Lee Introduces Congressional Approval Amendment to Immigration Bill

June 19, 2013

Mr. President, amendment number 1208 would require fast-track congressional approval at the introduction of the Department of Homeland Security border security strategies, before the award of Registered Provisional Immigrant, or RPI status, and before the eligibility for that status begins, and also at the certification of the strategy's completion, before those receiving RPI Status may become eligible to become lawful permanent residents, eligible to receive green cards.

This would be a fast track vote, one that would have to occur within 30 days after the triggering event within the executive branch. It would also be subject to a 51-vote threshold and would not be subject to a filibuster.

It is a basic function of congress to oversee the executive branch and to ensure that the executive branch is enforcing the law as enacted by Congress. In the area of border security, the executive branch in both Republican and Democratic administrations has failed to fully enforce the laws passed by Congress.

Just to give a few examples, the Secure Fence Act, which was enacted in 2006, still has not been fully implemented and, that the fencing requirement, the fence segments required by that act, still have not been built.

The US Visit entry-exit system, which was put into place by legislation enacted in 1996, still is not fully implemented. It's worth noting here that 40% of our current illegal immigrants are people who overstayed their visas. And it's very reasonable to assume that there's a significant connection between our failure to implement this entry-exit system called for by existing law and the fact that a sizable chunk, several millions of our current illegal aliens, are people who overstayed their visas.

Polls overwhelmingly show that Americans do not believe the border is secure currently and that they also believe that we should secure our borders first before moving on to certain other areas of immigration reform.

These are failures of the federal government. The American people cannot hold unelected bureaucrats responsible. In order to ensure that the voice of the American people is heard, congress must be able to vote on the border security strategy and on the certification of that strategy as a condition precedent to allowing these RPI provisions to kick in, to allowing people to enter into the pathway to citizenship and advance toward citizenship in the coming years. 

To cut congress out, cuts out the American people.  And that's exactly what this bill, without an amendment like this one, would do.  So it is important to remember that to cut out congress cuts out the American people and that's what we're trying to protect against here.

Opponents of my amendment have argued that they would be unwilling to rely on a majority of Congress to approve the border security plan as a condition for allowing the RPI period to open and to proceed. But has it ever occurred to them that it might be precisely because the majority of Americans won't approve the border security plan, or at least that they might not approve of it? Or perhaps it's not a good idea to move forward on sweeping new policies that will affect generations to come without the support of the American people? 

It is, after all, the American people who have to deal with the consequences of a dangerous and unsecured border. They will have to deal with cross-border violence. They will have to deal with the heartbreaking stories of human trafficking. They will have to deal with the drugs that are imported in to their communities. They will have to deal with the economic effects and the added costs of public services associated with an ongoing unsecure border. Therefore, it is the American people who should be the ones who get to say whether or not the border is secure, not the unelected unaccountable bureaucrats who have a long track record of failing fully to implement objectives established by Congress embodied in law. 

My amendment would restore the voice of the American people to this process because, again, cutting out congress means cutting out the American people. I strongly urge my colleagues to defend the rights of the American people, to weigh in on this important issue and to support my amendment.