Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at DHS Appropriations Hearing on DHS Budget Request
House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) led the subcommittee’s hearing today about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fiscal year 2020 budget request. The witnesses were Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Acting DHS Under Secretary for Management Chip Fulghum.
The chairwoman’s opening statement is below.
Today, we welcome Kevin McAleenan, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, along with Chip Fulghum, the Acting Under Secretary for Management. Thank you both for being here this morning.
Mr. Secretary, the past several weeks have been eventful for you and the department. You have had your hands full as the CBP commissioner, and now you are responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the entire Department of Homeland Security.
Your service as a career CBP employee brings an important credibility to your new position. Right now, this credibility is sorely needed. And it will be severely tested as you navigate your way through extremely controversial waters.
Most of today’s hearing will likely focus on immigration enforcement and the challenges at the border. Therefore, let me take a moment to recognize the dedication and the commitment of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security who carry out the other vital missions that help protect the American public and our country from a wide range of threats. This includes DHS personnel who assist Americans following natural disasters, defend against cyberattacks, secure our airports, and investigate child exploitation trafficking. The subcommittee will continue to work with you to ensure they have the resources that they need to carry out their important missions.
This weekend’s horrific terrorist attacks targeting religious minorities were a reminder that we must remain vigilant against the growing threat of domestic radicalization. I note that you recently announced the establishment of an Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention. This office will help states and local communities counter the broad array of violent extremism in this country, including the growing threat from white nationalist groups.
With regards to immigration enforcement and the challenges that we face at the border, my hope is we can work together to find a balance between protecting our borders and preserving our American values, which so far has been lacking in this administration.
As we ensure the integrity of our borders, we must also treat migrants with dignity and due process.
As we enforce immigration law, we must also use the discretion inherent in the law to prioritize enforcement efforts.
We must also help facilitate the ability to enter the United States through legal means, while understanding the devastating circumstances that often compel desperate people to seek safe haven in any way they can.
Above all, we must not demonize those who, like so many of our ancestors, came to this country to seek a better life.
A few weeks ago, I, along with several other members and staff, traveled to El Paso and San Diego to see CBP and ICE operations. What we witnessed, to say the least, was extremely disturbing. We saw families waiting to be processed who were kept for hours in the hot sun or in crowded makeshift shelters. We saw dozens of single adults standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Border Patrol holding cells designed for only 10 or 12 people.
I understand the surge of migrant families is unprecedented. But it is not an excuse for the conditions we saw. I am aware you are working to improve those conditions, but people are suffering, and improvements are not happening fast enough.
Addressing the humanitarian crises, in the short term, is in part a resource challenge. But it is also a challenge that requires a commitment by your department to respect the rights of immigrants and to treat them humanely. Unfortunately, that is not what I and other members of Congress see during many of our oversight visits. I hope we can continue to work together to ensure this challenge is met.
For the long term, we will need to find solutions that provide migrants with real alternatives to making the dangerous journey north.
In the meantime, while ensuring due process for migrants, the timeline for adjudicating immigration cases must be reduced. Simply making it harder to claim asylum in the United States is not the answer. Furthermore, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) do not achieve the balance we need, and they are making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in the United States.
And, unfortunately, efforts to ensure the safety and civil rights of migrants so far appear to be only an afterthought.
To make matters worse, just last night the president directed you and the attorney general to adjudicate all asylum applications within 180 days, except in exceptional circumstances; to require a fee for asylum applications and a fee for asylum seekers to receive work authorization; and to deny work authorization to asylum seekers who cross between the ports of entry.
Mr. Secretary, as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, you will set the tone and establish the rules that will guide the department in meeting our shared goals of protecting our homeland and protecting our American values.
I look forward to working with you and the members of the subcommittee to fairly, justly, and humanely address the challenges at our borders, and the many other challenges facing the department across its many critical missions.
The president’s memo is another tragic step in the wrong direction.