Tester Warns Homeland Security Chief Against ‘alarming trend’ of Ransacking National Security Funds to Pay for Border Wall

Acting Homeland Security Secretary before Senator’s panel to justify Administration request to divert billions from national security priorities to Southern border wall

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today pressed Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on the Trump Administration’s plan to divert an additional $2 billion—on top of $15.2 billion already allocated—away from critical homeland security priorities to build an ineffective, inefficient wall along the entire southern border.

“The [Department of Homeland Security] budget does not appear to fully address some of the real security vulnerabilities our country faces,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “The proposed budget places an emphasis on an ineffective border wall and requests thousands of new deportation officers and detention beds. This all seems to be funded by cuts to vital national security programs such as cybersecurity, aviation security, chemical security, preparedness grants for local communities, and innovative research. This is an alarming trend.”

Tester continued: “The bottom line for me is to ensure that we are investing hard-earned taxpayer dollars in programs that address the most serious threats facing the country, not to empty campaign promises.”

President Trump promised Mexico would pay for the wall. During the hearing, Senator Tester pointed out that American taxpayers have footed the bill, not Mexico. Congress has already appropriated $4.5 billion for the wall over the last four fiscal years. President Trump has also taken another $10.1 billion from the military and $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund over bipartisan objection from Congress. And now Acting Secretary Wolf is asking Congress to fund another $2 billion in the DHS budget for fiscal year 2021.

Tester also questioned Acting Secretary Wolf on the hundreds of miles private land that the government intends to acquire through eminent domain to build the border wall, saying: “If you come onto my land and use eminent domain, those are fighting words… I’m about 80 miles south of the Northern border, but the truth is I have a certain amount of empathy for those folks who may have their farm or ranch split in half, or a quarter section peeled off, due to this wall…You’re going to get a letter from a woman whose ranch is going to be split by a wall, who is very concerned—and by the way she’s a rock-ribbed Republican. She supported President Trump. And they’re very worried about the impacts this is going to have on their farm.”

Tester emphasized smart investments in technology can secure the border just as effectively without raiding the Treasury and without infringing on the rights of landowners and Tribes.

Just last week, Tester blasted the Trump Administration’s move to transfer more than $3.8 billion from the U.S. Department of Defense towards construction of a wall at the southern border, jeopardizing Montana’s sustained ability to respond to emergencies at home and abroad by raiding funds dedicated to new C-130Js for the Air National Guard.

Last year, Tester visited the southern border to see the situation on the ground firsthand. He met with Customs and Border Protection law enforcement officials, land owners, and agriculture producers to discuss the challenges they face and determine what resources are needed to secure the border in a smart, effective, and cost-efficient way.

As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester is the top Senate Democrat responsible for funding the Department of Homeland Security—the primary agency responsible for border security.