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GOP’s HALT Act Intent: Immobilize Obama Administration, then Deport, Deport, Deport

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halt actYesterday we wrote a blog post about Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)’s latest anti-immigration bill, the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation, or HALT, Act.  The bill would strip President Obama of the power to set priorities on immigration enforcement, meaning he would be limited in his ability to grant stays of deportation for certain refugees or DREAM students. 

Currently, as head of the Executive Branch, the president has discretion to pick which deportation targets he wants to prioritize and which are less of a concern.  This has allowed the Department of Homeland Security to grant special consideration to, for example, Haitian immigrants whose country became too dangerous to deport to after the last earthquake.

Now, Rep. Smith wants to steal that power from the president, and ensure that every undocumented immigrant caught in America will be deported, no matter what the circumstances.  Haitian immigrant?  Deport him.  Political asylum seeker?  Deport him.  Young DREAM student, brought to the U.S. at age two, who just wants to be a doctor?  Deport her.

Smith’s bill couldn’t be more blatantly political.  He wants to limit the law so that it only affects this administration.  It’s only this president that he wants to not have discretionary powers.  Back in 1999, Rep. Smith was singing a different tune.  He was all for presidential discretion then, arguing that “unfair” deportations caused “unjustifiable hardship” for otherwise law-abiding immigrants.  “True hardship cases call for the exercise of discretion,” Smith’s letter to the attorney general, co-written with several other members of Congress, said.

Our colleague Maribel Hastings wrote a piece about this travesty today.  Almost in entirety, from La Opinión:  

The very idea of a decrease in deportations annoys Congressional Republicans so much, that they have introduced the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act, a bill to immobilize the White House on immigration issues. […]

The political motivations behind the bill are obvious; it seeks to give the impression the White House is permissive on immigration issues, when the reality is just the contrary. Again, these GOP lawmakers are showing their resentment toward undocumented immigrants in general by using the group’s well-being as a weapon against the administration. Denouncing the Executive Branch’s actions as “amnesty”—like Smith said—is as wicked as it is ridiculous and malicious. Once again, they have fallen into hateful anti-immigrant temptations.

The DHS’ policy under the Obama administration has been loathsome thanks to its record number of deportations. However, the political options that arise, such as a law to avoid “temptations,” are even more despicable. This situation highlights a great difference between an administration that wants to right its path and an opposition whose immigration policy—according to this bill—is to deport and nothing else.