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Lamar Smith Holds Hearing on HALT Act with David Vitter as Expert Witness on Hypocrisy

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Lamar Smith and David VitterSeriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

One of the things people hate most about Washington is when Members of Congress imagine problems instead of solving real ones. Case in point: Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “HALT Act” will get a hearing in the House Immigration Subcommittee today, Tuesday, July 26th.  Also known as the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act,” this bill would eliminate some of the few remaining safety valves in our immigration laws. It would strip out provisions that allow a small number of undocumented immigrants with extremely compelling cases to remain in the United States.  

This bill has nothing to do with targeting violent criminals—just the opposite.  It’s targeted at people like Haitian orphans, spouses of U.S. military veterans, victims of domestic violence, and young people who qualify for the DREAM Act. 

Among the expert witnesses that Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Smith will call to testify in support of the bill is Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who introduced the Senate version.  Vitter certainly is an “expert witness”: he’s intimately familiar with the application of prosecutorial discretion.  But apparently Vitter thinks he should be the only one to get a break.   

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched the immigration debate over the last five years that the HALT Act is not only mean-spirited, but politically-motivated too.  Its provisions expire in 2013, when the next president takes office.  Smith and Vitter aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they are willing to destroy people’s lives to score political points.

We’ve been waiting for years for our representatives in Congress to pass a real immigration solution.  With the way congressional Republicans are handling this issue, it’s clear that playing politics is more important than problem-solving. Most Americans would agree that any talented young man or woman who have lived in this country since they were babies, or who want to serve this country by joining the military are not ‘enforcement priorities.’  In a world of limited resources, it’s just common sense that deportations should focus on dangerous criminals over DREAM-eligible youth and the spouses of American citizens.

This is a blatant attempt by Rep. Lamar Smith and Sen. Vitter to bully the President. They believe in mass detention and mass deportation, with no exceptions.  The American people know that this is not the solution. 

The Obama Administration should stand up to Smith and Vitter’s bullying, and make an even stronger commitment to stabilizing the lives of DREAM-eligible young people and family members of U.S. citizens.  And Republicans in Congress should stop playing politics with people’s lives and get to work on real immigration reform.”

According to the legislation, Rep. Smith and Sen. Vitter think these people, and others like them, should be deported:

Frances Barrios, Wife of Army Spc. Jack Barrios (Humanitarian Parole)

Army Spc. Jack Barrios, 28, was born in Los Angeles, California. He married 25-year-old Frances, who came to the United States when she was 6 years old. Frances had been unaware of her undocumented status until high school, when she realized she would not able to go to college or work. In 2004, Jack joined the Army looking to serve his country.  He was deployed to Iraq in 2006, when their first child Matthew was only a few months old. Upon his return from Iraq, Jack suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. “I saw a lot of violent stuff in Iraq; kids bleeding and dying,” he said.

Jack was working 15 hours a day at two jobs while being treated for his PTSD. At the same time, Jack sought help from a lawyer to remedy his wife’s immigration status—and discovered that Frances was in deportation proceedings. Frances was pregnant with her second child at the time. If she were deported, she would have faced a 10-year ban on returning to the U.S. This would mean being separated from her husband and first-born child, who the couple had agreed would stay in the United States.  Luckily, Frances was given humanitarian parole, allowing her to stay in the United States and receive work authorization. “I fought two battles-for my country and for my wife,” Jack said. “It was so hard. You have no idea what I went through to keep my family together.”

For more information on Frances, check here and here.