On June 11, the House Subcommittee of Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing on the FY 2010 Budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The proposed budget allocates $5.77 billion to ICE, $1.3 billion to CBP, and $9.96 billion to the Coast Guard for the 2010 fiscal year.
Chairwoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) opened the hearing expressing her support for the budget request, highlighting the importance of sufficient staffing and better detention facilities. However, she did not support the aspect of the bill that calls for privatizing detention facilities. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), ranking member, voiced his concern for the lack of staffing and inadequate border control, stating that in order to take up better immigration reform, we must first control the people coming in. He wants more coordination between the three DHS agencies for a stronger immigration and counterterrorist enforcement.
John T. Morton, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was the first to speak on behalf of ICE, emphasizing his similar goals and values as DHS. Agreeing with Rep. Souder, he discussed the efforts for the partnership of the three agencies. As the new Assistant Secretary, he stated that “my focus will include reforming the detention program, strengthening ICE’s law enforcement mission, raising morale, and managing our resources wisely and efficiently to advance the department’s priorities.”
Jason Ahern, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, spoke next. In his comments, he recognized the committee for the budget increase for his department. He referenced the past budget increase which allowed 2.2 million pounds of drugs to be confiscated, the building of the U.S./Mexico border fence, and an increase in manpower. He explained the keys to border control are the northern and southern borders, and sufficient firearms and staff.
The third guest was Adm. Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, who announced that this was a “historical hearing” for bringing these three groups together. He feels that the $9.96 billion budget for the Coast Guard will assist the agency in being more flexible through program enhancements and transportation growth. He also emphasized the vulnerability of the 95,000 miles of coast that are not fully staffed.
After giving their testimonies and budget requests for the 2010 fiscal year, the witnesses took questions on their statements. Rep. Sanchez started off by addressing ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton about the fact that half of the detainees held by ICE in the past year had no previous criminal records. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) also questioned the effectiveness of ICE’s raids and arrests. He spoke of raids that had occurred involving citizens and legal residents rather than illegal aliens. Rep. Pascrell’s concern was why illegal immigrants were roaming the streets, while legal residents are being raided instead. Morton responded that ICE is going to make a greater effort at stopping illegal aliens, before crime occurs. He also informed them that there was screening for detentions and alternatives that were being explored right now as well.
Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Texas) concern was funding. Although ICE’s budget increased, he said it was not significant enough to have an effect and that more funding is needed.
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