Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Restoring Congressional Oversight on Immigration

August 14, 2015

Restoring Congressional Oversight on Immigration
By Rep. Pete Olson 08/14/2015

Last summer, headlines were dominated by reports of the surge of Central American unaccompanied children that flooded across our border. This was a direct result of President Obama's willful disregard of current laws and a political agenda that encourages immigrants to come here illegally. Last year's surge included more than 100,000 women and children apprehended by Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley. While the number of children crossing this year is lower, it’s still well above normal.

This escalation is largely due to several executive actions taken by our president that ignore federal law and seek to give legal status to folks here illegally.  When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, memo was issued by President Obama, it set aside current law and allowed certain children to remain in the US in violation of immigration laws and made them eligible for work authorization.

Immigration officials admit that 40% of the 25,000 mothers with children released at the border failed to show up to court for preliminary hearings set over the last year. The federal government doesn’t know where many of them went and have no way to track them down, even though they were supposed to be sent back to their home countries.

President Obama got away with this thanks to a 1988 action by Congress that exempted U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) - the federal agency implementing immigration law - from congressional oversight. Through that action, Congress created the Immigration Examinations Fee Account to fund most operations at CIS, which removed most of its budget out of the annual appropriation process. This severely limited congressional oversight of the agency. 

Children flooding across our border led outraged Americans to rightly ask Congress to defund CIS to stop the president from circumventing our immigration laws. The agency is funded entirely by user fees collected from green card tests or fees for obtaining a work visa. The agency can even continue to collect fees and carry out its operations if the government were to shut down. The current appropriations process cannot be used to 'defund' the agency.

No executive agency should be exempt from congressional scrutiny. That’s why I introduced H.R. 3302, the Ensuring Congressional Oversight of Immigration Act. This bill sunsets CIS’ authority in two years and gives Congress needed oversight, as intended by the checks and balances included in our Constitution. It’s past time to rein in a president who does not think our laws apply to his White House or his political agenda.

Texans are paying the biggest price for these actions. A recent Pew Center study concluded that more of these unaccompanied children have been located in Texas than any other state. That means limited resources needed in communities for schools, roads and healthcare are spread thin as costs rise to accommodate people who came here on a false promise by the president. Congress should pass my bill and restore the proper checks and balances on this president’s agenda as soon as possible.