Senator Britt Criticizes President Biden’s Disastrous FY25 Budget Proposal For DHS

April 10, 2024

As ‘fentanyl and dangerous criminals continue to flood our nation and kill our citizens, it is unacceptable that this Administration’s response is to cut base funding for the Department of Homeland Security’

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2024 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, today questioned U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Senator Britt in her opening statement outlined that the Administration’s FY25 DHS budget request represents a cut of 2% to DHS’ base budget as compared to FY24 levels and fails to make the strategic investments to secure the border and keep Americans safe.

In her line of questioning, Senator Britt pressed Secretary Mayorkas on the 1.3 million illegal aliens who currently remain in the United States, despite having been given full due process and final orders of removal. Secretary Mayorkas agreed with Senator Britt that these individuals should be removed from the country. Secretary Mayorkas additionally expressed that he was “very concerned” about the more than 1.8 million known gotaways who have illegally entered the United States, but evaded apprehension, since President Biden took office. Senator Britt outlined the alarming number of previously convicted violent criminals who have been released into the nation’s interior under President Biden’s watch, while stressing the risk to public safety resulting from the current border crisis.

Senator Britt later referenced the 41,500 ICE detention beds funded by the recently enacted FY24 Appropriations legislation. She asked Secretary Mayorkas if that detention bed funding level should be continued in FY25, and he responded affirmatively, despite the Administration requesting 7,500 fewer detention beds in President Biden’s FY25 DHS budget proposal.

Additionally, Senator Britt questioned Secretary Mayorkas on Syracuse University’s recent findings that approximately 200,000 immigration court cases since 2021 were dismissed because DHS failed to file a Notice to Appear (NTA) with the court. Secretary Mayorkas told Senator Britt it is the Department of Homeland Security’s “responsibility” to re-issue NTAs in all of those cases. However, the report indicated that NTAs had not yet been reissued in 75% of the cases.

Although Senator Britt noted that, between October 2022 and June 2023, DHS approved approximately 97.6% of the applications received under the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan (CHNV) parole program, Secretary Mayorkas claimed that cases are reviewed on an “individualized basis.”

In another abuse of immigration parole, the alleged murderer of Laken Riley was released into the country’s interior by the Biden Administration, after having been encountered at the southern border. Senator Britt asked the Secretary what specific urgent humanitarian reason or reason of significant public benefit – the two lawful grounds for granting parole – justified a grant of parole to Laken Riley’s alleged killer. Secretary Mayorkas did not name a specific reason, only saying that the Administration was not aware of any “derogatory information” to compel his detention. This reinforces the dangerous reality that the Biden Administration’s default posture is to release illegal aliens into the United States rather than detaining them.

A transcript of Senator Britt’s opening remarks can be found below:

BRITT: Chair Murphy, before I start just a point of personal privilege, I need to give you a public congratulations. Our two teams faced off in the Final Four. I am incredibly proud of the Crimson Tide and all of the players and the positive impact they made both on the tournament and on the state. … Nate Oats did an incredible job. But at the end of the day, obviously y’all came out victorious, not only in the Final Four but in the Tournament for the second year in a row. Pretty incredible, so while I’ll never miss an opportunity to say ‘Roll Tide,’ I have to tip my hat and say congratulations and ‘Go Huskies.’

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing and thank you Mr. Secretary for testifying today.

I am pleased that we were able to avoid a yearlong Continuing Resolution when it came to the FY24 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

The FY24 bill took incremental steps to start moving away from merely managing the border crisis created under this Administration, and actually included significant steps to strengthen border security and immigration enforcement in our nation’s interior and right there at the border.  

In particular, it was great to see the FY24 funding for over 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, as well as additional port of entry officers and ICE officers. The final bill also importantly included a 22% increase in detention beds. A major increase in funding for removal operations was also something I was pleased to see.   

Disappointingly, President Biden’s FY25 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security does NOT follow this model, and instead repeats the same mistakes of his previous budget requests. Once again, this Administration has proposed cutting the DHS base budget. The FY25 presidential budget request would cut base DHS funding by more than $1.25 billion, a reduction of 2% from FY24 levels.

