Rep. Roybal-Allard Statement at DHS Sec. Kelly Hearing on Departmental Budget Request
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), the Ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. The hearing’s witness was Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary, and welcome to your first appearance before the subcommittee.
“There is no doubt that you have a really hard job – among the hardest in government, in my opinion. The department is still quite young and still maturing in institutional terms, and it has a large and diverse set of components and missions. Some of those missions, as you well know, are extremely controversial.
“We will disagree about some policies and priorities, as we did with your predecessor – in some cases, strongly disagree. We do, however, share the common goal of protecting our country and its values. My hope is that we will have the same constructive working relationship with you that we had with Secretary Johnson.
“The members of this subcommittee have the common goal of appropriately resourcing the department to protect and serve our country.
“This includes supporting the men and women who make up your department, the vast majority of whom are fully dedicated to their work and are performing admirably.
“Immigration enforcement will be the biggest challenge we will face in working together. I hope you understand that, in my view, the crux of this issue is not simply a matter of enforcing the law or not – it is the manner in which that enforcement is done.
“It is also a question of the incremental benefit to the nation of significant new investments in border security and immigration enforcement actions and capabilities.
“Each additional segment of physical barrier at the border, and each initiative to hire more immigration enforcement officers, comes potentially at the expense of things like state and local preparedness, cyber security, investments in the Coast Guard fleet, and a multitude of other priorities outside of our bill.
“So it isn’t enough to simply ask whether an investment would improve homeland security; we must also ask what the incremental benefit is, what the downsides are, and what the tradeoffs are.
“Mr. Secretary, our immigration laws are entirely out of step with the situation on the ground in this country. On your watch, I know you see an aggressive enforcement posture as faithfully carrying out the laws currently on the books, but you do have discretion. And right now, that aggressive enforcement is upending the lives of millions of people, the vast majority of whom are valuable, contributing members of their communities; the vast majority of whom are guilty of no criminal acts; the vast majority of whom have been in this country for many years, working jobs that others are unwilling to do.
“For example, I have had growers from California, and representatives from the hotel and restaurant industry, tell me and other Members of Congress the devastating economic impact current enforcement policies will have, and in some cases are already having, on our state and national economy. These consequences are also a threat to national security.
“The ultimate answer is for this Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform that lays out a path to legal status, and eventually, if one meets all the criteria for eligibility, citizenship. Many of us desperately want that to happen.
“While it is up to Congress to pass reform legislation, you as the Secretary of Homeland Security could play an important role in helping that to come about.
“I also want to encourage you to continue an effort begun by your predecessor that is very important to this subcommittee. Secretary Johnson made a high priority of maturing the department’s planning, budgeting, and acquisition processes, including working with us to establish a common appropriations structure. I hope you will capitalize on his accomplishments by also making it your priority to further improve and institutionalize those processes.
“We have a lot to discuss this afternoon, and I look forward to your testimony and your responses to our questions.”