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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on June 19 asking how the administration plans to handle the surge of children who have illegally entered the United States and its cost to American taxpayers. On July 10, he sent a letter to President Obama to express further concerns regarding unaccompanied alien children. Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner sent a follow-up letter to Secretary Burwell requesting a prompt response to his previous questions and to seek answers about conflicting reports in Wisconsin:

Dear Secretary Burwell:

I am writing to follow-up on my June 19 letter regarding unaccompanied alien children.  My letter asked eight specific questions about the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) plans to house and care for these children.  

I write today to not only request a response to my initial letter, but to seek answers about conflicting news reports in my home state of Wisconsin.  According to these reports, HHS, through its grantees, is currently seeking space in the Milwaukee area to house potentially hundreds of children who have illegally crossed our southern border from Central America through Mexico. To date, I am not aware of your agency relaying this information to any of Wisconsin’s elected representatives.

The federal government, and more specifically HHS, should be transparent about its intentions.  The agency should fully inform Members of Congress, along with state and local leaders, of its intentions to house these children in facilities within their communities.  Therefore, I ask you to reply with answers to the following questions.

•           Can you state conclusively that HHS, or other federal agencies, is not considering locations in Wisconsin?
•           If not, what locations are currently being considered?
•           Will Members of Congress be notified as soon as a decision has been made?

I respectfully ask that you respond to these questions, along with the questions in my June 19 letter, before you continue any efforts to relocate unaccompanied alien children, or any other illegal immigrants to Wisconsin.

A timely and complete response would be greatly appreciated.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to President Barack Obama urging him to authorize an international investigation to determine who shot down a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane over Ukraine earlier today:

Dear Mr. President:

Media outlets are reporting that a Malaysian Airlines civilian aircraft was shot down, potentially by a Russian missile system, while flying at roughly 35 thousand feet over Ukraine. These reports claim that, tragically, all 295 passengers lost their lives, including 23 Americans.

While we should not jump to conclusions, I urge you to authorize an international investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the downing of this plane. American lives have been lost, and the United States has an obligation to ensure whoever is responsible for this cowardly act is held accountable. An FBI investigation, as part of an international investigation, will be the most effective and credible way to learn the truth.  

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


By Jim Sensenbrenner


?Published on July 16, 2014

In recent weeks, we have seen an evolution of the Rahm Emanuel Doctrine. The Obama administration's policy to "never let a crisis go to waste" now includes "even if you have to manufacture that crisis yourself."

Last week, the president asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion in emergency funding. Almost half — $1.8 billion — would be for shelter and other services for unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who illegally crossed our southern border, largely from Central America.

This has become a legitimate crisis — one with humanitarian, national security and financial consequences.

The crisis, however, is of the president's own making. During the past six years, the administration has bypassed Congress and implemented policies that have encouraged individuals to break the law and enter our country illegally. In 2012, President Barack Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, halting deportation proceedings for certain young immigrants who illegally entered the country. More recently, the president stated "our future rests" on the success of people brought to the United States illegally as children. These same children would qualify for citizenship if Congress passes the DREAM Act.

This executive action produced a predictable surge in children risking their lives to cross the border. It is estimated that the United States will apprehend 90,000 children in 2014. This is a drastic increase from the 6,560 illegal minors caught crossing the U.S. border in 2011.

As of June 1 of this year, the Border Patrol already has apprehended more children than it has in any of the previous five years — twice as many as in 2012. Agents have been overwhelmed with as many as 1,200 children crossing the border in a single night.

The president's response has been to capitalize on the crisis by promoting what he calls "comprehensive immigration reform." He claims the Senate's amnesty bill would have prevented this surge. These reforms, however, are bad policy and doomed to fail. Just as the president's decision to halt deportation hearings led to an influx in immigration, accommodating immigrants of any age who have crossed the border illegally will simply inspire more people to cross with the hope that they will be similarly accommodated.

In 1986, Congress passed the Simpson-Mizzoli bill, which granted amnesty to the nation's 3 million illegal immigrants. The bill promised border enforcement would follow. Today, we have somewhere between 10 million and 20 million undocumented workers, and we're still waiting for border security.

In 2005, I authored legislation to rectify the mistakes of the 1980s. It was, at its heart, a border enforcement bill, premised on the simple idea that granting amnesty to current illegal immigrants is a magnet for future illegal immigration. It passed with strong support in the House. Nonetheless, after the bill arrived in the Senate, opposition flooded in from all corners; immigration activists, media elites, academics and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attacked it. The bill failed because its opponents wanted amnesty. We are experiencing the repercussions of that failure today.

We cannot repeat the mistakes of our past. While the president and I may disagree about how to best address immigration reform, we should agree that we will exacerbate this problem if we reward illegal behavior instead of standing up to enforce our immigration laws.

Instead of working unilaterally, I encourage the president to coordinate efforts between the administration, Congress and state and local officials to determine how to return these children home humanely at a minimum expense to American taxpayers. In addition, the president should use his powers as commander in chief to send the National Guard to the southern border to maximize security.

The president's response to this crisis he created is appalling. However, manufactured or not, we cannot ignore it. We need to secure our border and eliminate incentives that inspire illegal immigration.

View online, here.
It's time to dissolve the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In fact, it should have been dissolved years ago. It has disparate missions that overlap with other agencies' responsibilities. It has been micromanaged by Congress and mismanaged by its leaders. It serves no useful purpose that can't be met by other government bodies. It needs to go.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) is working on a bill that would do just that, and we hope this effort is successful.

"By absorbing the ATF into existing law enforcement entities, we can preserve the areas where the ATF adds value for substantially less taxpayer money," Sensenbrenner said. "While searching for its mission, the ATF has been plagued by decades of high-profile blunders...We cannot afford to ignore clear changes that will greatly enhance the government's efficiency."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's recent "Backfire" Watchdog Reports investigation uncovered a series of botched undercover storefront stings across the nation. The investigation found that the agency used people with mental disabilities to promote operations and then arrested them; opened storefronts near schools and churches, boosting their arrest numbers and penalties; attracted juveniles with free video games and alcohol; paid inflated prices for guns, prompting people to buy new guns and quickly sell them to agents for a profit; allowed armed felons to leave their fake stores; and openly bought stolen goods, spurring burglaries in surrounding neighborhoods.

The Journal Sentinel also reported that in Milwaukee, the ATF operation was burglarized, four of the wrong people were arrested and an agent's machine gun was stolen. It has not been recovered. That investigation led to a bipartisan call in Congress for accountability.

And accountability in this case should mean eliminating the agency.

While the bungled operations may be new, this is not the first time there has been a call for dissolving the ATF. It was considered for elimination during both former President Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton's terms but was saved, in part, because gun rights groups didn't want its duties moving to another agency, such as the FBI, which might have done a better job of enforcing gun laws.

In 1993, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill to eliminate the ATF, but it didn't pass. About a decade later, a group studying federal law enforcement found that in trying to meet its dual responsibilities, the ATF's missions to collect taxes and regulate private industry "did not contribute to effective enforcement of the nation's gun and explosives laws."

And a decade after that, not much has changed; in fact, the agency may be more dysfunctional now than it has ever been. A new Government Accountability Office report on the ATF released Wednesday found an agency trying to redefine itself while struggling with high personnel turnover and problems tracking its own criminal investigations, the Journal Sentinel reported.

The ATF became a separate entity in 1968. In that same year, an executive order called for better coordination among law enforcement agencies under the attorney general.

It's time to take that executive order to heart and eliminate a redundant agency that contributes little to making the nation safer.

View online, here.
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.