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Lamar Smith-David Vitter HALT Act is Politics at its Worst

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Deportation Bill Sunsets in 2013, Showing that Republicans Prefer Political Games to Policy Solutions

Washington, DC — One of the things people hate most about Washington is when Members of Congress attack imaginary 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 on 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, stripping 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.  

“Most Americans would agree that a talented young man who has lived in this country since he was a baby and wants to join the military should not be an ‘enforcement priority.’  In a world of limited resources, it’s just common sense that deportations should focus on dangerous criminals over DREAM-eligible young people and the spouses of American citizens,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund.  

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 put are willing to destroy people’s lives to score political points and bully the President.

Continued Sharry: “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.

“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, but the American people know that is not a 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, see:



Bernard Pastor (Deferred Action)

Bernard Pastor is a 19-year-old star student and athlete from Reading, Ohio. Bernard’s family came to the United States from Guatemala when Bernard was only 3 years old to escape religious and military persecution. His parents applied for asylum, but were denied.  Bernard was one of the top five students in his 107-member graduating class. He was a volunteer at his church, played soccer and was nominated to be Homecoming King. His dream was to go to seminary and become a pastor. In November 2010 he was detained after a minor traffic accident. He was immediately taken into custody and put in detention, and faced deportation. In December 2010, Bernard was granted deferred action.

For more information, see:




Mariano Cardoso (Deferred Action)

Mariano Cardoso, Jr. is a 22-year-old from New Britain, Connecticut. He was brought to the United States from Mexico as a baby. He is a good student and recently graduated from Capital Community College. A few summers ago, immigration officials showed up at his uncle’s house looking for a woman who was unrelated to Mariano’s family. The officials did not have a warrant with them, and when Mariano’s uncle refused to let the officials search the house, they asked for the family’s papers. They arrested Mariano, his uncle, and his father. Mariano was put in deportation proceedings. Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy and Senator Richard Blumenthal worked with Mariano and his attorney to get DHS to grant Mariano deferred action. In May 2011, Mariano received a call from Sen. Blumenthal telling him that his deportation had been suspended and he had been granted deferred action. “He told me we had a lot to celebrate, but I told him I had to go to class,” Cardoso said.

For  more information, see:





Nelson and Oliva Delgado (Cancellation of Removal)

Nelson Delgado is a military veteran, a husband and the father of two young U.S. citizen children: nine-year-old Esmeralda and four-year-old Angel. He served one year in Iraq, four years in the Marines on active duty, and another four in the reserves.  Nelson, who immigrated legally from El Salvador, married Oliva, an undocumented immigrant who came from Mexico in 1995.  A few years later, Oliva went back to Mexico to visit her sick father, and re-entered the United States after the visit.  Because her departure from the U.S. after years of unlawful presence triggered a “10-year bar”, Oliva was barred from seeking legal residency for ten years and now faces deportation.  Nelson proudly and bravely served the country that is now trying to deport his wife and separate him from his children. “And this is the country that I love that is doing this to me. I can’t believe this, I’m still in shock,” said Nelson.

For more information, click here.

Haitian Orphans (Humanitarian Parole)

On January 18th, 2010, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a humanitarian parole policy allowing orphaned Haitian children to enter the United States temporarily, on an individual basis, to ensure that they receive the care they need. The policy only applies to those children who had previously been identified as orphans with potential parents in the United States. Without the parole, these adoptions would take years, since Haiti is not part of international adoption conventions. Humanitarian parole for Haitian orphans is currently limited to children who had been identified as orphans eligible for inter-country adoption by the Haitian government or an adoption service provider before the earthquake, and who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens or matched to prospective American adopted parents.

For more information, click here.

Helping Haiti After the 2010 Earthquake (TPS)

On January 15th 2010, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced a humanitarian parole policy giving temporary refuge to Haitian nationals who had continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2010. This gave Haitians permission to live and work in the United States for 18 months without fear of being deported to a country struggling to recover. On May 17, 2011 Secretary Napolitano announced she was extending the program until January 2013. “Providing temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”

Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program Beneficiaries (Humanitarian Parole)

On November 21, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it had launched the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program.  Under this program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows Cuban immigrants with U.S. citizen or permanent-resident family members, who have already had their visa petitions approved, to come to the United States rather than stay in Cuba while applying for their green cards.

For more information, click here.

For more information on the HALT Act, see this overview from the Immigration Policy Center.

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.