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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Rep. Roybal-Allard Fighting to End Family Detention

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July 9, 2015
Ben Soskin
(202) 225-1766

Rep. Roybal-Allard Statement at Subcommittee Markup of FY 2016 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), the Ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, today delivered the following statement at the Subcommittee’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2016 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The bill passed the Subcommittee on a voice vote.

“Mr. Chairman, let me begin by thanking you for the extent to which you and your staff have included me and my staff in the development of your mark. You fully considered our comments, suggestions, and proposals, and accommodated us when you could. We also worked together to reach compromises wherever possible. While we did reach consensus on many issues, there are things on which we still disagree, and I hope as the legislative process moves forward, we can continue to work on these differences and hopefully craft a bill the President will sign.

“One of my concerns is that with the end of the fiscal year fast approaching and few legislative days remaining, if a new budget agreement isn’t reached soon, we will face a very predictable crisis in September. We all know that now, rather than later, we should be working towards a new budget agreement.

“Having said that, considering the budget he was given, I want to reiterate my compliments to the Chairman on most of the choices he made in developing this bill. The allocation he started with is $2 billion below the President’s request, and $337 million below the current year. This means certain high-priority activities are not adequately funded. For example, with a higher allocation, the bill could provide the full request for Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants, which help reduce the impact of future disasters, and it could provide the full request for flood mapping, which is critical for ensuring communities can plan development in ways that minimize flood risks. These are common-sense programs that merit additional federal investment.

“Another example of the impact of an inadequate allocation is the failure of the bill to provide the requested funding level for the new DHS headquarters, already under construction on the St. Elizabeth’s campus in Southeast DC. Earlier this year, the Department revised its plan for St. Elizabeth’s to consolidate the footprint and reduce costs. It makes no sense to build half the headquarters. Further delays will only cost us more in the long run.

“Another issue is the continuation of a provision setting an arbitrary minimum of 34,000 available ICE detention beds. This limits ICE’s flexibility in managing its enforcement and removal resources in response to changing circumstances. It also limits ICE’s flexibility to use cheaper, alternative forms of supervision when appropriate.

“ICE detention is not intended to be punitive. It is civil detention, for the purpose of ensuring attendance at immigration court hearings — and potentially removal — for those determined to be flight risks or a danger to public safety.

“Perhaps the most significant area of disagreement in the bill is the funding for the continued use of family detention. I have personally seen ICE’s two largest family detention facilities, and have talked to the women and children incarcerated there.

“Facilities like those at Karnes and Dilley are simply not appropriate places for families. These women and children are not flight risks or dangers to our communities. Most have come here intentionally to submit an application for asylum in accordance with our immigration laws. Instead of detention, we should be using less costly, non-detention forms of supervision, such as the ATD program or release on bond or parole.

“I am pleased the report prioritizes ICE’s planned family ATD initiative. This will help families navigate the immigration court process and link them to support services. To ensure the success of this program, it is critical for ICE to select qualified service providers who have the proper training and disposition to support these families.

“The bill also includes new general provisions that I believe to be unnecessary. One would prohibit Citizenship and Immigration Services from implementing the DAPA and expanded DACA programs while the federal court injunction remains in place. Since CIS has no intention of violating the injunction, the need for this provision is unclear.

“Another provision in the bill is one we have seen added to other bills this year. It would have the effect of reversing the President’s modest loosening of the trade embargo with Cuba. This means travelers returning to the United States from Cuba could no longer bring back up to $400 worth of merchandise for personal use. This is an issue for the authorizing committee, and has no place in our bill.

“More importantly, these provisions make our job harder by unnecessarily complicating the already difficult path facing our appropriations process this year.

“These areas of disagreement are very important, but notably, they are relatively few. On most aspects of the bill and report, there is bipartisan agreement. The mark before us maintains the current funding levels for the first responder and anti-terrorism grants, emergency management grants, firefighter grants, and grants for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program – all of which are vitally important, and share broad bipartisan support.

“The bill also increases funding for critical Coast Guard acquisitions to recapitalize aging assets; maintains funding for the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; fully funds the proposed increase for the Secret Service to begin addressing the Protective Mission Panel recommendations; provides additional funding for ICE investigations into child exploitation, human trafficking, financial crimes, and drug smuggling; and restores funding to maintain the current number of University Centers of Excellence.

“I particularly commend the Chairman on his continued efforts in the bill and report to push the Department to develop and institutionalize more rigorous, consistent, and comprehensive processes for planning, budgeting, acquisition, evaluation, joint requirements, and operational coordination. Secretary Johnson has been our partner in pushing the Department to mature, and he needs the support and direction contained in the chairman’s mark to do it.

“It is my hope we can reach a point in the process where bipartisan agreement extends to the whole bill, based on an allocation that is sufficient to address all of the Department’s requirements. In the meantime, I want to again underscore my appreciation for the efforts of the Chairman and his excellent staff to work with the Minority throughout the bill-drafting process.”


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