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Press Release Published: Sep 8, 2022

Gibbs, Comer Call for Investigation into DHS Possibly Buying Solar Panels Made by Slave Labor in China

Call on DHS Inspector General to initiate an investigation to determine if taxpayer dollars are funding genocide, human rights abuses in China  

WASHINGTON—Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), and Committee Republicans are raising concerns that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is potentially using taxpayer dollars to purchase solar panels and components from China, an adversary with significant human rights violations, to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) energy grid. In a letter to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, the Republican lawmakers are calling for an immediate investigation to ensure the United States is not directly funding genocide and abuse occurring in China’s Xinjiang region.   

“As members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, we are writing today to express serious concern about the possibility of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds being used to enrich China, an adversary with a record of human rights abuses and slave labor,” wrote the Republican lawmakers. “According to the U.S. Department of State, genocide and slave labor in the Xinjiang region of China are being actively perpetrated against the Uyghur minority. As you know, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was signed into law in December 2021 to prevent the U.S. purchase or importation of goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. We strongly support the UFLPA but remain troubled the United States may still possibly be using taxpayer dollars to purchase products manufactured using slave labor in direct violation of the UFLPA, and nowhere has this possibility become more real and concerning than in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the federal government committed nearly $8 billion to assist with disaster relief in the USVI, with almost $5 billion of those dollars coming from FEMA. A large sum of the disaster relief funds was allocated to bolster and rebuild the USVI’s energy grid. In addition, the USVI announced in 2021 that FEMA funds will be funneled to a new 28-megawatt solar micro-grid project on St. Croix.

“Unfortunately, almost 40 percent of the global production of polysilicon, a key component in solar panels, comes from the Xinjiang region, and nearly 85 percent of the world’s solar components are produced in China,” continued the Republican lawmakers. “This territory-wide transition to solar power will potentially serve to massively enrich China. If we are not vigilant in our efforts to ensure that no solar panels or components made with slave labor are being purchased with federal dollars from FEMA or other U.S. agencies and used on similar solar projects, it is possible the United States could be directly funding the genocide and abuse occurring in China’s Xinjiang region.”

Read the letter to the DHS IG here.