Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Prohibits the Use of Federal Funds for Border Wall in Spending Bills

Protects South Texas historic, cultural, and environmentally sensitive sites from border construction

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Alexis Torres, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), July 17, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) successfully fights border wall construction securing language in multiple fiscal year 2021 Appropriations bills that prohibits any use of federal funding for additional border wall construction. The Congressman also secured language in the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill prohibiting construction of border barriers within historical, cultural, and environmentally sensitive sites in South Texas.

These bills passed full committee markup and now move to the House floor for voting next week.

“The Trump Administration’s ineffective border wall is detrimental to our history, our cultural and our environmentally sensitive areas. These sites are not just important to our livelihoods, they symbolize our community’s cultural and religious identity. For these reasons, I worked hard to include language in this year’s Appropriations bill that prohibits any border construction within a number of sites in South Texas, including the Sacred Heart Children’s Home in Laredo.

“No matter how tall or thick a wall will be, illicit flows will cross. If you want to talk comprehensive immigration reform or border security, then let’s talk. There are more effective ways to meet our security goals, including utilizing advanced technology, increasing personnel, and giving personnel the proper resources on the border. As the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to fight for our community, our land, and our rights from this ineffective border wall.”

“I would like to thank Appropriations Chairwoman Lowey, as well as Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Roybal-Allard for helping me include this language.”

 

Prohibiting the Use of Federal Funds for Border Wall

Congressman Cuellar secured bill language in the fiscal 2021 Appropriation bills prohibiting any federal funds to be used to construct a wall, fence, or border security infrastructure along the southern land border of the United States. The Congressman secured this language in the following Appropriation bills.

Homeland Security

As the Vice Chair of the Subcommittee, Congressman Cuellar included language in the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that prohibits the Administration from raiding funds for the President’s border wall. To watch Congressman Cuellar speak in support of language prohibiting the use of DHS funds for border wall, click here.

To read Congressman Cuellar language blocking the use of funds for a border wall in the FY 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.

Military Construction, Veterans and Related Agencies

The Congressman secured bill language in the fiscal year 2021 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MILCON-VA) Appropriations bill prohibiting military construction funds to be used to construct a border wall. To watch Congressman Cuellar speak against using MILCON-VA funding for a border wall, click here.

To read Congressman Cuellar language blocking the use of funds for a border wall in the FY 2021 (MILCON-VA) bill, click here.

Defense

In the fiscal year 2021 Defense Appropriations bill, Congressman Cuellar secured language that prohibits the use of Defense funds for the President’s border wall at our troops’ expense. The language also requires that any unobligated funds that were taken for the border wall in fiscal year 2020 be returned to their original accounts and used for the original purposes for which they were appropriated by Congress. To watch Congressman Cuellar speak against using DoD funding for a border wall, click here.

To read Congressman Cuellar language blocking the use of funds for a border wall in the FY 2021 Defense bill, click here.

Financial Services and General Government

The Congressman also helped secure provisions in the fiscal year 2021 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Funding Bill that prohibits the use of federal funds to plan, design, construct, or carry out a project to construct a wall, barrier, fence, or road along the southern border of the United States.

To read Congressman Cuellar language blocking the use of funds for a border wall in the FY 2021 FSGG funding bill, click here.

Energy and Water Development

Lastly, Congressman Cuellar helped include language in the fiscal year 2021 Energy and Water Development (E&W) Funding bill that blocks the United States Army Corps of Engineers to use any funds to design or construct a wall along the southern border of the United States.

To read Congressman Cuellar language blocking the use of funds for a border wall in the FY 2021 E&W funding bill, click here.

To read Congressman Cuellar’s work since 2017 against the border wall, click here.

Protecting South Texas Sites from Border Construction

Congressman Henry Cuellar secured language in the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill prohibiting construction of border barriers within historic, cultural, and environmentally sensitive sites in South Texas, including the Sacred Heart Children’s Home in Laredo, National Register of Historic Places, Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and within 1 mile of historic sites along the Los Caminos de Rio Heritage Corridor.

