May 27 (UPI) — Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas presented lawmakers on Wednesday with an overview of the sprawling department’s funding requests for fiscal year 2022, asking for essentially the same $52.2 billion from the year prior.
The overview presented to lawmakers asks for some increases from the $49.8 billion it received for fiscal year 2021, including an additional $1.2 billion for border infrastructure, including construction and modernization of land ports of entry as well as investments in modern border security technology and assets.
He also asked for an additional $540 million to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning and resilience efforts, $131 million for community-driven domestic terrorism prevention programs and $2.1 billion to beef up the nation’s cybersecurity in the wake of several high profile attacks in recent months.
During a Senate appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing in Washington, D.C., to review the budget request, Chairman Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, said the full request will be made later this week, but what they have before them shows the department is moving in a different direction from its goals under the previous Trump administration.
“This blueprint shows us how the department’s mission is changing and adapting,” he said, stating the investments in cybersecurity and the coast guard are needed and that more must be done to prevent the effects of natural disasters as they “are becoming more fierce and frequent.”
However, Sen. Shelley Moore, the ranking Republican of the committee, told Mayorkas the request was “highly concerning” as it stands along among federal departments in not asking for funding increases, despite it being in the midst “of a historic surge at the southern border.”
“This is highly conspicuous thrift from an administration that has already enacted and proposed trillions in new spending,” she said, adding that the department has not asked for supplemental funding to deal with the surge at the border as the previous administration had despite it dealing with larger numbers.
The hearing comes amid a surge of migrant apprehensions at the U.S. southern border with 178,000 occurring in April.
“This administration continues to insist that the border is secure. The facts on the ground that I just described apparently are not viewed as a security or law enforcement challenge,” she said.
Mayorkas defended the budget proposal, saying the Biden administration is pursuing efforts to address “our most pressing security concerns,” including cybersecurity, domestic violent extremism and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The president’s proposed budget will invest in our broad mission sent, including preventing terrorism, securing and managing our borders, repairing the broken immigration system, safeguarding cyber and critical infrastructure and strengthening national preparedness and resilience,” he said in his opening remarks. “It will provide DHS with the resources we need to keep our country safe, strong and prosperous.”
Concerning immigration enforcement, he said their commitment is to a safe, orderly and humane immigration system.
“We are provided with resources, we assess the issue in the United States and we decide how can we use these resources to have the greatest public safety impact, recognizing we’re working on a landscape of a completely broken immigration system, that everyone agrees is broken, that is in dire need of a legislative solution,” he said. “So, on that landscape and with those resources we’ll be smart and effective and we will also be humane.”
Mayorkas added that smart and effective law enforcement is not to be evaluated quantitatively but qualitatively.
“Who poses the greatest public safety threat and are we dedicating appropriately our limited resources to apprehend and remove those individuals, and indeed this administration is,” he said.