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Public Statements

H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is unnecessary since the bill already includes ample funding for necessary oversight of ICE's 287(g) program. In fact, on page 11 of the bill's accompanying report, it states:

Included within the amount recommended for the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is a total of $2,394,000 for reviews of 287(g) agreements and ICE's Secure Communities. These funds are in addition to the ongoing work of ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General, who reviews 287(g) agreements for compliance.

So, while I certainly support robust oversight and also demand ICE's compliance with all applicable laws and standards therein pertaining to civil liberties and civil rights, I cannot support additional bureaucracy.

Furthermore, the offset to this amendment will cut CBP's Automation Modernization account--a cut that will impede CBP's processing of trade and result in longer wait times at our ports of entry, which are detrimental impacts to our economy which none of us can afford to accept.

Finally, I think I need to remind Members that the President's budget request decimated operational staffing and enforcement programs. This bill reversed that flawed approach and is holding DHS headquarters' resources in check. Therefore, I cannot support an amendment that increases headquarters staffing beyond what is necessary or what can be afforded, and does so at the expense of our economy.

Mr. Chairman, I strongly urge my colleagues to support fiscal discipline, support economic growth, and vote ``no'' on this amendment.

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Mr. CARTER. Robust enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to our national security. Clearly, the 287(g) program supports that goal.

Under the 287(g) program, ICE enters into a partnership with State and local enforcement agencies and authorizes them to remove criminal aliens who are a threat to local communities. In effect, the program acts as a force multiplier and ensures more resources to enforce immigration laws and policy. In fact, since January of 2006, the 287(g) program is credited with identifying more than 279,311 potentially removable aliens, mostly at local jails.

ICE's cross-designation of more than 1,500 State and local patrol officers, detectives, investigators, and correctional officers allows them to pursue a wide range of investigations, such as human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, and money laundering. In addition, participating entities are eligible for increased resources and support in more remote geographic locations.

Currently, ICE has 287(g) agreements with 75 law enforcement agencies in 24 States. Utilizing these funds as an offset takes resources from local sheriffs, police officers, and other first responders and puts it in the hands of a bureaucrat at DHS headquarters.

And while I appreciate the gentleman's suggestion that the deficit is too high, I reject his choice of balancing the budget by jeopardizing public safety and law enforcement.

To his point that the deficit must be reduced, let me point my colleagues to other provisions in the bill that instill fiscal discipline by cutting departmental administrative expenses and bureaucratic overhead by nearly 25 percent and by denying the President's request to create three new offices.

For these reasons, I oppose the amendment, urge Members to join me in opposition, and yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I am happy to accept this amendment from my colleague and friend, Judge Poe, which provides $10 million for CBP to procure additional equipment for surveillance and detection at both the southern and northern borders.

Some of the technological solutions CBP procures for border security include integrated fixed towers, tactical communication, and tethered aerostat radar systems. All these systems increase situational awareness and assist law enforcement personnel as they identify and resolve illegal activity. In effect, they become a workforce multiplier, freeing agents to focus on other vital tasks like identifying, tracking, interdicting, and resolving events along the border.

For these reasons, I accept the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. The bill before us today was born out of a need for reform. It consolidates disparate grant programs, provides discretion to the Secretary while balancing fiscal discipline.

In total, this bill provides for $2.5 billion for Homeland Security First Responder Grants. This is $400 million above the President's request for fiscal year 2014 and $35 million above fiscal year 2013.

This bill prioritizes our funding. The consolidation in this bill forces the Secretary to examine the intelligence and risk and put scarce dollars where they are needed most, whether it is port, rail, surveillance, or access and hardening projects, or whether it is to high-risk urban areas or to States, as opposed to reverse engineering projects to fill the amount designated for one of many programs.

This does not mean lower-risk cities will lose all funding. It means the funds will come from other programs, such as State homeland grants that are risk-and formula-based.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support fiscal discipline and vote ``no'' on this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Not only do I oppose the increase of $10 million for additional CBP officers; I oppose the offset suggested to pay for the increase.

As drafted, the bill provides for $105 million for hiring 1,600 officers over a 2-year period. In fact, we provide funds sufficient to cover the costs of no less than 21,186 CBP officers, which sets a historical precedent.

