Alert Action: STOP Administrative Amnesty

Written on:August 26, 2011
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, issued two memos last month 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.

The other memo directs them not to enforce the 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. And last year, in a memo entitled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” senior officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offered Director Alejandro Mayorkas a variety of ways to “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization.”


 To stop this continuous effort by the Obama Administration to bypass Congress, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced this week the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” or the HALT Act (H.R. 2497). If enacted, the HALT Act would prevent the Administration from further abusing its prosecutorial discretion to grant administrative amnesty to certain classes of illegal aliens by suspending its ability to:

Grant deferred action to illegal aliens;

  • Grant parole or extended voluntary departure to illegal aliens who do not meet narrowly defined criteria;
  • Cancel the removal and adjust the status of illegal aliens ordered deported; and
  • Grant work authorization to illegal aliens.
  • Call your Representative and tell them the Administration’s actions are an affront to the rule of law. Urge them to limit the Obama Administration’s authority to administratively grant amnesty to illegal aliens by co-sponsoring the HALT Act today!

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What the other side is saying…

The HALT Act - It’s a game of gotcha.

The legislation, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would strip the Obama administration of prosecutorial discretion in the deportation of illegal immigrants.

To be clear: The bill does not restrict the authority of the presidency, it restricts the authority ofthis president. Executive powers would be restored on Jan. 22, 2013, the day after Obama’s first term ends. The Obama administration “can’t be trusted with these powers,” Smith says.

The administration has been getting heat on all sides about immigration enforcement. Democrats and immigration activists have criticized the program known as Secure Communities, which enlists local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants who violate the law so they can be deported. That camp says immigration enforcement has been too harsh.

John Morton, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently responded by instructing his agency to use discretion in deportation. In effect, his order focuses deportation on people who are caught entering illegally at the border or who have serious criminal records. Others may get a pass.

Republicans responded that Morton’s directive amounts to “.” And so, here comes HALT, which would block the use of such discretion. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

HALT would have far-reaching impact on longstanding practices. One example: It would strip the president of authority to grant “temporary protected status” to illegal immigrants who face serious risks at home because of war or natural disaster.

In 2001, President George W. Bush granted temporary protected status to Salvadorans in the U.S. after two major earthquakes in their homeland. Obama granted protection to Haitian immigrants after the horrific earthquake there in 2010 and recently extended that protection until Jan. 22, 2013.

In the past, Smith has supported some discretion on immigration decisions. In 1999, he joined several members of Congress who asked the Clinton administration to use discretion in cases of immigrants who had  and families in the U.S. or close relatives who were citizens. ‘True hardship cases call for the  of discretion,’ he wrote to Clinton in a letter Democrats released last week.

Granted, ICE has had an unsteady track record. It would be a mistake to strip away discretion in immigration cases, though. The agency has the capacity to deport about 400,000 immigrants per year — but there are an estimated 10 million people living here illegally. Discretion has to be part of the enforcement job.

Does Smith want to be constructive? He could revive the push for a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform. That hasn’t had much momentum since 2008, when Republicans and Democrats decided it was politically too hot to handle. Sen. John McCain, once the top Republican supporter of broad reform, walked away from the issue when he ran for president and Congress has shown little interest in taking on reform in recent years.

The HALT Act, it could be called the GOTCHA Act. It’s about politics, not sound immigration policy. Let’s have the real debate.




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