Ranking Member Cuellar Floor Remarks in Opposition to the 2024 Homeland Security Funding Bill

2023-09-27 15:34

Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in opposition to H.R. 4367, the fiscal year 2024 Homeland Security bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Democrats and Republicans had a deal when we passed the debt limit bill.

House Republicans are backing away from this deal of just a few months ago to achieve extreme demands that would harm the American people.

And now, the House remains in chaos as Republican in-fighting all but guarantees a government shutdown at the hands of the far right, in just 3 days.

We should be working on a bipartisan continuing resolution that will keep the government open – one that can pass both chambers and be signed into law, not one that includes a 65% cut to LIHEAP like the last CR that was considered on the floor.

Instead, we are wasting time on partisan bills that have no chance of being enacted.

As the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and a member who actually lives on the border, I am very concerned about ensuring the border is secure and that the Department has the resources it needs to do that successfully.

But instead of doing what needs to be done to secure the border, we are instead heading towards forcing over 226,500, 88% of the DHS workforce, to work without pay for an unknown period of time, including military personnel, officers, agents, and other personnel.

Shutting down the government only furthers the challenges the Border Patrol has had with growing its workforce.

As you know, I strongly support hiring additional agents, but if CBP is shutdown, not only will this prevent them from onboarding an anticipated 150 additional agents in October.

It will also stop recruitment and vetting efforts, which impacts CBP’s ability to onboard additional agents later in the year.

If the majority were serious about border security, we wouldn’t be playing these games with our Border Patrol’s hiring needs.

But here we are — talking about a partisan bill that kept Democrats on the sidelines, ensuring that the work we’re doing here right now will not be enacted into law, and the Republicans will have nothing to show for it except another failure.

Shifting to the fiscal year 2024 Homeland Security Appropriations bill before us—

Despite the inclusion of a few important, bipartisan investments and oversight requirements, there are funding decisions and policy riders that I simply cannot support.

We have to understand the border. Some of my Republican colleagues, most of whom don’t live on the border, paint it as a dangerous warzone.

When you look at the stats – murder, rape, assault – the border is actually a lot safer than other parts of the country.

I agree there are migration issues we need to address.

But we must stop playing defense at the 1-yard line called, “the U.S./Mexico border” and extend the perimeter to work with our partners in Central and South America – such as funding the expansion of Safe Mobility Offices. 

But instead, when it comes to the border, this bill relies on outdated strategies that we know do not work.

For example, the bill would require $2.1 billion be rescinded and reappropriated for wall construction, a 14th century solution to a 21st century challenge that does nothing to stop people from crossing.

The bill also strips funding for the shelter and services program, which supports border communities like mine and nonprofit organizations dealing with increased migration.

Furthermore, it eliminates required funding for better border management such as necessary processing capacity for asylum seekers, like a third Joint Processing Center, and funding for short-term facilities, migrant care, personnel overtime, and other costs.

The bill also reduces funding for oversight of our immigration detention facilities, including the elimination of the Office of Immigration Detention Ombudsman, and it cuts funding for the Family Reunification Task Force.

Further, it provides NO funding to USCIS to help reduce backlogs of immigration, refugee, and asylum applications and help Lawful Permanent Residents become citizens.

The bill also misses opportunities to make smart investments to address urgent issues facing our country – such as: providing more resources to counter the trafficking of illicit narcotics into our country, such as fentanyl and opioids; expanding our capacity and capabilities at our ports of entry and interior checkpoints by providing more CBP Officers, intel specialists, inspection and detection technology, and infrastructure upgrades to keep pace with increasing volumes of trade and travel to the U.S. as global supply chains and international travel rebound to pre-pandemic levels; and requiring an updated Border Security Improvement Plan – which is now completely outdated.

It also includes several partisan policy riders on which we will not agree.

Mr. Speaker, I hope we can end this partisan process and start working together, in good faith, to keep the Department of Homeland Security and the rest of the Federal government funded.


118th Congress