A stringent new immigration enforcement bill proposed by House Republicans may deepen partisan lines in Congress over the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation” or “HALT” Act would prevent the Obama administration from granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.
The legislation would revoke many discretionary protections and relief for immigrants, including those residing in the U.S. due to war conflict or environmental disasters in their home countries. Had it been in effect, the bill would have denied temporary residency to Haitians devastated by the 2010 earthquake, among others.
Illegal immigrants would only be allowed into the country to face prosecution in court.
The HALT Act was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
The legislators said the measure will prevent President Obama from “abusing his power” and overstepping Congressional approval.
“If the president gets his way, millions of illegal immigrants will be allowed to legally live and work in the U.S. without a vote of Congress,” Smith told CNSNews.com.
Vitter added, “Awarding amnesty over the objections of Congress and the American people would be a slap in the face to taxpayers, and especially to legal immigrants.”
But Democratic legislators and left-leaning organizations both called the bill “ridiculous.”
“This is not an attack on the Presidency, but on the President himself,” Rep. John Conyers, Jr., (D-Mich.) a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “I could speak about how offensive this is, but I want to focus instead on how ridiculous it is. Because the basic premise of the bill—that President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce our immigration laws—is just plain false.”
The Service Employees International Union said the bill is “irresponsible” and has “twisted logic.”
“The HALT Act is ridiculous and mean-spirited and does not deserve a hearing,” union Executive Vice President Mitch Ackerman said in a statement. “In this bill, Smith and Vitter manage to combine irrational hostility towards Obama with an ideology that can’t admit that any immigrant deserves a break, regardless of need or even benefit to U.S. citizens.”
The bill remained in a Judiciary subcommittee for debate, with a hearing on it held July 26. However, according to The Houston Chronicle, Senate Democrats said the bill was unlikely to pass in that chamber.