US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas joined US Senator Gary Peters on Friday as he visits Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties for a series of events to discuss the critical role the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Protecting Michigan Communities.
The first stop was made at the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills where Mayorkas and Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, met with religious and community leaders to discuss threats to places of worship.
They also spoke about the federal resources, including DHS’s $250 million nonprofit Security Grant Program, that are available to protect them and their congregations from security threats.
In December 2019, the DHS Advisory Council released a report on how to prevent violence against faith communities.
Some of the key findings of the report include:
- There should be a designated central point of contact within DHS for issues related to FBO security;
- There is no consistent approach to preparing and training faith-based organizations for the safety of their communities;
- Relations between state and local law enforcement and faith-based organizations are highly “uneven” across the country, particularly outside of urban areas;
- Law enforcement officials cited the lack of a domestic terrorism law as hampering their efforts to track and prosecute domestic terrorist groups;
- FEMA’s nonprofit Security Grants program is a vital source of funding for faith-based organizations to strengthen their security, but the level of funding is insufficient and the application process is complex, opaque, and time-consuming.
According to the FBI, 377 hate crimes were reported by 168 Michigan law enforcement agencies in 2020, the sixth highest number in the nation. This included 33 hate crimes involving religious bias.
The number of hate crimes in the United States reported in fiscal year 2020 was the highest since 2001, according to the FBI. Between 2011 and 2020, 4,054 hate crimes were reported in Michigan, including 486 hate crimes involving religious bias, 54 of which targeted places of worship or other faith-based organizations.
“I was very proud to visit Michigan’s Detroit metro area, which embraces the diversity of its people, to meet with members of different communities about how we continue to build trust,” Mayorkas said. “We built the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships to reach out to communities, to show not only that we deserve their trust, but also that we are here to serve them and to help them keep their communities safe. »
In Dearborn, they also met with leaders from Michigan’s Arab and Muslim American communities to discuss ongoing concerns related to travel screening processes conducted by the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, as well as other issues. of civil rights.
Peters and Mayorkas concluded their visit by touring the DHS facilities housed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County. The two highlighted the base’s critical national security footprint and met with base leaders and DHS personnel who work on critical national security missions from the base.
Peters said he was honored to host the mayors as they met with key community leaders and discussed the important role DHS and its hardworking staff play in keeping Michigan communities safe.
“Whether it’s facilitating trade and efficient travel through our airports and northern border crossings, ensuring our places of worship are safe from terrorist attacks, or preventing illegal drugs from reaching our communities – the work of the Department of Homeland Security affects the daily lives of every Michigander,” he said. noted. “I am grateful to Secretary Mayorkas for dedicating his time to meeting with the Michiganders.”