The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

July 1, 2013

Natural disasters

Working to strengthen the homefront

Recently, the House of Representatives, with my support, passed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, to strengthen and improve federal efforts aimed at protecting our state and nation from both natural disasters and terrorism threats.

West Virginians know better than most the importance of emergency preparedness and response in protecting ourselves from natural  disasters. Last year’s Hurricane Sandy and derecho storm brought unprecedented damage to our state, along with unique recovery needs. Indeed, every natural disaster is a sobering reminder that Mother Nature is not subject to sequestration.

As the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with jurisdiction over disaster and emergency response programs, I have urged and been successful in securing critical funding for communities to implement hazard mitigation planning and projects to guard against natural disasters, while bolstering funds for emergency preparedness systems for state and local first responders.

The Homeland Security legislation I supported would help to provide robust funding for disaster response, recovery, and mitigation through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I intend to keep working with state and local officials to convey the needs of our state and pushing hard to ensure West Virginia families and businesses have access to the federal disaster and emergency assistance they need in times of tragedy.

These are fiscally austere times, but we cannot shirk our moral responsibility to help regions of our country most impacted by natural disasters, nor can we shirk our responsibility to our first responders.

In the Homeland Security Appropriations bill recently passed by the House, I worked to protect critical funding for emergency equipment and training for local fire departments so that our state’s firefighters have the tools they need to protect our homes and communities. As well, in response to the Boston Marathon attack, the legislation provides new funding to increase training for state and local agencies, along with their private sector partners, to enhance awareness about and prevent terrorist plots. Much of this training will occur at facilities  like the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center at Camp Dawson.

Importantly, the bill I supported also includes increased funding for border security and immigration enforcement.

I share the frustration of many Americans that our nation is not doing a better job in securing its borders. We need to give our border security and immigration enforcement personnel the resources  and political mandate they need to do their jobs. That means not only more money for federal agents, equipment, and fencing technology along the border, but also the unequivocal support of the Executive Branch for the mission of our border security agencies.

We are sending the wrong message abroad if we keep waiving the penalties for breaking our immigration laws.

That is why I am opposed to amnesty for illegal immigration and voted for an amendment to block the President’s unilateral executive actions last summer to suspend enforcement of immigration laws  requiring the deportation of certain undocumented aliens. I said at the time that such a move sets a terrible precedent.

The Constitution requires the president to enforce the law. It authorizes the president to recommend changes to the law. It does not — does not — permit the president to selectively choose which laws to enforce.

We are forever indebted to our public servants who are committed to keeping us safe, and I am proud to support the funding they need to continue to do so.

(Rahall represents West Virginia’s 3rd District.)


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