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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to President Barack Obama regarding the surge of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who have illegally entered the United States:

Dear President Obama:

As our country continues to experience an unprecedented surge of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) crossing our southwestern border, I write to express deep concern with your recent request for $3.7 billion in emergency spending.   

Under your emergency supplemental request, almost half— $1.8 billion—will be used for shelter and other services for UACs here in the U.S., rather than expediting deportation proceedings and ensuring that UACs are safely reunited with family members in their home countries.  While additional funding may prove to be necessary– your request is simply not a plausible, long-term solution towards ending this crisis.  Any permanent fix must include stronger border security measures and a reexamination of your Administration’s policies that have no doubt contributed to this dire situation.

During the past six years, your Administration has bypassed Congress and implemented policies that have encouraged foreign nationals to break the law, enter our country illegally, and strain communities across our nation.   You recently stated that “our future rests” on the success of people brought to the United States illegally as children, who would qualify for citizenship if Congress passes the DREAM Act. But the flood of UACs crossing our borders with the understanding that they will receive leniency from the United States has contributed greatly to this humanitarian crisis. And it is of growing concern that it is a financial crisis as well.

Instead of working unilaterally to address this mounting issue, I encourage you to coordinate efforts between your Administration, Congress, and state and local officials to determine how to return UACs to their native countries in a humane way at a minimum expense to American taxpayers.  In several instances, not working with local officials has proven problematic, resulting in protests, the rerouting of illegals, and an increasing financial burden.  I also encourage you to consider sending the National Guard to free up Border Patrol agents so that they can once again focus on their primary mission— securing our border.

While we may disagree on how to best address immigration reform, we will exacerbate this problem if we don’t stand up and enforce immigration laws already in place.  I urge you to end policies that encourage young individuals to put their lives at risk to illegally enter this country.  I further ask that you work with Congress—Republicans and Democrats— to end this unsustainable course.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) had the following response to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) report on the intelligence community's Section 702 operations:

“The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s recent report appears to be an adequate overview of the background and privacy concerns related to Section 702 of FISA.  It raises justifiable concerns regarding the scope of U.S. person information collected and the use of queries using U.S. person identifiers.  

“Section 702 doesn’t authorize the collection of wholly domestic U.S. communications, and the Fourth Amendment would typically require a warrant to listen to or read such material. The government needs to do more to limit the incidental collection of this content and should not be allowed to query the data without a court order.  The Fourth Amendment concerns are particularly acute because the NSA does not even know the scope of its incidental collection.

“The original USA FREEDOM Act addressed this problem, but the language to end backdoor searches was stripped prior to passage. Fortunately, the House recently approved an amendment by Representatives Lofgren, Massie and me to the DOD Appropriations bill to reclaim the lost provision.  I urge the Senate to end the unconstitutional collection of Americans’ communications under Section 702 as it considers reforms to the administration’s surveillance authorities.  I believe the Fourth Amendment means what it says and there should be no shortcuts around it.”

Obstruction at the IRS

June 24, 2014

Beginning in March 2010, the IRS blatantly singled out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Such political discrimination of lawful organizations is the mark of oppressive dictatorships, not of the most successful democracy in world history.

The American people rightly demanded action. But Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit, refused to offer forthright testimony to congressional investigators on two separate occasions.

In response, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution in May with my support, holding Lerner in contempt of Congress for her failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is still not being upfront with congressional investigators. In fact, the Administration now insists that a sizeable portion of Lerner’s emails were permanently destroyed in a 2011 computer crash and cannot be produced for Congress.

That thousands of emails simply vanished into thin air at the exact time of a congressional inquiry is as believable as a unicorn sighting in Southeastern Wisconsin. It is ludicrous and, frankly, insulting to Congress and the American people.

The country is tired of this obstruction and will simply not accept that this likely incriminating evidence is unrecoverable. I hope that the President will work with Congress to uncover the truth about conduct at the IRS.

What began as an Obama 2008 campaign promise—to be the most transparent Administration in history—has turned into a somber punchline. From Benghazi and botched ATF operations to misleading and inadequate testimony from James Clapper, Lerner and others, this Administration has bucked responsibility and lost the trust of the American people.

I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pursue the transparency and accountability the American people demand.

Read more about the IRS targeting investigation, here.
The House of Representatives voted late last night to shut backdoors used to access Americans’ private electronic data by a vote of 293-123. The amendment to H.R. 4870, the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, prohibits the search of government databases for information pertaining to U.S. citizens without a warrant and excludes the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from requiring the placement of surveillance “backdoors” in products. It was sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R- Wis.) Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
 
“Our amendment to H.R. 4870 further defends the constitutional rights we voted to protect when we passed the USA FREEDOM Act and reclaims an important provision stripped from the original bill,” said Sensenbrenner. “Both are positive, but not final, steps in our efforts to reform the administration’s surveillance authorities and protect Americans’ civil liberties. This amendment clearly states that the Fourth Amendment means what it says and there should be no shortcuts around it. I am pleased it passed the House with strong bipartisan support and I thank Representatives Lofgren and Massie for working with me on this important issue.”
 
“This was the first definitive vote Congress has held on the 4th amendment and the NSA, and last night the House stood up for the American people and the Constitution – that is something we can all celebrate,” said Lofgren. “This amendment is a worthwhile step forward and will make a meaningful difference, but our work is not done. I trust that our colleagues in the Senate will take note of this overwhelming support for the Constitution as they take the next step in this debate.”
 
