If the Republicans win the House of Representatives tonight, as many predict they will, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is set to be the next head of the House Judiciary Committee which oversees all immigration issues. Described as a lawmaker who is “less interested in getting in the spotlight and more interested in driving immigrants out of the country,” Smith will undoubtedly use his leadership position to push through his anti-immigrant agenda. Though Smith has declined to comment on his plans if he becomes chairman, a look at a few of the bills he has supported over the past several years paints a pretty clear picture:
Arizona-Style Immigration Enforcement: Earlier this year, Smith sponsored H.R.4471, a bill “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives” that local governments, and State and local police “have the inherent authority of a sovereign entity” to essentially enforce federal immigration laws. Smith’s legislation seeks to clarify the ambiguity concerning Congress’ intent on inherent authority in a way that would invalidate the argument that Arizona’s immigration law is preempted by federal law.
Ending Birthright Citizenship: Smith has been credited by his supporters with “lead[ing the charge behind H.R. 1868, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009.” In August, Smith explained “We do not need to amend the Constitution to end birthright citizenship.” “I think if Congress simply passes a law saying that the United States should do what every other industrialized nation in the world does…and that is, require at least one parent to be in the country legally, that we can do it by statute,” he explained — which is exactly what H.R. 1868 aims to do.
Mandatory E-Verify: H. RES. 1026, a piece of legislation co-sponsered by Smith, aims to make the voluntary federal electronic employment verification system — E-verify — mandatory. Both sides of the aisle tend to agree that such a program is necessary, however, its alarming error-rate has given many lawmakers pause. According to Westat, a research company that evaluated the program for the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify fails to flag undocumented workers 54% of the time. Meanwhile, in 2008, the Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce found that “[i]f all U.S. employers were to use the system, as many as six million U.S. citizens and legal residents could be denied employment due to bureaucratic error.”
HALT Act: There is also a rumor on right-wing websites that Smith is interested in introducing a bill called the “HALT Act” which is supposedly “designed to prevent President Obama and his administration from granting de facto amnesties.” The Obama administration isn’t poised to grant any “de-facto amnesties.” However, the New York Times did report that while deporting “a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes,” the Department of Homeland Security “is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children.” That’s largely because Republicans have blocked the DREAM Act — a piece of legislation which would legalize undocumented youth through the legislative process. The majority of the American people support the DREAM Act. Yet Smith called it a “dual assault on law-abiding, taxpaying American citizens and legal immigrants.”
Smith isn’t the only Republican to worry about when it comes to immigration. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) would head the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. Unlike Smith, King hasn’t held back from sharing his plans: “A birthright citizenship bill, legislation to reaffirm states’ right to enact Arizona-like immigration laws, a bill to take away deductions from employers who pay illegal immigrants and legislation to crack down on cities that don’t go after illegal residents.”
Andrea Christina Nill
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