DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2005)
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the FY 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. This is not a perfect bill, but it provides much needed funds to make our country safer.
Total funding in the bill is increased from this year's levels, with significant increases over the requested levels for immigration and for customs enforcement and border protection. Funding for port, transit and aviation security is also much improved over the president's budget request.
Still, I'm concerned about shortfalls in the bill. It cuts fire grants by 16 percent, even as a recent survey found that fire departments all over the country are not prepared to respond to a haz-mat incident and lack equipment. The bill cuts State homeland security formula grants, local law enforcement terrorism prevention grants, and urban area security grants by 14 percent. The bill does provide additional funding for border patrol, but the number of agents still falls 500 short of the 2,000 called for in the Intelligence Reform bill. Since September 11, just 965 additional border patrol agents have been hired--less than a 10 percent increase in 4 years.
I am pleased that the House adopted an amendment offered by Mr. OBEY of Wisconsin to provide funding to help States comply with the REAL ID Act. Estimates are that complying with the Act will cost the States between $100 million and $500 million over the next 4 years. Since the majority saw fit to push the REAL ID provisions through Congress, it is important that Congress also provides funding to do the job.
I opposed the amendment offered by Mr. TANCREDO which would block any Homeland Security funding from going to State and local governments if their law enforcement is prohibited from reporting immigration information to the Federal Government.
I believe that linking this provision to vital homeland security funds could have unintended consequences for our national security. Since 9/11, national security has become a national priority, and State and local governments play an essential role in assisting the Department of Homeland Security to improve the security in this country.
Under current law passed in 1996, it is already illegal for law enforcement to restrict the reporting of immigration information to the Federal Government. I support this law, and believe it should be fully enforced. The efforts of State and local governments to enhance our security should not be undermined because the Federal Government has not properly enforced immigration law.
We should be providing States with resources to improve security, not taking these resources away. By underfunding and allowing the weakening of security in some States and localities due to their lack of reporting illegal immigrants to immigration officials, the Federal Government would in effect be contributing to the weakening of our national security.
Mr. Chairman, much remains to be done to improve our defenses against terrorism, but this bill is an important step, and I will vote for it.