Testimony on immigration enforcement bill
Statement for the Congressional Record pertaining to the SAFE Act
June 13, 2013
We are pleased to see the U.S. House of Representatives engage in discussions about reforming the current immigration system. However, we are deeply concerned that the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act of 2013 (SAFE Act) as currently written will continue to punish those least culpable for their economic circumstances, separate families, jeopardize the safety of local communities nationwide, and increase the profit margins of corporations at the expense of liberty.
Many of HR 2887’s provisions are inhumane, costly, and will not be effective in repairing our immigration system. If passed, this bill would allow for - and even provide financial incentives to - local and state enforcement of immigration laws. Like the deeply destructive practices advanced by 287(g) and the Secure Communities program, such provisions have been clearly demonstrated to promote racial profiling, drain local law enforcement resources, and increase targeting of undocumented immigrants by criminals who know this vulnerable population is less likely to report crime. To increase punitive enforcement of an immigration system well known to be broken is to shirk the federal responsibility to build a system that is efficient, humane, and transparent and to instead simply punish those trapped by its failures.
When local officers are tasked with enforcing immigration laws in addition to ensuring that members of communities are protected from crime, our neighborhoods are less safe as a result. Due to local mandates to enforce immigration laws, immigrants often fear reporting criminal activity to police and criminal offenders enjoy impunity. The AFSC encourages policies that allow state and local law enforcement entities to dedicate themselves to protecting the safety of all those in their community without the constraints of being required to enforce poorly written and implemented immigration laws.
The AFSC is also troubled by the expansion of offenses for which an immigrant must be deported. The mandatory criminalization of immigrants tears families apart and lines the pockets of for-private detention center operators, while doing nothing to improve community safety. Detention leaves children without parents, families without wage earners, and couples separated without warning or justification. Deportation ensures that these separations are long lasting if not permanent.
The AFSC is also concerned that for-profit entities operating detention centers will likely be called on to accommodate the need for additional space to house these “criminals”, and may in fact be lobbying for increased immigrant detention to ensure their own profits. It is well documented that these entities consistently fail to meet minimum safety standards, do not provide adequate medical services, and fail to provide guards with reasonable training and safety protections. It is an anathema to our Constitution for for-profit corporations to financially benefit from the restriction of liberties and tolerance of abuses.
The AFSC urges the Committee to exert visionary leadership and to support new immigration policies that respect the human rights and inherent dignity of all in our communities. We ask the Committee to consider the economic and political realities that have driven human migration to the U.S. from Columbus’ journey onward – including the migration of ancestors of each member of this Committee. We hope that the Committee will oppose the SAFE act and seek ways the U.S. might improve these drivers of migration rather than punishing impacted individuals who have built productive lives, families, and community ties in the U.S. without waiting for the blessing of an unresponsive government.