Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas visited the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills on March 18 to discuss threats against houses of worship and funding increases for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).
Peters helped secure nearly $250 million for the NSGP, a $70 million increase from previous funding levels, as part of the government funding bill President Joe Biden signed into law on March 15.
“Congress has come together to provide resources to bolster the efforts that the Department of Homeland Security is engaged in, from intelligence gathering to security assessments, for places of worship to make sure there are actual resources to put in, cameras or whatever system is being recommended by the Department of Homeland Security,” Peters said.
Peters and Mayorkas had a full day scheduled with events throughout Metro Detroit to discuss the critical role DHS plays in protecting Michigan communities, starting at the Zekelman Holocaust Center.
“We wanted to start here and have religious leaders come together to talk about security threats that they face, or insecurities that they have, and how we can help address those,” Peters said.
“I will say Secretary Mayorkas, who I’ve had the privilege of working with over the last couple of years, is a great partner in this effort. I chair the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. We work very closely on a variety of issues. And when I invited him to come to Michigan, he wanted to have this meeting as a priority. He is absolutely focused on safeguarding places of worship.”
During the press conference, someone asked Peters and Mayorkas how the Department of Homeland Security and its various agencies plan to build trust with minority and immigrant communities. Mayorkas said that trust isn’t built overnight, and they are focused on building that trust. “That’s quite frankly, why we built the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships in the Department of Homeland Security, to reach out to communities that might not feel that the bridge of distrust has been closed, to prove to them that we are worthy of their trust, that we are here for them … and to make them secure and safe in the practice of their faith and not shrink from their identity,” said Mayorkas.
Later in the day, Peters and Mayorkas met with leaders of Michigan’s Arab and Muslim American communities to discuss civil rights issues, including travel screening processes. They then finished their visit by touring DHS facilities and meeting with employees of the U.S. Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.