The reason we took this incremental approach into hiring 1,600 new officers is because CBP's staffing and deployment plan was not linked to its goals for border security. To address these concerns, the report includes language directing CBP to provide a more complete 5-year staffing and deployment plan.

Furthermore, an internal audit revealed systemic failures within CBP's budget formulation for salaries and benefits of its operational workforce. And though I believe taking a go-slow approach to hiring just makes sense, I oppose the offset, which decreases funds for the 287(g) program.

Under the 287(g) program, ICE enters into partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies and authorizes them to remove criminal aliens who are a threat to local communities. In effect, the program acts as a force multiplier to ensure more resources to enforce immigration laws and policies. In fact, since 2006, the 287 program has been credited with identifying more than 279,311 potentially removable aliens, mostly from local jails.

So I oppose this amendment and yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. I rise in opposition to this amendment, which strikes the legal requirement for 34,000 detention beds.

The simple fact is that sovereign countries control their borders and have an immigration system with integrity that adheres to the rule of law.

This last Friday, I visited the ICE facility in Houston, Texas. I find it interesting the numbers that they explained to me that were going on today in the Houston-Corpus Christi region, which takes in the entire gulf coast of Texas along with what we call the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. They informed me that we are having a massive encroachment into our country from across the border right now of approximately 100 OTMs a day in addition to the Mexicans who are coming across the border. It's interesting that we talk as to the alternatives to incarceration. In the Houston office alone, 64,000-plus are on alternatives to incarceration, which is almost double the number of detention beds for the entire United States in one office. So I think, with this, we get a better picture of what this invasion is all about.

The attacks of 9/11 taught us that immigration enforcement matters. It matters to our security. The Boston Marathon attacks underscored this sobering lesson. Each year, more than 1 million aliens attempt to illegally enter the United States without proper documentation, or they enter legally but overstay and violate their visas.

Though reasonable people can disagree, I believe detention beds are a critical component in enforcing U.S. immigration laws with the detention and eventual removal of those aliens who enter this country illegally. Therefore, the bill recommends $2.8 billion to fully fund ICE's obligation to maintain no fewer than 34,000 beds.

In contrast, the President's request provided funds sufficient to support 31,800 beds, justifying the request by saying there's no need to support 34,000 detention beds, even though, as I speak today, those in detention are at 38,000 beds. So it looks like we've got overage, not shortage.

The facts, however, refute this completely.

First, as of last Friday, more than 38,000 illegal immigrants are being held in ICE custody, many of whom meet the mandatory detention requirements.

Second, by the administration's own estimate, there's at least 1.9 million removable criminal aliens in the United States.

There is general acknowledgement of an illegal alien population of approximately 11 million. That estimate goes up to as high as 20 million in some quarters.

Clearly, detention beds are necessary. This bed mandate is needed.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. I have listened to the arguments from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and I find it interesting. First, those who cross into our country without and contrary to the laws of this great Nation have committed an illegal act. Calling them not illegal doesn't make them not illegal.

I really would like to point out that we have a curious way to discuss this as a policy; that is, no one here stands responsible for the decision. You know, the alternatives to incarceration were created by judges, and the judicial system stands in a little different situation than the Members of Congress. When one of these people who's let out under alternatives to incarceration in fact commits another criminal act--and believe me, it happens--nothing more than just DWI, when you run over a little kid--the judge, who puts him on that particular forum, is held responsible. And he is now going to read his name in the newspaper that he put that person out that should have been in jail, out on an alternative to incarceration. Or if the person commits another criminal act even more severe--murder, rape, robbery--if it happens when the judge puts him out on alternatives, the judge has to take the heat.

But as we have this great policy debate in Congress,

no one who is arguing to release all these people on alternatives is taking any heat at all on what the accomplishments in the criminal realm will be of those we release.

I approve of alternatives to incarceration. I just told you that 64,000 people alone in the city of Houston's jurisdiction, which is the valley all of the way up to Beaumont, were out on alternatives. But detention beds are also full and overflowing. When I visited the ICE unit there, the red uniforms were the majority, and the red uniforms are criminal aliens. They have committed crimes in this country.