At a time when our country undoubtedly faces a national security and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions at the southern border, this is completely nonsensical. Considering that President Biden has proposed increasing the EPA budget by roughly 20%, it clearly shows where this Administration’s priorities are.

It is clear that this Administration’s budget requests in recent years are designed to merely manage the border crisis it created and will not actually solve the problem.  Nor will border policy legislation that does not take away President Biden’s ability to continue to abuse tools and loopholes that fuel and facilitate the entry of inadmissible aliens into the United States, including his unprecedented abuse of presidential parole authority.

The truth is that we have a President who could take executive action, and if he wanted to, he would. If reports we’re seeing today are accurate, the President has finally, after over 1,100 days into his Administration, admitted that he does have the authority. Unfortunately, rather than reversing course, this inadequate budget request for the Department of Homeland Security only doubles down on the failed policies of the last three years.

Across the board, the Administration is failing to put its money where it matters.

This includes the ongoing fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl is responsible for more than 200 deaths every single day and is the number one cause of death for Americans ages 18 through 45.

I want to commend the brave men and women of CBP, ICE, and the U.S. Coast Guard who are on the front lines each and every day to interdict fentanyl and other deadly drugs.

But the numbers are increasingly shocking. In FY23, ICE Homeland Security Investigations seized nearly 42,000 pounds of fentanyl, while CBP seized an additional 27,000 pounds of fentanyl, almost all of it at the southern border. These numbers are roughly double the amount seized in the previous year.  

While President Biden’s budget request includes many references to its commitment to countering fentanyl, its actual funding request is sorely lacking. The request includes NO new funding for non-intrusive inspection equipment at ports of entry, and only marginally new investments for counter-fentanyl labs, technology, and staffing. 

The cartels continue to evolve their activities to stay ahead of our best efforts, and a budget that makes only minimal new investments to combat fentanyl will fail to make the progress we need in order to protect American families and communities from this poison.

Mr. Secretary, for the fourth year in a row, this Administration has submitted a Homeland Security budget that fails to provide sufficient resources to allow the men and women of the Department to protect our nation and the many threats it faces.   

At a time when migrant encounters continue to set record-after-record, when the number of migrants released into the interior of the United States is overwhelming the ability of local communities to absorb them, and when fentanyl and dangerous criminals continue to flood our nation and kill our citizens, it is unacceptable that this Administration’s response is to cut base funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

I look forward to working with the Department and with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to enact a budget for FY 2025 that builds on the steps we took in FY 2024 to strengthen border security, increase immigration enforcement, and crack down on the cartels that are trafficking these substances into our country. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.

A transcript of Senator Britt’s first line of questioning can be found below:

BRITT:  Mr. Secretary, one of the criticisms we’ve heard from you repeatedly when it comes to Title 42 expulsions is that expulsion doesn’t result in the delivery of a real consequence in the way that deportations – or removals – do. Removal is, of course, the ultimate consequence for violating our immigration laws. 

That being the case, do you agree with me that the approximately 1.3 million illegal aliens in the United States who have received due process and been given their final orders of removal by an immigration judge should be expeditiously removed from the United States?

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, I am not familiar with the numeric figure that you cite, but an individual who has been provided due process, who has a final order of removal, should be removed from the United States. When we adjudicate the fact that they do not have a lawful basis to remain in the United States, they should be removed.

BRITT: Absolutely. Thank you so much, I am so glad we agree on that. Over a three-year period, the Biden Administration has actually removed fewer people in total – so the first three years, not the last 11 months, the first three years – than both Presidents Obama and Trump removed in each individual year of their administrations. So, I am hopeful that we can have the appropriate resources there, and we’re able to remove the 1.3 million people who have been given due process.

And on that note, if you had more ICE officers, more funding for officers there, would that be a helpful tool in being able to remove these individuals that have been given their due process?

MAYORKAS: Two points, if I may, Ranking Member Britt.


MAYORKAS: In response to your discrete question, the answer is yes. More personnel would assist us, not just the officers and agents themselves, but of course the support personnel upon which they rely.

