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Lamar Smith Moves Ahead with Plan to Create Immigration Gulag

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Today’s Markup of Permanent Detention Bill Continues House Republican War on Immigrants

With a series of hearings and now legislation, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Immigration Subcommittee Chair Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and Immigration Subcommittee Vice Chair Steve King (R-IA) are advancing their wish list of immigration “reforms” to tighten the screws on immigrants of all statuses.

Today, Smith’s House Judiciary Committee will mark-up one of the first in a series of anti-immigrant bills, H.R. 1932.  To hear Smith talk, you would think the bill is narrowly focused on dangerous criminals, but in fact it sweeps up innocent asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and long-term lawful permanent residents who, due to Smith’s harsh 1996 laws, are facing deportation due to minor, non-violent crimes they may have committed decades ago.  The Smith bill creates an immigration gulag, giving the government broad authority to lock people up forever, with no rights to demand release. 

Smith claims he is trying to address a problem with certain countries who refuse to accept their own nationals who have been issued deportation orders.  But Smith’s bill never addresses that actual issue, and he refuses to acknowledge workable ideas that do.  For example, the Obama Administration’s State Department and Department of Homeland Security have crafted a new strategy to compel better international cooperation by imposing stiffer sanctions on such countries. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “House Republicans, led by Lamar Smith, have declared open season on immigrants.  Today it’s a bill to give the government broad powers to lock up immigrants and throw away the key.  Tomorrow it’s mandatory E-Verify legislation that Smith thinks — erroneously — will drive millions of undocumented immigrants out of the country.  These bad ideas, piled on top of the broken immigration system that he himself helped forge, will only make the situation worse.  It’s clear that Republicans in the House are not interested in constructive immigration solutions; they’re interested in political theater.  What they need to realize is, the audience is filled with Latino voters.  The Republican brand image is already tainted with this important group of voters, and with Smith at the helm on immigration policy for the GOP, it’s only going to get worse.”

Following are a number of resources on Smith’s permanent detention bill from experts in refugee policy and immigration law:


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