News Releases

Trump’s FY18 budget would cut proven security programs to pay for border wall

WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of 21 U.S. Senators, including Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today strongly urged U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to reconsider proposed budget cuts to airport, seaport, and mass transit security programs in order to fund President Trump’s request for more than $4 billion to construct a wall along America’s southern border.  

“We are concerned that in furtherance of President Trump’s quest to build a concrete wall along our Southern border, his budget proposes drastic cuts for key agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are tasked with protecting our borders against current threats, including programs at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency which could include mass transit, aviation and port security grants,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that the President’s budget request fails to address our real immigration challenges and trades proven programs – those that are currently protecting Americans from actual threats to our national security – for the purpose of aggressively implementing a campaign promise. We request that you take these immigration and national security concerns under consideration and modify the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget accordingly.”

In addition to Murray and Cantwell, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

The full text of the letter is available below.

April 6, 2017

The Honorable John Kelly

Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528         

Dear Secretary Kelly:

President Trump’s FY18 Budget Blueprint and FY17 Supplemental Appropriations request raise serious concerns regarding the prioritization of campaign promises over proven national security programs. In particular, we are concerned that in furtherance of President Trump’s quest to build a concrete wall along our Southern border, his budget proposes drastic cuts for key agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are tasked with protecting our borders against current threats, including programs at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency which could include mass transit, aviation and port security grants.

The TSA plays a critical role in securing our nation’s aviation and ground transportation networks. The Administration proposes to raise fees on the flying public to partially counteract the proposed cuts, and at the same time the budget would eliminate or severely cut important and effective programs within TSA. Among those, the budget proposes eliminating grants to critical state and local law enforcement partners for assistance in patrolling airports. It also guts TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (or VIPR) teams. Following the tragic terrorist attack last year at Brussels Airport in a non-secure “soft” target area, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to boost funding for VIPR teams, including bomb-sniffing dog teams, to address the continuing threat of terrorist attacks on our airports, train stations and bus terminals.

Just last month, both the United States and the United Kingdom put in place restrictions on multiple foreign air carriers that prohibit carrying on larger electronic devices such as tablets or laptop computers based on intelligence that terrorists may use those larger devices to house hard-to-detect bombs. These kinds of security threats to our aviation system clearly continue, yet the Administration proposes to divert funding and resources from effective and proven security programs in order to fill a campaign promise to build a concrete wall that sparked questions about its cost-effectiveness in addressing illegal immigration, from both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the President has requested $4.1 billion for the construction of a physical wall along the Southern border, a small fraction of the at least $22 billion that DHS estimates the American taxpayer, not Mexico, will have to pay in total for the project.[1] We have been supportive of increased border security when considered as part of comprehensive immigration reform efforts, but as national security experts have noted, a physical barrier alone simply will not work.

No matter how much we invest in border security, if we fail to fix our visa system to make legal entry more attractive than illegal entry, address employment verification, improve security processes, create pathways for STEM graduates, and offer a path to citizenship for DREAMers and hard-working families who pay taxes, then we will continue to face enormous challenges with our immigration system and waste vital opportunities to grow our economy.

We are concerned that the President’s budget request fails to address our real immigration challenges and trades proven programs – those that are currently protecting Americans from actual threats to our national security – for the purpose of aggressively implementing a campaign promise. We request that you take these immigration and national security concerns under consideration and modify the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget accordingly.

Sincerely,

###