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Rep. Lamar Smith’s Latest Anti-Immigrant Bill: “Hypocrisy and Rank Opportunism”

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obama and lamar smithRep. 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 HALT Act (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act) would strip and limit President Obama’s power to set priorities on immigration enforcement. It also wouldn’t allow him to issue stays of deportation for even the most compelling cases.  That means, for example, it wouldn’t matter if we send in thousands of faxes for a DREAMer who is about to get deported — the Obama administration wouldn’t even have the ability to issue a stay even if they wanted to. Smith’s bill also terminates the Temporary Protected Status program, which 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 inauguration.

Smith’s motivations couldn’t be any more transparent. The HALT Act is a blatant attempt to intimidate the Obama Administration before the 2012 elections. The Administration should instead embrace its powers and 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. This is a fight they would win.

In an editorial earlier this week, 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.