Senator Collins’ Opening Remarks at Hearing on Supplemental Funding Request for HHS, DHS
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at a full Committee hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on the President’s supplemental funding requests for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
“Thank you very much, Chair Murray, for holding this second hearing on the Administration's supplemental budget requests. I look forward to hearing the testimony of both Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Becerra on the President's emergency supplemental requests for their departments, just as last week we heard from the Department of Defense and the Department of State.
“Before I address the focus of this hearing, let me personally thank both Secretaries for their responses to the horrific shootings that occurred in my state in Lewiston. Secretary Mayorkas deployed nearly 100 personnel from various DHS components to assist state and local officials and the affected families. Thank you for that. The Department of Health and Human Services personnel offered critical behavioral and mental health services in the wake of this tragedy. I'm grateful for these efforts.
“Turning to the President's supplemental appropriations request, I look forward to discussing with both Secretaries what is required to provide effective border security to stem the flood of illegal migrants and fentanyl into the United States.
“For Fiscal Year 2023, the U.S. Border Patrol reported a record 2.5 million encounters with foreign nationals entering the United States along the southwest border without authorization. Think about that number. That means there were nearly twice as many encounters at the southwest border as there are people in the entire state of Maine. And that enormous number does not include what border patrol agents describe as the ‘got-aways,’ those who did not turn themselves in and eluded capture.
“Communities throughout our country are struggling to absorb the influx migrants as they are released pending an adjudication of their claims, a process that can take years. In Portland, Maine, a city of 68,000 residents, more than 1,600 asylum seekers have arrived since January. Sanford, Maine, which has a population of 22,000, has had nearly 400 migrants arrive since the month of May. The cost for Sanford – a much smaller city – to provide food and housing assistance to recently arrived asylum seekers is more than three times as much as the city spends for residents needing assistance.
“Not only has the failure to control the border led to unchecked migration, but also, it has contributed to the illegal drug crisis. Mexican drug cartels are using the chaos at the southern border to facilitate their trafficking operations. Using cars, trucks, and other modes of distribution, they are sending record amounts of fentanyl into our country – enough to kill every American many times over.
“Maine, like so many other states, has seen record increases in recent years in the number of overdose deaths, nearly 80 percent of which are fentanyl-related. We lost 462 Mainers in the first nine months of 2023 to fatal overdoses – 341 of these deaths are fentanyl-related.
“An out-of-control border poses a real threat to our homeland and our people. Since Fiscal Year 2021, 282 individuals apprehended by Border Patrol at the southwestern border were on the terrorist watch list, compared to only 11 such individuals in the previous four years.
“Additional resources are necessary, but they are only part of the answer to these national security and public health crises. Targeted funding must be accompanied by policy changes that ensure that our borders are secure, that our immigration system is not exploited, and that it's fair to those who legally immigrate. And let me be clear, immigrants who have come to our country legally have contributed greatly to the fabric of our economy and our communities.
“I very much look forward to our discussion today. Thank you.”
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