarly, in light of the impact of the pandemic on fee revenue, we are monitoring the need for additional funding for CBP customs officers in FY21.
We are also in discussions with the Judiciary Committee and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on that agency’s impending funding shortfall. I will note the Administration has not formally requested supplementary funding for USCIS. I do not understand why, but we do not wish to see a funding shortfall cripple this agency.
We will continue our work in a bipartisan way, to ensure the furlough notices the agency recently sent out never go into effect and to ensure USCIS continues its important mission.
Today’s bill does not address this issue because it will not be enacted in time to help. Instead, I will work to address any shortfall in the next COVID-related supplemental bill, with measures to help avoid this kind of situation in the future. It increasingly looks like a supplemental will move through Congress later this month.
Members, before you are the draft bill and Committee report. As much as possible, we have done our best to address as many of your concerns and priorities, as well as those of the full Committee and House members more broadly. It hasn’t been easy: The Subcommittee received 3,850 member requests. This is a 20 percent increase over last year, including over 1,800 requests for bill or report language, an increase of 50 percent.
The subcommittee mark recommends $56 billion in total discretionary appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security.
- $50.7 billion within the bill’s 302(b) discretionary allocation;
- $5.1 billion as a budget cap adjustment for major disaster response and recovery activities; and
- $215 million for the Coast Guard’s overseas contingency operations.
The amount within the discretionary allocation is $250 million above the fiscal year 2020 level.
Throughout the bill, we provide increases above the request to help maintain current services and invest in high priority capabilities and activities across the broad spectrum of homeland security missions.
No funding is provided for additional border barriers. In addition, a provision is included prohibiting the use of any federal funds for border barrier construction other than funds explicitly appropriated by Congress for that purpose in prior years.
The bill provides funding for an average daily population in ICE custody of 22,000 single adults. It would also phase out family detention by the end of 2020.
The population in ICE detention is now under 23,000, compared to a high point of over 54,000 in detention last August.
The pandemic is one factor in this reduction in population. The primary cause has been the suite of new Administration policies to quickly remove migrants at the border with little or no due process.
Primarily as a result of these policies, migrant transfers from CBP to ICE custody have dropped precipitously, along with the corresponding need for ICE beds.
Until the Department discontinues that policy, funding for 12,000 of the 22,000 detention beds funded in the bill will not be needed and will remain unavailable.
Any funds not used by ICE for detention beds as a result of that policy will be transferred to the Coast Guard at the end of fiscal year 2021, to reduce its backlog of shore facility recapitalization requirements.
Until the past few years, we have worked collaboratively with the Department to provide funding flexibility during the year of the bill’s execution.
With notification to the Committee, the bill has provided the Department authority to transfer limited amounts of funding between accounts to address unanticipated needs and circumstances.
This authority has always come with the understanding that such transfers – and major reprogramming actions – would be implemented only with the concurrence of the Committee.
Unfortunately, the Department violated that understanding last summer by ignoring the Committee’s objections to a proposed transfer and reprogramming notification related to immigration enforcement.
To make matters worse, the Department recently sent a transfer and reprogramming notification that proposes to use bipartisan congressional priorities as offsets to make up for CBP’s fee revenue shortfall.
The Department has abused the authority provided by Congress. As a consequence, our bill includes no authority to transfer funds between accounts and eliminates most authority to reprogram funds within accounts.
I’ll conclude by again thanking the Ranking Member for his collegiality and constructive input on the bill and report.
It is unfortunate the controversial issues in our bill overshadow all the good bipartisan work we do together to provide oversight and transparency to the Department’s activities and to ensure its more than 240,000 personnel have the resources they need to successfully carry out the Department’s many important missions.
I also thank the Subcommittee staff, both majority and minority, for all their efforts over the last few months. I am proud of the work we have done on the bill and report, and I urge my colleagues to support it.