Last Tuesday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), introduced the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” or the “HALT Act” (H.R. 2497), a bill that would suspend the Obama Administration’s ability to grant administrative amnesty to illegal aliens. “Congress has defeated amnesty for illegal immigrants several times in recent years but this has not stopped President Obama from trying a backdoor amnesty. Over the course of the last year, the Obama administration has ignored the will of Congress and the American people by using executive branch authority to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.,” said Chairman Smith in a press release. (Rep. Smith Press Release, July 12, 2011)
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has issued several memos authorizing or suggesting ways to keep illegal aliens in the country. Just last month Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, issued two memos to ICE Field Office Directors, Special Agents in Charge, and all Chief Counsel instructing them to look the other way when confronted with certain classes of illegal aliens. One of the memos directs them to refrain from enforcing immigration laws against those who would qualify for amnesty under provisions of the failed DREAM Act. (See Morton Memo, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens, June 17, 2011) The other memo directs them not to enforce immigration laws against illegal aliens pursuing “civil rights” lawsuits, such as employment or housing discrimination, as well as against certain aliens identified through the Secure Communities program. (See Morton Memo,Prosecutorial Discretion: Certain Victims, Witnesses, and Plaintiffs, June 17, 2011) And last summer, senior officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offered Director Alejandro Mayorkas a variety of ways, through regulations, to “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization” and extend benefits and protections to many individuals and groups until amnesty is granted. (See USCIS Memo, Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform)
Rep. Smith’s bill would end this practice of circumventing Congress until the end of President Obama’s term, January 21, 2013. If enacted, the HALT Act would prevent the executive branch from further abusing its prosecutorial discretion by suspending its ability to:
• Grant deferred action, parole, or extended voluntary departure to illegal aliens other than those being tried for a crime or acting as a witness at trial, those needed for significant law enforcement or national security purposes, or those whose life is imminently threatened (§§2(b), 2(f));
• Waive the three and ten year bars to admission for aliens who have been illegally present in the U.S. (§2(a));
• Cancel the removal and adjust the status of illegal aliens ordered deported (§2(c));
• Designate additional countries as qualifying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) (§2(d)); and
• Grant work authorization to illegal aliens (§§2(e), 2(g)).
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is expected to introduce a companion bill to the HALT Act in the Senate this week.