But with respect to the data that you cite, I should note that we have removed on a monthly basis more aggravated felons residing in the United States unlawfully than in the prior administration, on a monthly basis.

BRITT: Ok. And obviously, we’re not talking about felons, we’re talking about those people who have been given due process and are set to be removed. We need to go ahead and remove them, because that serves as a deterrent and talking about what we were discussing before.

As you are probably aware, with respect to due process, Syracuse University found [since] 2021, approximately 200,000 immigration court cases were dismissed because DHS failed to file a Notice to Appear with the court.

Are you aware that number is 12 times higher than the number of cases dismissed for the same reason during all the years [from] FY 2014 up until FY 2020 combined?

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, my understanding is that number may or may not be accurate, so we are looking into that, number one. Number two, it is not necessarily that the Notice to Appear was not filed, but the notice to appear might have had a deficiency. That has been an issue for years in the Department of Homeland Security, and in fact, we have used technology to improve the accuracy and correctness of Notices to Appear.

BRITT: Good.

MAYORKAS: I think we have data with respect to the success of those Notices to Appear that is more current.

BRITT: So, do you intend, does DHS intend to re-issue the Notice to Appear in those cases?

MAYORKAS: Yes, most certainly. As is our responsibility.

BRITT: Excellent. 

There are more than 7 million migrants on that non-detained docket, what we were talking about, so double the number at the start of this Administration. 

When you look at that and you look at the record-shattering numbers of people who have entered this country illegally and released into our interior, do you believe that represents an increased risk to public safety in this country?

MAYORKAS: I think it is a powerful reflection of an absolutely broken immigration system. And let me share with you evidence to the fact that this has been years long in the making. In 2010 the average…

BRITT: I only have a minute and 50 seconds left so I am going to have to continue moving on. But I do want to say that ICE has detained more than 32,000 migrants here with criminal convictions, and another 11,000 with pending criminal charges. Some of those with criminal records have actually been released by ICE into the United States.

And a couple of examples that I want to make sure we get out there. There have been 4,700 with convictions for assault, 450 of whom have been released. There have been 5,200 with convictions for drug crimes, 261 of whom have been released. There have been 1,100 with convictions for weapons crimes, 92 of whom have been released. There have been 1,200 with convictions for sexual assault, 46 of whom have been released. And there have been 490 with convictions for homicide, 50 of whom have been released.

So, I am hopeful that we can agree that when we have this type of chaos at our border, that it does increase the risk for our public safety here in the country.

And so, with my last 42 seconds, I do want to ask you a quick question. When it comes to the CHNV program, we’ve got some data that says that DHS approved approximately 97.6% of applications that were received under the CHNV program. That approval rate to me is indicative of applicants not receiving that individualized, case-by-case consideration that’s required by the law. And your response to that, do you feel like there’s just a blanket gift of the CHNV program into the interior, or do you feel like those are being mindfully looked at individually. 

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, those cases are reviewed on an individualized basis. In response to your earlier point, I look forward to providing you with the data which reflects an increased focus on individuals in the interior of the United States who do not have a lawful basis to stay, and who have suffered a criminal conviction, because our success rate is far greater than in the prior administration.

BRITT: Thank you. 

A transcript of Senator Britt’s second line of questioning can be found below:

BRITT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you, Mr. Secretary. When we look at the number of individuals that are detained by ICE – roughly on average there’s been about 39,000 detained this year – my question goes to the FY24 Appropriations Bill that was passed a few weeks ago and the funding level that was submitted there, and passed, for detention.

Is that something that we need to continue, in your opinion, for FY25 to allow you to be able to detain the number of individuals you need to?

MAYORKAS: Yes, Senator.

BRITT: Thank you very much. 

When you look at encounters, obviously coming across the border, we know there’s been a lot of discussion about known ‘gotaways,’ people that we’ve seen, but we don’t know who they are, where they’re going, or what their intentions are. The FBI Director warned that he is increasingly concerned that terrorists may seek that opportunity to enter the U.S. and he’s concerned about what that does in the interior of our homeland. I know that’s something you probably pay close attention to, as well. Is that something that you agree with? When we look at what’s happening in the interior, it just increases threats across the homeland.

