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Tale of Two Different Congressional Chambers

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Today the Senate and House of Representatives will hold two hearings on immigration, yet they take diverging views on reforming the U.S. immigration system.

The Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security held a hearing on the economic imperative for enacting immigration reform and invited business leaders and mayors to testify before Congress. LIRS applauds the Senate for organizing the hearing. LIRS issued a statement to reiterate our support for an immigration overhaul and to show how the failure to enact immigration reform has had negative impacts on businesses and communities across the country.

On the other hand, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act (HR 2497 / S. 1380), legislation that would eliminate the current administration’s discretionary power when enforcing U.S. immigration laws. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), the bill’s respective champions, claim that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is pursuing “back door amnesty” for undocumented immigrants because it uses discretionary tools in certain compelling immigration cases. DHS, like all law enforcement agencies, have limited resources and need discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to move forward with prosecuting a case or to grant a reprieve to certain individuals who face exceptional hardships.

The HALT Act would remove the administration’s ability to grant temporary humanitarian relief called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to foreign nationals residing in the United States at the time of war or natural disaster in their home country. TPS is not a new discretionary tool. For example, the past three presidents, Presidents George H. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have all utilized TPS to respond to humanitarian crises in places like Sudan, Somalia and El Salvador. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, the administration provided TPS to Haitians who were residing in the United States to allow them to work and send money back to Haiti to help support the ongoing rebuilding efforts. If this bill became law, it would eliminate the government’s ability to respond in the next 18 months to a similar humanitarian crisis.

The HALT Act would also bar DHS from granting temporary admission to the United States to individuals for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. For example, if a Liberian man needed to come to the United States to receive emergency medical treatment because Liberia didn’t have the resources or expertise to perform such a surgery, the bill would block the man from being temporary allowed into the country.


Finally, the bill would prohibit the administration from providing relief to immigrants of good moral character who have lived in the United States for more than 10 years and can show that their deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to their U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, child, or parent. For example, if an undocumented mother has been living in the United States for 15 years and is the sole caregiver of her handicapped daughter, DHS would not be allowed to reconsider the removal of the mother.

The HALT Act seeks to punish the Obama administration at the cost of vulnerable migrants. LIRS opposes the HALT Act and we urge you to visit our Action Center  today to make your voice heard!


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