Subcommittee Chairman D’Esposito: Border Crisis has “Unprecedented Consequences on Public Safety”
December 5, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology Chairman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) delivered the following opening statement in a hearing to assess how the worst border crisis in history has impacted emergency management entities across the country.
As prepared for delivery:
I want to begin by thanking our witnesses for testifying before the Emergency Management and Technology Subcommittee today. Today’s hearing will focus on how the border crisis has impacted our national preparedness and emergency management. I look forward to hearing from each of you, and thank you for your dedication to keeping your communities safe.
As Members of this subcommittee, it is important that we shed light on what is happening to our Nation’s emergency services as a result of the unprecedented surge in illegal immigration. President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ open border policies are having a direct impact on our first responders’ ability to help their communities in their time of need and to prevent future emergencies.
We have heard reports of how state, city, county, and other resources are being strained across the country. Basic services are being cut to offset the cost of housing illegal immigrants. In my home state of New York, even New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, has said that, “This issue will destroy New York City.” I am concerned that Americans’ quality of life will never be able to recover from this crisis. I am concerned that law-abiding taxpayers will suffer and experience delayed services by first responders. And, I am concerned that we will have gaps in our national preparedness and response should a significant event occur.
As a former Hempstead Town Councilman, retired NYPD detective, and former Chief of the Island Park Fire Department, I know first-hand that Emergency preparedness requires advanced investigation, training, and resources, and it is essential for protecting vulnerable communities from extreme weather events, man-made disasters, and acts of terrorism. However, emergency personnel, such as police and fire departments, are diverting much of their attention to managing the thousands of migrants who are arriving weekly in their communities. In its 2023 White Paper, the National Emergency Management Association stated that emergency management agencies and systems are being strained due to being asked to “provide support to a growing number of challenges not related to natural hazards, such as cyber-attacks, school safety, homelessness, the opioid crisis, and humanitarian support for migrants.”
This Committee has already investigated the humanitarian cost of the migrant crisis to cities across the nation. However, as the Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology, it is important that we specifically assess how the border crisis has hindered emergency preparedness and first responder services.
Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Ranking Member Carter’s District in New Orleans to conduct a hearing on the state of emergency preparedness in coastal communities and had the opportunity to view completed and ongoing recovery projects following Hurricane Katrina. It was sobering to see the foundations of houses that were never rebuilt and to think of all those stranded during the immense flooding. Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, the state of Louisiana evacuated an estimated 1.5 million people. Government officials were challenged to relocate and house people in every gymnasium and open space available.
With this in mind, how is the unprecedented migrant crisis impacting our preparedness for future emergencies? Cities across the country are already having difficulty managing the migrant population, leaving little room for disaster preparedness.
In Chicago, migrants have been housed in police stations and school gymnasiums. In California, a state with the largest homeless population in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has released thousands of migrants into cities like San Diego. With limited shelters and housing options available, officials have struggled to meet the demand for housing migrants, moving them to airports, public buildings, and any space available.
Across the country, emergency managers in every community are burdened and unable to meet the increased demand for their services. All the while, some cities have made concerning budget cuts to their police departments to offset the cost of housing migrants. In a time when carjackings are skyrocketing and fentanyl deaths are overwhelming, cities should not be cutting police departments’ budgets or city-wide services for taxpaying Americans.
It is understandable that migrants would seek safety and opportunity in the United States. So many of our own family stories started out with a relative who sought the American dream. However, the influx of migrants that we are seeing today is having unprecedented consequences on public safety and our emergency management. People come to the United States because they want safety and opportunity. However, the Biden administration’s inability to secure the Southwest border and discourage illegal immigration has encouraged millions of migrants to take advantage of city resources, which is negatively impacting local communities. As a result, first responders and emergency managers are strained, making our own communities less safe. We should all be concerned about its impact on the future of America. I look forward to discussing these challenges and hearing more about what Congress can do to support our brave first responders in these chaotic times.