Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), the Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at a recent meeting of the House-Senate Conference Committee on Homeland Security:
“Thank you, Madam Chair. I am pleased we are able to get to work on finalizing a full-year funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
“The proposal I’ve presented will be the basis for the House majority position for this conference. Based on a holistic analysis of the country’s most acute vulnerabilities, the proposal is balanced across the mission areas of the Department. It advances a smart and strong border security posture while staying true to our core values as Americans.
“Our responsibility is to prioritize funding for the Department within our funding allocation. Nothing can be considered in a vacuum. More funding for one priority means less for others.
“The issue is not only that the President is proposing to spend $5.7 billion on border barriers. It is that there are serious homeland security vulnerabilities for which we will have no funding if the President gets his way.
“My proposal avoids this imbalance by including funding to address those vulnerabilities.
“The vast majority of drug interdictions occur at the ports of entry – not between the ports. That is why my proposal funds 1,000 additional Customs officers at the ports of entry to facilitate trade and travel, and to interdict smuggled drugs and other contraband.
“It pays for new imaging technology at the land ports of entry to ensure all commercial and passenger vehicles are scanned for drugs and other contraband prior to entering our country.
“And it will help ensure more vehicles leaving the country are scanned for smuggled weapons and the proceeds of drug sales.
“It makes large investments in reducing the backlog of critical repair and improvement needs at Border Patrol stations and ports of entry.
“Between the ports of entry, it provides significant investments in cutting-edge border security technology to improve situational awareness and operational control.
“Technology investments are also made at mail processing facilities to interdict fentanyl and other opioids shipped through the international mail.
“Significant new investments are also made in the CBP and Coast Guard fleets of aircraft and vessels. This includes the procurement of the first Coast Guard heavy icebreaker since the 1970s.
“There has been a lot of inaccurate rhetoric about a security crisis at the southern border which can be addressed only by spending $5.7 billion for new miles of border barriers.
“The numbers of migrants crossing our southwest border are at historic lows.
“The only crisis at the border has been a humanitarian one due to DHS’s inability to care for the migrants, families and unaccompanied children properly.
“My proposal includes much needed humanitarian aid and improved facilities for migrants taken into CBP custody to help prevent unnecessary deaths and health problems.
“My proposal provides a larger investment in alternatives to detention, and family case management; and a bigger focus on detention facility inspections and healthcare services.
“Also, smart investments are made in the Department’s overarching mission, including the TSA, Secret Service, FEMA, critical cyber and physical infrastructure, and support for state and local governments to prepare and respond to disasters of every kind.
“Between fiscal years 2007 and 2018, Congress appropriated more than $8.7 billion for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology, with some of the highest funding years occurring during Democratic control of the House.
“With this proposal, Democrats are once again supporting strong border security as an essential component of homeland security. Border security, however, is more than physical barriers; and homeland security is more than border security. My proposal strikes a balance between a strong homeland security posture without compromising America’s core values.”