These successes build upon the Congressman’s provisions, including preventing the use of funding for bordering construction within historic cemeteries, which were passed into law last year. Congressman Cuellar’s language in the FY21 Homeland Security Appropriations bill prohibits the use of funds to construct fencing in the following locations (the last four locations on the list were added in this year’s bill):

  1. Within the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge;
  2. Within the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park;
  3. Within La Lomita Historical Park;
  4. Within the National Butterfly Center;
  5. Within or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge;
  6. Within historic cemeteries;
  7. Within any site on the National Register of Historic Places;
  8. Within any real property owned by the Sacred Heart Children’s Home in Laredo, Texas.
  9. Within the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge; or
  10. Within 1 mile of historic sites along the Los Caminos de Rio Heritage Corridor.

To see maps of each site that Congressman Cuellar protected in the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.

To see Congressman Cuellar speak about his language protecting these locations during the markup of the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.

To read Congressman Cuellar’s language that protects South Texas sites in the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.

Drugs Flowing into the United States

In this year’s funding bills, Congressman Henry Cuellar fought for strengthening our ports of entry due to the fact that most security threats are at ports of entry rather than the vast expanse of land where the Trump Administration wants to build his wall.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis of drug seizure Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data from fiscal years 2014 to 2018 indicate that 65% of seized illicit drugs were seized at land ports of entry, 28% at air ports of entry, and about 5% at sea ports of entry. This analysis also showed that nearly 97% of drugs were seized during inbound inspections across those years.

According to CBP’s Office of Field Operations Nationwide Drug Seizures report, in the fiscal year 2019 there were 89,207 pounds of cocaine seized at POE’s, meaning that 89% of cocaine was seized at Ports of Entry, and only 11% of cocaine was seized by Border Patrol. In the same fiscal year, 5,400 pounds, or 84%, of heroin was seized by Customs and Border Protection, compared to only 16% of heroin seized by Border Patrol. In 2019, 289,000 pounds, or 52%, of marijuana was seized at Ports of Entry, compared to 48% of marijuana seized by Border Patrol. Lastly, 2,545 pounds, or 92%, of fentanyl and 68,585 pounds, or 81%, of methamphetamine was seized by Customs and Border Protection, compared to only 8% of fentanyl and 19% of methamphetamine was seized by Border Patrol. 

This demonstrates that the vast majority of illegal substances are seized by Customs and Border Protection at POEs, compared to Border Patrol enforcement areas, where wall construction is proposed.  Focusing attention on drug trafficking at ports of entry would result in an increase in drug seizures, making America safer by keeping out some of the most dangerous substances affecting our population today.

 

Visa Overstays

The wall doesn’t solve the primary cause of illegal immigration status; Visa Overstays. For the past 10 years, the primary mode of entry for the undocumented population has been to overstay a temporary visa. These immigrants, who enter countries legally on student, tourist, or work visas and then stay past their visa’s expiration date, are often overlooked. But in the past 7 years, people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62 percent of newly undocumented immigrants.

The largest group of people who enter the U.S. legally and then overstay their welcome are not coming across the southern border at all. They are coming from Canada. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Canadians make up the largest group of visa overstays, with more than 96,000 remaining in the United States. Comparatively, Mexicans made up a significantly smaller group of visa overstays, with about 47,000.

 

Border Barrier Environmental Mitigation

The Congressman also helped secure $75 million in funding to mitigate the negative environmental impacts that wall construction is having at the southwest border. This funding was specifically provided to protect sensitive lands and wildlife along the southwest land border, including in national wildlife refuges, national forests, national monuments, wilderness areas, and on imperiled species.

To read the language on border barrier environmental mitigation in the FY21 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.

 

Department of Homeland Security Audits

Congressman Cuellar is also working with the Subcommittee on Homeland Security to effectively audit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and submit an account of all federal funds that have been expended or contractually obligated by any federal department or agency for the “planning, design, or construction of physical barriers or border security infrastructure” along the Southern U.S. border since March 23, 2018. This is done as part of his oversight role and in conjunction with the DHS Inspector General. 

To read the language on DHS audits in the FY21 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, click here.