Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

OLSON: Obama could fix this border crisis immediately

July 28, 2014

Houston Community News

Rep. Pete Olson

Monday, July 28, 2014

Texas is on the front lines of an epic border crisis that is a direct result of the failed policies of the Obama Administration. Thanks to the President's willful disregard of current laws and a political agenda that encourages immigrants to cross illegally, unaccompanied minors are flooding into Texas in record numbers. Incredibly, an estimated 90,000 Central American children are expected to cross our Southern border this year.

In addition to vulnerable children, an unsecured border also brings drug cartel criminals and thugs who commit violent crimes and endanger the lives of innocent Americans. According to Governor Rick Perry's office, since 2008, more than 203,000 criminal aliens have been booked into Texas county jails. Over the course of their criminal careers, these individuals have committed more than 640,000 crimes in the state of Texas alone. This is the harsh reality of a nation without border security.

On a recent visit to the McAllen Border Station – the new ground zero for crossings - I saw this crisis first hand. Border Patrol had detained over 250 Central American children the day before I arrived. Due to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, we cannot immediately deport these children like we would deport Mexican or Canadian children crossing illegally. We are required by law to find temporary shelters for them while they await deportation hearings. The deportation hearing process is a joke. Individuals, including those with a criminal record, appear briefly before a judge. They are given a date months away to reappear before the judge for the formal deportation hearing. They are then released with a promise to return for their deportation hearings. Predictably, very few return to be deported. There is no question; this element of the Homeland Security Act needs to be repealed.

Additionally, Federal law forces communities to front the expensive housing, education and healthcare costs that come with sheltering these undocumented children. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently looking across the country for places to send these children. But there is no guarantee that communities will be reimbursed for the costs they must pay for the President's failure to secure our borders.

Every community should have a choice about whether or not they can take on this costly endeavor. My bill, the 'Our Communities, Our Choice Act' H.R. 5138, requires HHS to notify and consult with mayors and local elected officials if they intend to open a shelter in their cities on non-federal property. HHS must also wait at least 90 days before taking action to give these mayors time to determine if they can handle this burden.

Many mayors in the 22nd District have expressed strong support for this legislation that gives them a voice in this process. The best course of action is to return these children back to their home countries as soon as possible. Putting these children in communities that can't handle them will do more harm than good. Under my bill, communities who want and are capable to help these children are free to do so, and those that cannot are not forced to.

If he were so inclined, President Obama could fix this border crisis immediately. His lack of leadership has created an extraordinary, though utterly avoidable, crisis. I will do everything I can to stop the Administration’s efforts to exacerbate this difficult situation by pushing thousands of undocumented immigrant children into our cities without any input from the people.