Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered the following testimony at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on “the President’s Supplemental Request for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security.”
Thank you, Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, distinguished members of this committee:
Every day, the 260,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security enforce our laws, secure our border, and safeguard our communities. They have seized more fentanyl in the last two years than in the previous five years combined. They have removed or returned from the United States more than 350,000 noncitizens since the ending of pandemic-era rules under Title 42. They have arrested the leaders of transnational criminal organizations and are disrupting and dismantling the smuggling organizations that exploit the vulnerable. They help families everywhere from Hawaii and Mississippi to Florida and Vermont rebuild after the devastation of a natural disaster. They support communities during tragedies like the one that struck Lewiston two weeks ago, and get local stakeholders across the country the resources they need to help prevent another such attack.
They do all of this, and much more, despite being perennially underfunded and inadequately resourced.
That is why our Administration has submitted the critical, supplemental border and homeland security funding requests we are here to discuss today. It would be a disservice to the American people, and to the men and women who safeguard our homeland, not to approve it.
Consider fentanyl. Drug overdoses have been a leading cause of preventable American deaths every year for a decade, driven over the past five-plus years by this incredibly cheap, incredibly potent opioid, smuggled into our country by cartels primarily via cars and trucks driven by American citizens.
Our Administration has repeatedly asked Congress to help us modernize our ports of entry to ensure we can expedite lawful trade and travel and focus our efforts on bad actors. We continue to call on Congress to fully fund the personnel and resources needed to achieve this goal, and to fully deploy new imaging technology to enhance our ability to inspect all vehicles and trucks that enter our country. Our national security supplemental funding request will help do so, sending 1,000 additional officers and investigators to ports of entry, deploying over 100 cutting-edge detection machines across hotspots, and funding additional international anti-trafficking operations.
We are facing economic, political, and climate instability across the world, exacerbated in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic – instability that is fueling the greatest level of global migration since World War II. This is also true in our Hemisphere. Despite operating under the constraints of a broken immigration system that Congress has failed to update since 1996, our Administration has pursued a comprehensive strategy to manage this unprecedented migration. Our strategy includes expanded lawful pathways for migration, strengthened consequences for unlawful entry at the border, removing a record number of individuals found to be ineligible for protection under the law, and increased partnership across the region to curb irregular migration.
The same supplemental funding request will increase these efforts, enabling the hiring and deployment of 1,300 new Border Patrol agents, 1,400 attorneys and staff to support immigration cases, and 2,700 new asylum officers and staff. It will expand our capacity for safe and humane border enforcement. It will provide $1.4 billion to communities that need additional support and expedite the issuance of work authorization documents for eligible noncitizens.
Within our homeland, extreme heat, wildfires, and devastating hurricanes are increasing in frequency and severity, and Congress’s support of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund has not kept pace. Our domestic supplemental funding request would allocate $9 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund, enabling us to deploy more first responders and better support recovery projects whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
In the wake of the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, we have seen an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities and institutions across our country, adding to a preexisting increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world. Our Department’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program requires additional support to meet this new mandate. The domestic supplemental funding request would do so, providing the program an additional $200 million and allowing us to help mitigate violent extremist and terrorist attacks.
Ensuring the safety and security of the American people must be more than just a talking point. We owe those who protect our country better. We owe them the funding, resources, and support needed to do their dangerous and difficult jobs. We owe them this supplemental funding package.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our Administration’s proposal with you today. I look forward to answering your questions.