Senator Murray Reiterates Need to Fund Increased Operational Needs at DHS After Republicans Tanked Bipartisan Package


***WATCH: Senator Murray’s opening remarks and questioning of Secretary Mayorkas***


Washington, D.C. — Today—at a Senate Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed the importance of ensuring the Department has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission and how Republicans’ rejection of the bipartisan border deal, which would have delivered an infusion of funds to meet increased operational needs, leaves the Department without sufficient resources for fiscal year 2024 given the tight spending caps in place for base funding.


In opening remarks, Senator Murray emphasized that delivering adequate resources for DHS should never be undermined by partisanship, stating:


“I hope we can all agree the Department of Homeland Security does essential work that should not be undermined or shortchanged by partisan infighting.

“The FY24 Homeland funding bill we just passed provided critical resources for the Department, but we know the needs for this Department—and other agencies—far exceed what we were able to provide under very tight spending caps.

“For the better part last year, Democrats have been laser-focused on meeting the Department’s increased operational needs and addressing the serious challenges that we have at the border.

“Chair Murphy spent months relentlessly negotiating a set of bipartisan policy changes—and resources to meet existing needs and fund new authorities were added to those policy changes.

“That package, of course, never made it out of the Senate—and everyone here knows why.

“But we must continue working together to actually address the problems we’re facing and make sure DHS has the basic resources that it needs to manage our border in a humane, orderly, and fair manner, and carry out its truly wide-ranging responsibilities.

“Secretary Mayorkas, I am interested in hearing from you today, as we all are, about the pressing funding needs for your Department.

“I hope that all of our colleagues will work with us to meet those needs, because you know our economy really depends on our ability to ensure that countless goods—as well as people—can move through our borders in a safe, orderly, and timely way, and our security depends on our ability to do all of that while effectively stopping threats like drug smugglers and fentanyl, sex and labor traffickers—not to mention cyber-attacks or the very real and growing threat of white supremacy.

“And, as we do all of this, we’ve got to make sure we do the utmost to make sure people are being treated humanely and continue our long tradition of welcoming people from across the world who are seeking safety from persecution or conflict, and opportunities for a better life. This is vital to our reputation as the leader of the free world and land of opportunity—and because, as we have seen throughout history, immigrants do make our nation stronger.”


Senator Murray expressed her deep concern about the overuse of isolation at ICE facilities—including at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma—and asked DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about what steps ICE is taking to ensure its contractors follow ICE policy on the use of administrative segregation. A transcript of their back and forth follows:


MURRAY: I have been very frustrated by recent reports on the overuse of isolation from the general population at ICE facilities—including at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma.

University of Washington researchers found that over the last five years, half of the ten longest placements in administrative segregation across ICE’s national population were at that facility.

And I want to stress how concerning it is that ICE continues to use this practice so frequently for so many individuals and reportedly does so without consistent, accurate documentation of its use. 

What steps has ICE taken to make sure its contractors are following ICE policy on the use of administrative segregation?


MAYORKAS: Chair Murray, this is an issue that I am underway in reviewing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement—with ICE. The use of segregation, sometimes, is at the request of the individual detainee, him or herself, by reason of circumstances in a facility. Sometimes it is for the safety and security of our personnel or other detainees. It’s a very case specific issue, but I am meeting with members of the community as well as the workforce, and I just need about three weeks to circle back with you and give you a full report on the path ahead, because I know it is an issue of concern to you and to others as well.


MURRAY: Absolutely, and I would really like you to commit to an independent investigation conducted by an entity outside of the Department to inspect the conditions and practices at that ICE facility in Tacoma, would you be willing to do that?”


MAYORKAS: I would be very pleased to consider that. Chair Murray, if I may, we have a new leader of the Office of the Detention Ombudsman—an office that was created specifically for this purpose … and I think she would be extraordinarily capable in conducting this review, if that would be satisfactory to you, and I would be pleased to discuss it with you.


MURRAY: Okay, I will talk with you about that, but I really strongly caution that ICE needs to take these unsafe, inhumane conditions we have seen documented actually over the last two decades very seriously when you consider renewing the contract at that facility. It expires in 2025, and I will continue to talk with you about that.


Senator Murray asked Secretary Mayorkas about continued funding needs the Department faces in fiscal year 2024 given Republicans’ rejection of additional funding in the bipartisan border deal. Secretary Mayorkas replied: There are, Chair Murray. We continue to believe that the resources and the legislative changes that were contained in the bipartisan legislation are greatly needed by our department and would really advance our mission.”


Senator Murray also asked Secretary Mayorkas about roadblocks to successful execution of important habitat restoration projects—which are critical to recovering endangered species like salmon—ensuring the Coast Guard has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission, and how new authority provided to the Department to use operational funding to fund an emergency backup child care program will be used.