WASHINGTON – The acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director testified Tuesday afternoon before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, at a hearing titled, “ICE Oversight Hearing.” In his testimony, Acting ICE Director Matthew T. Albence highlighted the humanitarian crisis at the southwest border and the necessary resources and funding needed for the agency to fulfill its mission.
Excerpts of Acting Director Albence’s written testimony follow:
As you are aware, the United States is currently facing an unprecedented border security and humanitarian crisis at the southwest border. Over the past year, the number of aliens apprehended at or near the southwest border has increased significantly. From Oct. 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, enforcement actions on the southwest border reached 780,633 – an increase of 103% over the prior fiscal year (FY). The increase of aliens arriving in the country has strained U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to a breaking point. As Acting Secretary McAleenan recently testified, supplemental funding provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the recent supplemental funding package has been used to address the urgent humanitarian needs at the border, helping to free up CBP officers to return to their front-line duties.
Today, however, I am here to address other parts of the immigration system that remain in desperate need of resources and funding, as well as to highlight the need for legislation that would help put an end to the current border crisis once and for all. The fact is, the majority of aliens encountered at or near the border are released into the interior of the United States pending removal proceedings before the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – which currently has a backlog of more than 900,000 cases and growing. The women and men of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are responsible for managing these cases, as well as those of the more than 3 million aliens currently on ICE’s docket. As I will further discuss, many aliens do not appear for removal proceedings, violating the terms of their release – including the terms of the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program – or fail to comply with the removal orders issued by EOIR. The result requires a strong interior enforcement component that lends certainty to lawfully issued orders from Immigration Judges. If we only enforce our immigration laws at the border and fail to provide adequate resources to ensure those who have entered illegally proceed through the immigration process and, if ordered removed, are actually removed, the entire system will break down. Such failures will continue to serve as a magnet for additional aliens to illegally enter the country.
With this in mind, I come to ask for your assistance in providing ICE the funding it desperately needs to address not only the humanitarian crisis, but also enforce our nation’s immigration laws. The FY 2020 President’s budget for ICE includes $8.8 billion in discretionary funding, reflecting a $1.2 billion increase from the FY 2019 enacted budget. Additionally, the budget estimates $527.4 million in budget authority derived from mandatory fees, bringing total estimated ICE spending authority to $9.3 billion. This increase in funding is critical for ICE to meet its diverse mission needs. The FY 2020 budget will support current efforts and enable ICE to invest in much needed areas: immigration enforcement, custody and care of the detained population, transportation and processing of aliens, criminal investigations, dismantling transnational criminal organizations, particularly those responsible for smuggling drugs and people into our country, workforce expansion and training, and the information technology needed to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.