Rep. Roybal-Allard Statement at Hearing on ICE and CBP 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 Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The hearing’s witnesses were Thomas D. Homan, ICE Acting Director; John P. Wagner, CBP Office of Field Operations Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner; and Carla L. Provost, Acting Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.
“Welcome Director Homan, Chief Provost, and Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner Wagner.
“When the secretary appeared before this subcommittee a few weeks ago, I noted that his job was among the most challenging in government.
“Much of that challenge stems from the difficult missions of your agencies. One of your greatest challenges is enforcing our immigration laws while at the same time adhering to our American values.
“One of the responsibilities of this subcommittee is to provide the oversight of where and how your agencies use taxpayer dollars.
“There will be times we will disagree on funding priorities, as well as policies, interpretation of law, and enforcement priorities, just as I disagree with some of the prior administration.
“Among those disagreements is the president’s proposed border wall, because it isn’t enough to just ask whether an investment improves homeland security.
“We must also consider the fact that each additional segment of physical barrier at the border comes at the expense of other important priorities, both inside and outside of the department. We must ask whether the incremental benefits outweigh the detrimental effects, including the costs and the trade-offs.
“Another responsibility of this subcommittee is to hold accountable your agencies and any personnel who violate the trust we and you have placed in them.
“For example, CBP and ICE have significant authority not only over criminal aliens but in the treatment of extremely vulnerable individuals, children, and families they apprehend, many of whom are fleeing severely traumatic circumstances. Emphasizing the need for CBP and ICE to ensure such individuals are treated fairly and humanely and according to appropriate standards is this subcommittee’s obligation, and should not be interpreted as being at odds with valuing the mission of your agencies.
“A further area of disagreement is on immigration enforcement. I completely disagree with the aggressive posture called for by the president’s executive orders.
“One sentence in the witness testimony particularly struck me in this regard. It says, “the stepped up enforcement of our Nation’s immigration laws in the interior of the United States is critically important to the national security and public safety of the United States.”
“There is no disagreement that we should be removing dangerous individuals. But interior arrests of non-criminals are up 157 percent over last year. That is not required for national security or public safety. And it has real costs to families and communities all over this country.
“I’ll give just one example of those costs. In Los Angeles, where I live, there is an old battery recycling plant. For decades, this facility has exposed nearby residents to harmful toxins, such as lead and arsenic, impairing the health of their children for the rest of their life. Some 100,000 people are still at risk from this contamination.
“The county has organized volunteers to go door-to-door in these communities to gather health information. Because many of the residents are so frightened of being separated from their family, health professionals fear residents will be unwilling to talk to volunteers.
“There are different versions of this story because of current immigration policies. People are afraid to report serious crimes, including domestic violence, and they are less willing to come forward as witnesses to crimes.
“Teachers are telling me that children are being traumatized and afraid to go to school, or to just go out and play, for fear their parents will be gone when they return home. The trauma that is being inflicted on entire communities throughout our country cannot be overstated.
“This is a moral question as much as it is a legal one. And members of the panel, just as other law enforcement have discretion to enforce the laws, you too have the discretion in enforcing our immigration laws fairly and justly.
“As we discuss this and other important issues, I hope we will all avoid unnecessary and misleading rhetoric suggesting that Secretary Jeh Johnson and the previous administration did not work to protect our borders and enforce our laws.
“I hope we will respect the efforts of the prior administration to faithfully enforce the law as they understood it – including the efforts of the men and women of CBP and ICE who served during that administration.
“To try and discredit them only serves to undermine the respect and confidence the American people have in their government, and its determination to keep them safe.
“In addition, given the importance of your missions, I hope that in areas of disagreement in homeland security investments and policies, it does not call into question the commitment we all share as Americans to defend and protect our country.
“Mr. Chairman, I know that is the approach you take in leading this subcommittee, and I very much respect and appreciate your patriotism and your commitment to protecting our homeland.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, members of the panel. I look forward to our discussion this morning.”