Senator Collins Strongly Criticizes DHS’ Decision to Reallocate Funding for Houlton Border Station
The redirection of funding that Congress approved will delay construction of the replacement facility by four years
Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ exchange with Secretary Mayorkas. Click HERE to download.
Washington, D.C.—At a hearing to review the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, expressed to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas her opposition to DHS’ decision to reallocate funds that were intended to replace the Houlton Border Patrol station.
The Houlton station currently hosts more than four times the number of personnel it was designed to accommodate, and repeated flooding has caused a number of serious issues, including black mold. Senator Collins strongly advocated for funding to replace the facility, which was included in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill and signed into law in March 2022. Last month, however, Senator Collins was informed by local officials that DHS had diverted this funding to another facility in Texas, which will significantly delay construction in Houlton.
Secretary Mayorkas sought to assure Senator Collins that he understood the urgency of replacing the Houlton facility and promised to provide her with more information regarding DHS’ decision to use this funding for a purpose that was contrary to congressional intent.
Let me very briefly mention and remind you of the pressing need for a new border patrol station in Houlton, Maine. We're seeing a huge increase in the number of encounters on the northern border, and the President requested funds through your intervention for this station. In fiscal year 2022, Congress fully funded that request. But last month, I learned that Customs and Border Protection had decided to reallocate nearly all of the funds appropriated for the Houlton station to another project. And I would just reiterate that the current station was originally intended to support just nine border patrol agents. It currently hosts 40 personnel, and the facility is in need of replacement due to annual flooding, toxic black mold, [and] contaminated well water. It has a host of problems. I do appreciate that you included full funding for this project in the budget request for this year, but I'm concerned that the funds that we previously appropriated for fiscal year '22 were repurposed. And as I said, I found that out not from the Department in Washington, but from local officials. The new timetable greatly delays the completion of this new station and now will push it from 2024 to 2028. I would just ask you to take another look at what was done in this area. I realize you may not be prepared to respond today. But if you'd like to explain the delay in the project and why the Department disregarded the funds that were in the President's budget—again, I believe due to your intervention—and we approved. It's very frustrating to the hardworking border patrol agents in Northern Maine.
I'm very well aware of the unfortunate redirection of the funds from Houlton to what I believe is the Laredo Air Facility because of increased costs in that urgent development. I understand the urgency of addressing the Houlton station. We did include funding in [the] President's fiscal year 2024 budget. Senator, if I may, let me take a look at what we can do to address the urgency, and I commit to you that I'll follow up with you.
As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget. These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.
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