Rep. Lamar Smith's Immigration Power Grab

November 02, 2011 1:00 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Today, the House Judiciary Committee, headed up by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), called a meeting to discuss subpoenaing the names of people the Obama administration has flagged under the Secure Communities program but never deported. To justify this Republican roundup of names, Smith said:

If there is nothing to hide, why wouldn't they [the administration] provide Congress with these documents? Are administration officials concerned that the requested information will show that illegal and criminal immigrants intentionally released by ICE have gone on to commit more crimes?

A better explanation of why the Department of Homeland Security would withhold the names is that some of those flagged by Secure Communities were already or have since become naturalized citizens. According to the New York Times, administration officials note that while the program database includes those who have violated immigration laws, it also includes "positive histories of immigrants who applied for legal status or naturalized to become American citizens," thereby making it unnecessary to pursue action against them despite their names being in the database.

In addition to people whose immigration statuses may have changed, the Secure Communities program was also found to have rounded up thousands of legal U.S. citizens in false positive matches. Therefore, Smith's subpoena could allow Congress — specifically the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee — to have the names of thousands of citizens or legal U.S. permanent residents whose rights may have already been violated once by this program, opening them up to scrutiny again.

Ultimately, while Smith claims to be interested in upholding the Constitution, his subpoena attempt shows he's not shy when it comes to violating civil liberties.