Opening Statement of Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing to “Review the Fiscal Year 2019 Funding Request and Budget Justification for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security”

Secretary Nielsen – you are here to defend the Department of Homeland Security’s budget request.  This budget request is a reflection of the Trump administration’s priorities for your agency.  And it is those priorities that I want to discuss with you today, and whether they are supported by the facts.

Within days of taking office, the President attempted to make good on his Muslim ban pledge by ordering a travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim majority countries. He did this despite a consensus among top national security experts – even within his own administration – that citizenship alone is not a reliable indicator of a terrorist threat.

After promising to treat Dreamers with “great heart,” the President proved heartless, abruptly ending the program. He then walked away from the only serious, bipartisan compromise to protect Dreamers in order to, in his words, “stop the massive inflow of drugs.”   The President should know by now that Dreamers, by definition, are law abiding strivers – not drug kingpins.

President Trump has repeatedly argued that a border wall is necessary to prevent “drugs from pouring into our country,” despite the reality that most illegal drugs come through legal ports of entry. When Mexico laughed off the President’s commitment to make it pay for the wall, he broke his campaign promise by asking the American taxpayer to foot the bill. 

And just yesterday, after months of claiming that DHS does not have an official policy to separate families, your department announced it will refer 100% of adults who cross the border for criminal prosecution – resulting in a de facto family separation policy. Call the policy what you will, but you cannot escape the fact that this new policy will result in thousands of children being forcibly separated from their families. That is shocking and beneath this country.  This policy will strain our limited federal resources and clog our court system – all without any clear explanation for how it keeps Americans safe.

At its core, my concern is not just that this administration is turning its back on immigrants by pursuing ineffective policies in the name of national security. I am equally concerned that this administration is turning its back on what it means to be American. We are a nation of immigrants.  And a proud one at that. 

This Committee will gladly entertain a budget request that reflects priorities that are rooted in reality and addresses the real threats facing our nation. But we will be much less receptive to a budget request intended to provide a megaphone to this administration’s fearmongering against immigrants and refugees.  

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-224-2667