Today’s hearing in the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement provides another opportunity to shine a light on immigration enforcement strategies that are smart and effective, and to expose those that are irresponsible and dangerous. Unfortunately, it is the Committee leadership itself that is attempting to block smart enforcement strategies and advocating an irresponsible and dangerous path.
Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-CA) seem intent on politicizing important law enforcement issues to promote irresponsible legislation such as Rep. Smith’s so-called “HALT” Act, which would strip the Obama Administration of any decision-making power when it comes to immigration enforcement. Tellingly, the HALT Act’s provisions expire when the next President takes office – revealing the real motivation behind Smith’s bill. His objections are not really about law enforcement policy, but immigration politics. In fact, several years ago Smith himself argued for the exercise of discretion in certain immigration cases.
Despite what we’ll likely hear from Republicans at today’s hearing, the Obama Administration has actually deported more individuals than any prior administration – leading to criticism from many immigration reform activists. To the Administration’s credit, this summer they issued guidance to better align enforcement priorities with on-the-ground practices in an effort to focus on removing those who commit dangerous crimes and those who have repeatedly flouted our nation’s immigration laws. These priorities are articulated in DHS memos that empower immigration enforcement staff to appropriately exercise discretion consistent with these priorities at the earliest possible stage in the immigration enforcement process.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The Obama Administration is doing what every other Administration, Republican and Democratic alike, have done for decades: setting clear and rational priorities in order to guide law enforcement personnel in allocating scarce resources to keep our streets and communities safe. Just as local police must focus the majority of their resources on violent crimes instead of jay walking, so too immigration enforcement officials should focus the majority of their resources on detecting and deporting individuals who commit serious crimes, or who are a danger to local communities or national security, instead of prioritizing enforcement against a student or farmworker.”
Concluded Sharry, “Rep. Smith and his Republican colleagues’ attempts to block smart immigration enforcement strategies are not only irresponsible but dangerous. They believe in mass detention and mass deportation, with no exceptions, but the American people know that is not a solution. Republicans in Congress should stop playing politics and instead get to work on real immigration reform.”
For more information, see the below resources:
- Analysis of DHS Prosecutorial Discretion Memos from John Morton (Immigration Policy Center)
- Memo from Legal Experts on Prosecutorial Discretion (Immigration Policy Center)
- Letter Describing New DHS Enforcement Protocol (Secretary Napolitano)
- Op-Ed on Prosecutorial Discretion by Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau (New York Daily News)
- 1999 Letter from Lamar Smith and Other Members of Congress Calling for Prosecutorial Discretion (PDF via Huffington Post)
- Congressional Testimony from Lt. Col. Margaret Stock (Retired) on Smith’s “HALT Act”
- Examples of Cases Targeted by the HALT Act
America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.