The HALT Act

July 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

On July 26th, the House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing on the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” (HALT Act), introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The proposed bill would suspend discretionary forms of immigration relief until January 21, 2013, the day after the next Presidential inauguration. Lamar Smith and Senator David Vitter are the sponsors of this bill, which will serve as political roadblocks to President Obama and prevent him from implementing humanianrian relief that is currently available to immigrants on an ad hoc basis. The HALT Act is apparently proposed in reaction to a series of policy memos from the Administration that contemplate using executive branch authority to improve current laws so they become more streamlined or beneficial to more individuals. The memos direct Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) to prioritize the removal of dangerous criminals. Criticisms of the memos have included President Obama focusing too much resource on the border and deporting more immigrants per year than any previous administration

If passed, some examples of current relief that would no longer be available to immigrants under the HALT Act would include: no Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for countries suffering disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis or countries experiencing civil war or other armed conflict; no deferred action to domestic abuse survivors seeking protection under the Violence Againast Women Act (VAWA); an immigration judge would no longer be able to cancel removal of a non-citizen due to “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship for a qualifying U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member.

Proponents of this bill state that the purpose of it is to prevent President Obama from granting a “mass amnesty”, although the reality is that the policies of the HALT Act are overbroad and misguided. Aside from its political underpining, the Act would further undermine an already unstable immigration system. Given the state of our current system, which is pretty broken, this is not a desirable outcome.

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