"Americans are sick of being spied on,” said Massie. “The current state of American surveillance meets neither the expectations of our constituents nor the standards required by our Constitution. Our government searches vast amounts of data—including the content of emails and telephone calls—without individualized suspicion or probable cause. I am encouraged by this bipartisan effort to shut surveillance backdoors and ensure that Americans' privacy rights are protected."
 
The amendment was supported by a broad coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups as well as tech companies, including, among others, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Group, the American Civil Liberties Union, FreedomWorks, Campaign for Liberty, the Liberty Coalition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Demand Progress, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
 
Other cosponsors include: Conyers (D-Mich.), Poe (R-Texas), Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Jordan (R-Ohio), O'Rourke (D-Texas), Amash (R-Mich.), Holt (D-N.J.), Nadler (D-N.Y.), Petri (R-Wis.), DelBene (D- Wash.), Farenthold (R-Texas), Butterfield (N. Car.) and Sanford (S. Car.).
 
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4870, the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, today by a vote of 340-73.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell regarding how the administration plans to handle the surge of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who have illegally entered the United States and its cost to American taxpayers:

Dear Secretary Burwell:

Two years ago, President Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, halting deportation proceedings for certain young immigrants who illegally enter the country. As with grants of amnesty in the past, the President’s executive action produced a predictable surge in children risking their lives to cross the border. Just recently, the President stated that “our future rests” on the success of people brought to the United States illegally as children, who would qualify for citizenship if Congress passes the DREAM Act.

Your agency has documented the policy’s disastrous effects.  In its most recent budget proposal, HHS predicted that the U.S. would capture 60,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) illegally entering the United States in 2014. This is an 815 percent increase from the 6,560 illegal minors caught crossing the U.S. border in 2011. In 2015, the administration estimates that the number will increase to 145,000.  Recent reports indicate that 4,500 unaccompanied alien children arrived just in the month of April.  More recently, border patrol agents were overwhelmed by approximately 1,200 children crossing the border in a single night.
 
Under the Homeland Security Act, the federal government transfers custody of illegal immigrant children to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The office is charged with providing temporary housing, while ultimately trying to reunite the children with a family member or legal guardian already here in the U.S. (regardless of their legal status) while the child goes through removal proceedings.

HHS recently announced a $350 million grant opportunity to provide shelter for UACs, with funding to be directed to approximately 60 locations. According to press reports, as many as 500 UACs were to start arriving this week at St. Paul’s College, a recently-closed college in Lawrenceville, Virginia. However, HHS’ plans were stymied, at least temporarily, after town and county officials objected to the short notice and complete lack of community input.  I am deeply concerned with HHS’ lack of transparency and preparation and are requesting answers to the following questions:

•    Where is HHS currently housing UACs and for how long?
•    What other sites/locations are currently planned?  Have any leases been signed?
•    How many immigrants do you plan to accommodate?
•    What do you anticipate to be the final cost of housing UACs to taxpayers?
•    HHS is providing various ‘family planning’ services. What exactly are these services and what are the costs?
•    Is HHS prepared to house the influx of immigrants inspired by the President’s immigration policies?
•    What plans does HHS have to inform federal, state and local leaders of UAC housing locations?

This humanitarian crisis is deeply unsettling, and is likely to get worse unless federal agencies’ capabilities and resources are coordinated effectively to address this issue.  I look forward to your response to these questions and an explanation of how HHS is ensuring the well-being of these unaccompanied children.  Given the urgent nature of this matter, please respond no later than July 3, 2014.
A new bipartisan effort to close intelligence agency backdoors and curb government access to private electronic data gained momentum today as the House prepares to debate an amendment sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The amendment, offered to the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 4870), would cut off funding to two government “backdoors” that currently allow intelligence agencies access to Americans’ private data and correspondence.

“There’s no question Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs used to store and search their private data,” said Sensenbrenner, Lofgren, and Massie. “By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance. This amendment will reinstate an important provision that was stripped from the original USA FREEDOM Act to further protect the constitutional rights of American citizens. Congress has an ongoing obligation to conduct oversight of the intelligence community and its surveillance authorities.”

One “backdoor” would be shut by prohibiting the search of government databases for information pertaining to US citizens without a warrant. A second would be shut to prohibit the NSA and CIA from requiring the placement of “backdoors” in products.

The amendment is supported by a broad coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups as well as tech companies, including, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Liberty Coalition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Demand Progress, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

A full list of cosponsors of the amendment is as follows: Reps. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Lofgren (D-Calif.), Massie (R-Ky.), Conyers (D-Mich.), Poe (R-Texas), Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Jordan (R-Ohio), O'Rourke (D-Texas), Amash (R-Mich.), Holt (D-N.J.), Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Petri (R-Wis.).
On Tuesday, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste released the 2013 Congressional Rankings for the first session of the 113th Congress. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) responded to his “Taxpayer Hero” score of 96 percent, the fifth highest in the entire House of Representatives:

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “This ranking is a reflection of my tireless commitment to fiscal responsibility and responsible government. We can’t expect to grow our economy and create opportunity for future generations unless we address the out-of-control spending that ultimately drives our debt. I will continue to advance policy solutions that grow our economy and set our nation on a sustainable fiscal course.”