House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) is in a position to do great things for America. For the good of our country, he can rise above the partisan rancor that paralyzes Washington, roll up his sleeves, get to work, and fashion an immigration overhaul that will protect American workers, help keep U.S. businesses competitive in a global economy, reunite families, and restore due process.
Unfortunately Smith has chosen the latter. Rather than seize the moment and perhaps write his name into the history books as a statesman, Smith has introduced the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” a bill that offers a lot of red meat to the anti-immigrant restrictionists but is devoid of a single solution. I’m not exactly sure what the bill’s title means, but it shortens nicely to HALT!—a command which conjures up the terrifying image of a trigger happy SS officer ordering a fleeing prisoner to…well…HALT!
Smith introduced HALT! as a reaction to the prosecutorial discretion memo issued by ICE Director John Morton last month. HALT! seeks to prevent the Obama Administration—the bill is actually written to sunset precisely at the end of the President’s first term—from focusing immigration enforcement resources on those who would do the country harm: violent offenders and terrorists. If enacted into law, HALT! would eliminate vital protections Congress legislated for victims of domestic violence; suspend the President’s power to designate Temporary Protected Status for countries like Haiti and the Sudan where environmental and human disasters have wreaked havoc. The bill would even prevent the government from granting a temporary visit to those injured in war, such as a child bomb victim in Iraq urgently in need of medical care like prosthetic limbs.
In fact, HALT! would actually make it more difficult to keep America safe because it forces ICE to go after every low-priority individual instead of pursuing those who threaten our communities and homeland security. In sharp contrast, Morton’s prosecutorial discretion memo provides the field with an architecture for smart enforcement.
Thankfully HALT has no chance of becoming law. Even Smith knows that. But it’s disgraceful that he uses his position as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee to promote anti-immigrant talking points rather than sound immigration policy.