HALT Act just another ploy to garner votes

Freedom New Mexico

With so many problems facing our government, it appears that many politicians plan to base campaigns on immigration, just as they have for the past 12 years.

That’s unfortunate for those on the border who have been waiting, and hoping, for substantive action on the issue for all that time. As long as candidates see value in playing the immigration card, there’s no reason to expect any changes to the woefully broken system. After all, why would politicians do anything to remove something upon which they want to build their campaigns?

The latest brush-up is over a bill that would remove the president’s ability to make decisions regarding the enforcement of immigration policy.

Labeled the HALT Act (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act,” the bill would suspend, until Jan. 21, 2013 — the day after the next presidential inauguration — the president’s ability to prioritize some deportations over others, or deferring action on certain groups of people.

This bill is in response to immigration advocates’ calls that the administration focus its attention on prosecuting and deporting people with known criminal histories, and delaying action that would separate families or persecute children who are not responsible for having been brought to this country by their parents.

The latter is an effort to stall action against those who would benefit from passage of the Dream Act, which would facilitate legalization for people who came as children and who plan to serve in the U.S. armed forces or earn college degrees.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, filed the bill and sent a letter to supporters alleging that “the Obama Administration has made it clear that it plans not to use but to abuse these powers. … Because of the Obama Administration’s record, it cannot be trusted with these powers.”

Those familiar with Obama’s record on immigration so far know that he has stepped up immigration enforcement to unprecedented levels. Immigration reform advocates have said the president’s enforcement of Secure Communities policies has been more energetic than necessary, and that he’s gone after the easy targets of working migrants rather than work to get violent criminals out of the country.

“The President has administrative or executive authority to better prioritize his enforcement resources, so that those who are causing real harm to our communities are the ones that are removed, not the students, not the families who are working hard,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in May. “This enforcement-first-and-reform-later approach is just not working.”

Noorani and others have been quick to point out that the president’s actions belie his own calls for reform, including passage of the Dream Act.

It doesn’t take much effort to recognize that enforcement is only part of our immigration problem. The fact that so many undocumented residents are responsible members of their community and don’t violate any criminal laws suggests that they would come here legally if the system weren’t broken.

Certainly, enforcement of existing laws must continue. At the same time, lawmakers need to stop playing with people’s lives and start working on fixing the many problems that plague the system. They can start with tossing out the quotas that were imposed in 1965 and don’t reflect today’s reality, and target an inefficient process that forces many applicants to wait years before they even know if their applications have been received.

Stalling on reform in order to keep a juicy campaign issue alive does a great disservice to those whose lives are affected.