Low Blow: Republicans Try to Strip Humanitarian Relief

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[States Of The Union]

In a new display of twisted logic by Republicans on Capitol Hill, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Tx., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., are pushing legislation that would strip some administrative powers away from President Obama, and only President Obama, that would effectively deny humanitarian relief to immigrants in special circumstances.

The HALT Act is ridiculous and mean-spirited and does not deserve a hearing. 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. This proposal has nothing to do with stopping terrorists or violent criminals. Rather, it would prevent the administration from providing temporary relief or short term admission to a small number of individuals with extremely compelling cases.

In their ideological attack against immigrants, the chairman and senator are swatting at imaginary flies with 2-by-4s, to impose the most hurt. Had the HALT Act been in effect during the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake in Haiti in 2010 – an event that drew humanitarian relief from around the world - the president would have lacked the authority to temporarily adjust the status of immigrants who had no country to return to.

In another case, the wife and caretaker of an Iraq War veteran who suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would have been deported and separated from her husband and two children had the government not had the authority to issue humanitarian parole. This irresponsible bill also would handcuff law enforcement’s ability to ensure that witnesses to crimes are available.

The list of humanitarian and pragmatic needs that are addressed under current law is long. The administration’s authority to use discretion on a case-by-case basis speaks to our national values. Unfortunately, the lack of legislation discretion by Smith and Vitter panders to the worst form of politics that has turned off the American public. It is time for them to stop the politics of division and start seeking real immigration reform solutions that fortify our economic and national interests.

Mitch Ackerman is SEIU Executive Vice President

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