Prior to Hearing, Ranking Member Grijalva Condemns Committee Republicans for Fueling Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric
Washington, D.C. – In advance of tomorrow’s full Committee hearing titled, “Destroying America’s Best Idea: Examining the Biden Administration’s Use of National Park Service Lands for Migrant Camps,” House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement condemning Committee Republicans’ use of extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent political stunts and media appearances:
“House Republicans’ infighting is barreling us towards a government shutdown, causing millions of American workers to go unpaid, tribal communities to go without essential services, and disaster relief to be stalled. Rather than working on a solution to fund the government, my Republican counterparts are trying to distract their way out of accountability with hateful MAGA-mongering charades.
“Worse than just being an obnoxious decoy for their inability to govern, Republicans’ anti-immigrant rhetoric and antics are dangerous. Reducing families and children to a public lands problem is dehumanizing and out of line. We’ve seen how dehumanization and other extreme anti-immigrant language like this can lead to violence. I condemn this kind of rhetoric on the Committee and hope tomorrow’s hearing will not continue this disturbing pattern.”
On Sept. 15, 2023, Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Park Service (NPS) decrying a proposed lease for migrant housing at Floyd Bennett Field, a former airfield in Gateway National Recreation Area. Of note, Chair Westerman’s first district office in Hot Springs, Ark. was reportedly leased from the National Park Service. Days after sending the letter, Chair Westerman appeared on Fox News citing xenophobic claims, including those falsely linking migrants to the fentanyl crisis. In fact, 73.1% of fentanyl smuggling encounters at the border are U.S. citizens.
The next week, as House Republicans were struggling—and ultimately failed—to build consensus for their continuing resolution to fund the government, Chair Westerman and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) traveled to New York City to visit a migrant processing center at the Roosevelt Hotel, where city officials denied them entry. After the visit, Subcommittee Chair Gosar issued a statement using extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric:
“Every city in America has become a border city. Drugs and criminals, including hundreds of terrorists, are pouring into our backyards. Our schools and hospitals are overrun with illegals. Police forces are overwhelmed as progressive mayors slash their budgets. Our streets are not safe. Fentanyl is rampant. Police officers are being assaulted. Cartels are thriving.”
As recently highlighted in an analysis by immigration reform organization, America’s Voice, this anti-immigrant language echoes previous incidents of Committee Republicans using dangerous “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracy rhetoric in statements and social media posts. Dehumanizing language and invasion and replacement conspiracies are directly linked to acts of political violence and domestic terrorism.
Tomorrow’s Full Committee Hearing
Committee Republicans will likely use tomorrow’s full Committee hearing as an opportunity to continue perpetuating anti-immigrant rhetoric. The majority’s claims that tomorrow’s hearing is being held out of concern for protecting national parks and public lands are not credible for the following reasons: House Republicans’ FY24 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill proposes to cut NPS’s budget by nearly a half billion dollars, resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 park staff and reducing the agency’s maintenance and historic preservation funding. The bill would also dictate annual oil and gas lease sales on public lands, remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf and other species, and prohibit various mineral withdrawals. House Republicans’ continuing resolution cuts wildfire suppression funding by a staggering $1.8 billion (-44%), in part to offset the more than $2 billion for continued construction of Trump’s border wall, which has irreparably destroyed public lands and sacred sites. Earlier this year, House Republicans passed the Polluters Over People Act (H.R. 1), which included a shameless giveaway of our public lands and waters to oil, gas, and mining companies. The bill also proposed to recklessly gut our bedrock environmental laws, like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the case of Floyd Bennett Field, however, Committee Republicans are calling for a stronger NEPA process. Every House Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $500 million for resiliency and ecosystem restoration projects in national parks and other public lands, $500 million to hire additional NPS employees, and $200 million for deferred maintenance projects. Republicans are now actively trying to rescind provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.
In addition, Committee Republicans are ignoring the long history of using Floyd Bennet Field, a former airfield, for local government purposes, none of which Committee Republicans have publicly opposed: In 2012, the Natural Resources Committee passed Republican legislation to allow the construction and operation of a natural gas pipeline at Floyd Bennett Field, which was signed into law. In 2012, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New York National Guard established heated living tents, shower and laundry facilities, and two dining facilities to support and house 2,000 troops on Floyd Bennett Field. Between December 2012 and February 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated air curtain incinerators at Floyd Bennet Field to burn vegetative debris gathered in the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy. The area also became a major refueling point to sustain the National Guard’s recovery mission. In 2020, Floyd Bennett field was temporarily closed to store idle Metropolitan Transport Authority buses due to reduced service during the COVID-19 pandemic.