Congressional Hearing Today on Bill to Curtail Obama Administration Immigration Powers

Rep Lamar Smith

Rep. Lamar Smith. (Photo: Ryan J. Reilly/flickr)

While many immigration advocates are pushing for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, immigration restrictionists are trying to remove legal provisions and policies that allow immigrants to remain in this country.

The pointedly titled “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act“ (HALT Act) is a bill introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) that would suspend certain laws protecting an immigrant’s right to stay in the U.S. until January 21, 2013, which is the final day of President Obama’s current term of office. The name suggests that President Obama is tempting unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S., or that the administration is tempted to legalize the status of unauthorized immigrants. Either way, the idea is to stop “temptation” in its tracks, by aiming a pistol at the discretion of both the executive and judicial branches in immigration cases.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled this afternoon (July 26) by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. If enacted, the bill would prevent the administration from waiving the three or ten year ban on reentry if removal of an unauthorized immigrant would be devastating for U.S. citizens or legal residents; prevent the Department of Homeland Security from allowing an immigrant into the country under humanitarian parole; bar immigration judges from granting cancellation of removal to those who qualify (such as for same-sex married partners or students who would qualify for the DREAM Act).  In addition, DHS would be unable to designate countries for Temporary Protected Status (as it did for Haitians after the earthquake).  The bill would also make it more difficult for DHS to grant deferred action to immigrants; and place restrictions on the Secretary of Homeland Security’s ability to grant work authorization. For more details, see the Immigration Policy Center’s fact sheet.

In short, the law would reduce the power of the executive branch and place restrictions on immigration judges and agencies to exercise discretion in immigration cases. According to a letter distributed by Rep. Smith, the purpose of the bill is to “remind the Obama Administration that the founding fathers put Congress in charge of setting the nation’s immigration policy.”

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