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Katko Opening Statement in DHS Budget Request Hearing

April 28, 2022

Katko Opening Statement in DHS Budget Request Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homelan Security, delivered the following opening statement in a full committee hearing entitled, “A Review of the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Ranking Member Katko’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)

Thank you for holding this important hearing today, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witness, Secretary Mayorkas, for appearing in front of the Committee. It is refreshing to finally have you testify in person.

Before I start, I would like to take a minute to recognize the Texas National Guardsman (Bishop Evans) who tragically lost his life trying to save migrants who were drowning on the Southern border last week.

I feel like I say this every year, but there truly has never been a more important time for this Committee and the Department of Homeland Security. The recent and tragic events in Ukraine have once again highlighted the range of threats posed to our homeland from a variety of actors and have demonstrated how events around the world impact our security.

We, as Members of Congress, must ensure the resources we spend – Americans’ hard earned tax dollars – are spent properly in securing the homeland.

We do not have a dollar that we can afford to waste, and that’s why this hearing is so important.

Before this hearing, I looked at my opening statement from last year. Unfortunately, many of the critical issues we were facing a year ago are just as acute today – and sadly, some of them are much, much worse.

This means that we must redouble our efforts in these key areas such as border security, cybersecurity, transportation security, and disaster preparedness.

Unfortunately, the President’s budget proposal seems to be devoid of logic in addressing many of the crises we are facing, and the requested resources do not meet the realities of the threats we face or the pressing needs of the Department. The proposed budget requests a REDUCTION in funding for CISA when compared to what they received in the omnibus spending bill and proposes funding to modernize screening at our airports that would take 17 years to fully implement.

This void between reality and this budget request is even more apparent in its response, or lack thereof, to the crisis at the southern border. March marked the 13th straight month of over 150,000 encounters, a trend never before recorded.

Cumulatively, Customs and Border Protection has had more than 2 million encounters at the southern border since President Biden took office and already over 1 million encounters six months into this fiscal year. More than 15 months into this administration:

  • We just had the highest number of border encounters in the past 20 years – 221,000 in March 2022;
  • As it was most recently reported, last year 23 people whose names appear on a U.S. terror watch list were stopped for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border;
  • CBP seized enough fentanyl in 2021 to kill 2.4 billion people, over seven times the U.S. population.

Unfortunately, President Biden and Vice President Harris’s approach to the southern border has not changed, and therefore neither has the problem – and in fact it has only gotten worse.

Mr. Secretary, on a trip to the southern border a few months ago you were quoted as saying, “…’s worse now than it frankly has been in at least 20 years – if not ever……”

On top of these record-breaking numbers, the Biden Administration earlier this month announced that Title 42 removals will end May 23rd. The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics projects that the U.S. Border Patrol could see up to 18,000 encounters per day once Title 42 authority is lifted.

There is no question that this will cause CBP to lose complete operational control over the southern border. And yet, the DOJ has decided to appeal the decision to lift the mask mandate for aviation and public transportation systems – I fail to see the logic behind repealing the use of Title 42, and yet arguing to re-instate a mask mandate on public transportation. At the very least, this mixed messaging confuses the American public.

I would like to join many of my colleagues, increasingly even on both sides of the aisle, in calling on the President to reverse the decision to lift Title 42, until the Department has solidified a plan to deal with the impending surge.

I was at the border just two weeks ago, and I can tell you, there currently is no real plan for what is about to happen. This has left many of our frontline law enforcement at the border worried and more overwhelmed than they already are. They, along with many state and local law enforcement officers along the border, feel completely abandoned by this administration and this Department.

What we are going through now is a self-inflicted disaster – but there are simple steps that DHS and this administration can take NOW to deal with the crisis at the border. Protect title 42, effectively reinstate the Remain in Mexico Policy, use already-appropriated funding to continue building the border wall, and end pull factors for migrants.

Homeland Security Republicans have multiple bills that have not been marked-up by this Committee that we believe are commonsense solutions and can help – I have a bill, the Border Security for America Act, and several of my other colleagues, including Representatives Meijer, Guest, and Higgins, have introduced bills that would provide relief for the situation at the border.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing. Mr. Secretary, thank you for appearing before us today – I look forward to your testimony.