National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Focusing Enforcement Resources in a Broken Immigration System

The Issue

There are now an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, many of whom have lived and worked here for many years. They pay taxes and are no threat to public safety or national security. Yet the continuing failure of Congress to deal realistically with these immigrant workers and their families has led to enforcement policies and actions that are costly, unfocused, and divert resources from protecting us from real threats.

A record amount of our tax dollars is being spent tracking down, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. Half of the immigrants being deported today have no criminal record, or have been arrested for minor violations, such as a traffic infraction. National security and public safety are undermined as time and money are spent finding, detaining, and removing busboys and nannies.

In the context of Congress’ continued failure to fix the broken system, the Obama administration is attempting to bring more focus in enforcement, by prioritizing immigrants who have committed crimes or who are a threat to national security. This has sparked legislation from members of Congress who have been critical of the administration’s focus on public safety and national security.

The Legislation

  • Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act
    HR 2497, introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and 21 co-sponsors on July 12, 2011.

    S. 1380, introduced in the Senate by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC)
    This bill would halt the administration’s effort to focus immigration enforcement on public safety and national security threats by taking away various legal tools the administration can use to de-prioritize the cases of immigrants who pose no threat. Specifically, the bill would suspend until January 21, 2013, DHS’s authority under the INA to grant waivers of inadmissibility of aliens unlawfully present in the United States; cancellation of removal and adjustment of status for certain non-permanent residents; temporary parole into the United States, except for parole entries for humanitarian, law enforcement, or security purposes; and designation of a country for temporary protected status. (List of House co-sponsors. List of Senate co-sponsors.)


On July 26, 2011, there was a hearing on the HALT Act in the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

More Information

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