A new bill proposed by House Republicans would require deportation for victims of domestic violence who are undocumented immigrants. (More)
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) has proposed the Hinder the Administration Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act, which would suspend the practice of “deferred action” for the remainder of President Obama’s first term. Under an application of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act , undocumented immigrants who are married to legal residents and are victims of domestic violence can petition for protection from deportation. That process, in use since 2000, encourages victims to report domestic violence and to apply for legal work status. Supervising attorney Michelle Ortiz of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center says the “deferred action” program is effective:
We have an attorney who goes to the immigration detention center in Broward [County]. She sees victims of domestic violence all the time. If she puts together a request for release with evidence of domestic violence, she has been successful in getting them out of detention. So these discretion memos are working. … But with the HALT Act, it is impossible.
Representative Smith proposed the bill after President Obama instructed prosecutors to use discretion and focus their efforts on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to public safety:
The Obama administration has again made clear its plan to grant backdoor amnesty to illegal immigrants. The administration should enforce immigration laws, not look for ways to ignore them. Officials should remember the oath of office they took to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano responded that this was not about amnesty, but about the sensible allocation of limited resources. In a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Secretary Napolitano said low-priority cases are “clogging immigration court dockets” and delaying deportation of more dangerous offenders.
The HALT Act would apply only until January 21, 2013 – the end of President Obama’s first term – suggesting Rep. Smith’s motives have less to do with law enforcement than partisan politics.