As most Americans already know, our nation’s immigration laws have been poorly enforced for decades now. This has led to the current situation where the Obama administration, following suit with previous administrations, is so lenient with illegal immigrants that our nation’s immigration policy is moving closer and closer to being a true open borders policy that would permit unlimited immigration into the United States. However, under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, it should be Congress that determines our nation’s immigration policy, not the executive branch.
Legislative leaders of both parties have tried many times to get comprehensive immigration reform (read “amnesty”) legislation passed by Congress, but the grassroots pressure against amnesty has blocked passage. One of the best examples of this was the 2007 McCain-Kennedy-Bush amnesty bill that was dropped by the Senate after the public uproar against amnesty became too great to ignore.
Various amnesty bills have been introduced since, but they haven’t gained sufficient traction to be passed. Just this year seven Democratic Senators introduced a new amnesty bill, S. 1258, on June 22, but it’s not expected to be approved.
Ever since the rebuff of President Obama’s agenda by the voters in the 2010 congressional elections, we’ve been told that Obama would be looking more and more to making his impact via executive orders and other administrative regulations. On June 17 this prediction was fulfilled in the area of immigration policy when John Morton, Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency issued a memo with the subject: “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens.” According to this memo:
"Because the agency is confronted with more administrative violations than its resources can address, the agency must regularly exercise "prosecutorial discretion" if it is to prioritize its efforts. In basic terms, prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual. ICE, like any other law enforcement agency, has prosecutorial discretion and may exercise it in the ordinary course of enforcement. When ICE favorably exercises prosecutorial discretion, it essentially decides not to assert the full scope of the enforcement authority available to the agency in a given case."
The memo goes on to list nineteen “Factors to Consider When Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion.” These factors include the illegal immigrant’s length of stay, circumstances of arrival, pursuit of education, and a whole laundry list of other reasons why ICE agents can decide against enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. In fact, after listing the nineteen factors, the memo goes on to say this list is not exhaustive, and that agents should always consider “prosecutorial discretion” on a case-by-case basis.
Some commentators are saying that this June 17 memo has made the DREAM Act amnesty bill, which Congress has not been able to pass, a federal law by executive branch fiat.
In response to the June 17 policy memo regarding “prosecutorial discretion,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has stated:
“Congress has defeated amnesty for illegal immigrants several times in recent years but this has not stopped President Obama from trying a backdoor amnesty. Over the course of the last year, the Obama administration has ignored the will of Congress and the American people by using executive branch authority to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.”
On July 12 Smith introduced H.R. 2497, known as the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act in order to counter the administration’s “prosecutorial discretion” policy. According to The Texas Tribune, July 14: “This resolution would prohibit the government from canceling the removal of illegal immigrants, granting temporary protective status to any immigrant and granting parole or issuing deferred action (except in narrow circumstances).”
On July 18 Senator David Vitter (R-Louis.) introduced S. 1380, a Senate version of Smith’s HALT Act. So far, Smith has 24 cosponsors in the House and Vitter has two cosponsors in the Senate.
Send a pre-written, editable email message to your Representative and Senators in support of the HALT Act to stop Obama’s “backdoor amnesty” policy of “prosecutorial discretion.”
Learn more about our "Choose Freedom — STOP Illegal Immigration" action project at JBS.org.