Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Chairman, my amendment seeks to increase by $10 million the funding for Customs and Border Protection staffing and to decrease by $10 million the funding for the controversial 287(g) immigration enforcement program.
At a time when our economy is just starting to pick up steam, this amendment is intended to promote trade, travel, tourism, and investment through our Nation's airports and ultimately support our economic recovery.
As the busiest airport in the United States for international flights and the Gateway to the Americas, Miami International Airport is a vital economic engine for south Florida and our country. Unfortunately, MIA has been among the worst hit with inadequate [Page: H3140]
Customs and Border Patrol staffing levels. On the worst peak travel days, we have over 3 1/2 hours of waiting time, and sometimes up to 800 missed connections.
If we want to continue being the top destination for foreign investors, for immigrants, for tourists, for visitors, and for business people, we need to ensure we have adequate CBP staffing to handle our growing number of visitors.
While these personnel shortages are especially acute at MIA, these delays are prevalent at international hubs throughout the country, impeding the trade, travel, tourism, and investment that we need to fuel our economic recovery and create jobs.
This amendment seeks to reduce the funding of the section 287(g) program to enable the increase of funding for CBP staffing. This immigration enforcement program has been controversial and criticized for many years and has been made increasingly redundant by the development and expansion of other questionable programs, like Secure Communities.
While this appropriations bill provides $68 million in funding for 287(g), that amount exceeds the request from the Department of Homeland Security by $44 million, that is, a $44 million increase over the request.
Both the Major Cities Chiefs Associations and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have expressed strong concerns about section 287(g)'s program, which undermine's public safety and diverts limited law enforcement resources, and exacerbates fear and distrust in our communities. And if that wasn't enough, other immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities have replaced the need for 287(g), and yet we are continuing to fund a practically defunct program. I believe these
funds are better spent in promoting American commerce at our Nation's airports and invigorating our economy.
I urge my colleagues to support what I think is a very sensible and important amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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.
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment. I think it's a positive contribution to the bill. It improves the balance in the bill, both in what it proposes--positively--and also what it cuts. I think we can use the additional funds in CBP for additional officers. And as has been said many times on this floor today, the 287(g) is flawed and wasteful and can well afford this kind of cut.
So I commend the gentleman on both fronts--adding to the right things, cutting the right things--and I urge adoption of his amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Garcia).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.