“HALT Act” a Blatant Attempt to Intimidate Obama Administration, Make Dysfunctional Immigration System Even Worse
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is at it again, introducing new legislation that reveals his own political agenda and hypocrisy while promising to make the already broken immigration system even worse.
The Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act, or HALT Act, would strip the Obama Administration’s ability to set immigration enforcement priorities and exercise prosecutorial discretion in even the most compelling of cases. It terminates the Temporary Protected Status program that protects nationals of countries recovering from natural or man-made disaster, and forces the deportation of U.S. citizens’ spouses who can currently apply for an “extreme hardship” exception.
Incredibly, Smith’s limits on executive power extend only to the current Administration—they expire after the next presidential election.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Talk about playing politics on immigration—could Rep. Lamar Smith’s motivations be any more transparent? The HALT Act is a blatant attempt by Smith to intimidate the Obama Administration before the 2012 elections. But the best way to respond to bullies is to stand up to them. The Administration should embrace its powers to apply immigration laws in a humane and sensible way, and continue to press Congress to do its job and reform the broken immigration system. This a fight the Administration should welcome and a fight they would win. ”
In an editorial today, the New York Times sums up the sheer ridiculousness of Smith’s proposal:
“President Obama’s top immigration enforcer, John Morton, recently instructed his officials to take mitigating factors into account, like an immigrant’s family ties in the United States and education status, when deciding which deportation cases to pursue. It was not a major breakthrough, but it was sensible and humane, which is why it drew the ire of Representative Lamar Smith…
“The idea behind the discretion is that immigration officials cannot go after everybody, so it makes sense to focus resources on people worth worrying about, like drug dealers, gang members and violent criminals. This is standard practice everywhere in law enforcement.
Without this authority, the administration would be barred from deferring the removal of people who it decides should be low priorities on the deportation list. They could be stable members of their communities, with citizens in their families; or students brought here as children by their parents. They could be temporarily stuck here because their home countries were devastated by natural disasters.”
Finally, the editorial notes Smith’s audacious hypocrisy and motivations behind the bill:
“Back in 1999, Mr. Smith was one of several members of Congress who wrote the attorney general and the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, arguing that ‘unfair’ deportations had caused ‘unjustifiable hardship’ for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had jobs and families and close citizen relatives. ‘True hardship cases call for the exercise of discretion,’ the letter said.
Hard to explain the change, although hypocrisy and rank opportunism seem likely.”
“Rep. Lamar Smith is the father of the current broken immigration system. His broad and sweeping immigration reforms—enacted in 1996—created the dysfunctional, incongruous, ineffective, and inhumane immigration regime we have today. Rather than removing the last shreds of decency and common sense from our immigration laws, Congress should ignore this blatant political move, the Administration should take bold administrative action to halt the deportation of immigrants who are not true enforcement priorities, and both should lean into an issue that highlights the extremism of hardliner Republicans.”
America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.