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Lamar Smith, Nathan Deal signed 1999 letter calling for discretion in deportation cases

As promised, U.S. House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced on Tuesday a bill, titled the HALT Act, which would suspend the Obama

Jul 31, 2020
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As promised, U.S. House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced on Tuesday a bill, titled the HALT Act, which would suspend the Obama administration’s ability to exercise discretion in prosecuting deportation cases. Smith was motivated to introduce the bill by a widely-discussed memo from Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton instructing officials to carefully weigh a number of factors, including criminal record, length of stay and age of the immigrant, when deciding whether to deport someone. Republicans called the memo a “stealth DREAM Act.”
It appears that Smith was not always so strongly opposed to discretion on the part of the executive branch when it comes to deportations. An editorialin the New York Times points out:
Back in 1999, Mr. Smith was one of several members of Congress who wrote the attorney general and the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, arguing that “unfair” deportations had caused “unjustifiable hardship” for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had jobs and families and close citizen relatives. “True hardship cases call for the exercise of discretion,” the letter said. Hard to explain the change, although hypocrisy and rank opportunism seem likely.
In fact, the letter(PDF) called not just for discretion in non-criminal deportation cases but also cases where the crime committed had occurred when the immigrant in question was underage:
Cases of apparent extreme hardship have caused concern. Some cases may involve removal proceedings against legal permanent residents who came to the United States when they were very young, and many years ago committed a single crime at the lower end of the `aggravated felony’ spectrum, but have been law-abiding ever since, obtained and held jobs and remained self-sufficient, and started families in the United States. Although they did not become citizens, immediate family members are citizens.
The letter was also signed by other Republicans now considered immigration conservatives: then-congressman and current Georgia governor Nathan Deal, who earlier this year pushed for and signed that state’s new stringent immigration law; former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who endorseda law similar to Georgia’s in his campaign for governor last year; and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of a 2006 federal immigration reform bill that drew massive protestsfrom immigrant and Hispanic rights supporters across the country.
UPDATE: Rep. Smith has posted a response below similar to his letter to the editorof the New York Times published on Wednesday, stressing that the 1999 letter referred to discretion in the case of “legal – not illegal – immigrants who committed a single minor crime but have been a law abiding resident ever since.” He claims that President Obama is now abusing this power, which is why he has introduced the HALT Act.
Camilo Wood

Camilo Wood

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Camilo Wood has over two decades of experience as a writer and journalist, specializing in finance and economics. With a degree in Economics and a background in financial research and analysis, Camilo brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his writing. Throughout his career, Camilo has contributed to numerous publications, covering a wide range of topics such as global economic trends, investment strategies, and market analysis. His articles are recognized for their insightful analysis and clear explanations, making complex financial concepts accessible to readers. Camilo's experience includes working in roles related to financial reporting, analysis, and commentary, allowing him to provide readers with accurate and trustworthy information. His dedication to journalistic integrity and commitment to delivering high-quality content make him a trusted voice in the fields of finance and journalism.
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