And so I think we are being a little bit safe to make these arguments as we stand here in these hallowed Halls. Never is our name going to appear in any newspaper when one of these people commits an act that causes damage to our fellow citizens. And yet we make this argument very passionately. I just want to remind everybody that we are responsible for those criminal aliens that we release, and criminal aliens are right now being released. And, in fact, Ms. Napolitano, after I asked her specifically, Are you releasing anyone from detention, she looked me right in the eye and said, No. And 2 days later, she released 2,300. And of those 2,300, the top two categories were both represented in that release--the most serious and the second-most serious categories of crimes we hold people for.

So this is a policy. This administration continues to have a policy of not enforcing the law, and, quite frankly, we need this availability of beds so we can enforce the law.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, the simple fact is this amendment is unnecessary and harmful to national security, in my opinion.

Now, am I happy with TSA? No. I have criticism of TSA also. Most people who travel have some criticism of TSA. But zeroing out TSA and leaving our airports unsecured is not the solution to the problem.

If the gentleman's argument is that we're being fiscally responsible to do away with the TSA part of this budget, I would argue the contrary. This bill, quite frankly, has made cuts, and, in fact, for 4 years now we have reduced spending in this bill. That's not a good argument.

It's easy to get mad at somebody that interferes with your life every time you travel, especially when you travel every week, but the reality is, this would be a mistake to national security. This would be a mistake to our country.

And even though we have criticism of TSA, our job is to fix TSA, not abolish TSA. And I know there's plenty of folks that think that abolishing it is a good idea, but, quite honestly, it would be a real tragedy to leave our airports undefended. We need to make them better. And I think one of the things we're doing is the oversight that we've provided in this bill so that we can take a hard look at DHS across the board and come up with solutions where things need to be fixed; and, of course, if TSA's on the radar screen, they ought to be fixed.

But I think this is a mistake. I think it's bad policy. I think it's good grandstanding but bad policy, and I oppose the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I share some of these concerns with the gentleman from Colorado, and I believe that outstanding questions still remain over the timeline for replacing the AIT scanners. I expect TSA to sufficiently answer the question posed here today.

I urge TSA to move forward with the replacement of AIT scanners at the affected airports as soon as possible. I commit to the gentleman from Colorado that the committee will look into this issue further and do everything within its power to fix the problem to the extent that it does not cost the American taxpayers more money. It's my understanding that this amendment will not result in the need for additional TSA screeners.

Therefore, I accept the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. I share the gentlelady's concern of this implication that these are law enforcement officers. It is something that anyone who has ever dealt with law enforcement officers should be worried about, so I thank her for working with us and for explaining to us her concerns. I don't want anyone to be out there fooling the public, having people think they're trained law enforcement officers when they're not. I think that's an important thing at every level of law enforcement.

Representative Blackburn brought this to my attention and to the attention of the committee last year. We appreciate her staying on top of these issues. In fact, I asked the staff to look into this matter earlier this year. As a result, as she has described, this bill cuts the screeners' uniforms by $18 million, which is about a 20 percent decrease. In fact, this bill calls for a net decrease of $387.5 million to TSA, or 8 percent below the FY13 enacted levels.

Finally, the committee has directed TSA to provide a report describing in detail how TSA is complying with the Buy American Act and to provide Congress with the total number of uniforms and screener consumables purchased in fiscal years '12 and '13.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with the gentlewoman from Tennessee to ensure TSA screeners are not abusing the perception that they are officers of the law. We credit her for shedding light on this issue, and I thank her for bringing it to the attention of the committee. I am willing to work with the gentlewoman in any way she chooses.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, while I have concerns with carving out funding amounts for specific grants, I will accept the amendment.

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I had something happen to me many years ago as a young lawyer in a hearing at the Port of Houston. Back in 1968, I was told by the Coast Guard that every day two ships pass each other in the Port of Houston, and should those ships collide, just the mixing of those two cargos would explode and kill every man, woman, and child on the Texas gulf coast all the way to Corpus Christi. That's without a nuclear weapon.

We are the largest petrochemical port in the United States. I too am concerned about our ports. I'm very concerned that they could be a target of attack that could cause great damage both in structures and in human life.

So I join my colleagues from California to accept this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CARTER. I'm willing to accept this amendment. Once again, I have the same concerns as my colleague, Mr. Price, about the carving out of funding amounts for specific grants, but I will accept this amendment.

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