MAYORKAS: We are indeed very concerned about it. The safety and security of the American people is our highest priority. The bipartisan legislation would’ve provided us with additional staffing that would’ve strengthened the security of the southern border.

BRITT: Look, I am a big believer we’ve got to do our job right now. As I look at FY25, it is my goal to make sure that we get these dollars in the exact right place possible. I would love to see Congress start to do our job on time. I think that the American people deserve it, and I think every time we drag our feet, they’re the ones that pay the price.

You know, the last time we actually passed all 12 appropriations bills on time was 1997. I think it’s not only fiscally irresponsible, I think it’s morally irresponsible. I think you need to know what your budget is, and I think when you look at something like a supplemental, you have to actually have base funding first. My goal right now is to make sure that in FY25, we stretch every dollar, we put it where it matters, we put it where it can help you and help the courageous men and women that work in the Department of Homeland Security do their jobs. I am laser focused on that.

And in that, I really do appreciate the work that CBP and ICE have done in their seizures. I think that they’ve grown when it comes to fentanyl and other illicit drugs, they continue to seize more and more. Obviously, we know that means that’s less that can get in to our homeland. However, I know we can’t simply seize our way out of it. Would love to know from you, where would be best to direct dollars? What are you doing to actually disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, the flow of that, and is there a place, maybe more HSI agents and others that would help disrupt that even more?

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, more personnel is certainly one element of the answer. More HSI agents, more support personnel for the agents, more Customs and Border Protection officers and agents, more funding for technology. I am listing the different things that the bipartisan legislation would have delivered. 

BRITT: When we look at the Coast Guard, I strongly support the Coast Guard, and I’m proud that Mobile is the home of the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center and I’m very proud of the Offshore Patrol Cutter being built in Alabama. 

However, that’s just one piece of a very large Coast Guard shipbuilding strategy.  I am concerned with many other Coast Guard acquisition programs, which seem to be plagued with various issues.  I am especially concerned about the status of the Waterways Commerce Cutter program and the Polar Security Cutter program, which have been faced with significant delays in recent years. I know that you’ve heard a number of my colleagues speak about this on both sides of the aisle. Just taking a look at it, you look at the Waterways Commerce Cutter, which was intended by Congress to be a small business shipbuilding program, it’s faced legal challenges and other significant contracting challenges in recent months. 

As the daughter of two small business owners, I think it is important to me that our entire defense base, particularly as it pertains to shipbuilding, that they’re given consideration and given every fair opportunity to compete. And I think that’s what we need when we look at things that have just come down. The naval intelligence that was just declassified, looking at the shipbuilding of China, saying they can ship build 232 times faster than we can, I think that as many people as we have encouraging that, particularly from a small business perspective, I think that’s better for America.

Mr. Secretary, will you commit to engaging your Coast Guard leadership and looking into the current state of play when it comes to the Waterways Commerce Cutter program and what options should be considered – even if it means recompeting the program – to ensure the Coast Guard receives the shipbuilding assets they need in a timely manner and cost-effective schedule?

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, I certainly will engage with the Coast Guard and look at this program and be in touch with you.

BRITT: I really appreciate that. And one last thing. When we look at the alleged killer of Laken Riley who entered the United States illegally in 2022 and then was released under DHS under a grant of parole, I’m sure your department has taken a look at that, can you explain what specific humanitarian reason or reason of significant public benefit – as you well know, one of those two things had to be used to authorize his release into the country – can you explain that for this panel, as well?

MAYORKAS: Ranking Member Britt, there was no derogatory information of which we were aware in our holdings to compel the detention of this individual. It’s a tragic circumstance, our hearts break, I know all of our hearts break, for the family of Miss Riley. We expect that the individual will be prosecuted correctly to the fullest extent of the law.

BRITT: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate that.

Video of Senator Britt’s entire line of questioning to Secretary Mayorkas can be found here, and high-quality video for media use can be downloaded here.