In the wake of the tragic murder of Kate Steinle, the Senate Judiciary Committee will tomorrow hold a hearing to propose legislation that could undermine the ongoing work that state and local law enforcement have accomplished to restore trust with the undocumented community.
Over the past several years, hundreds of localities across the nation, with the support of local law enforcement, police chiefs, and sheriffs, have limited their involvement in federal immigration enforcement out of concerns for vital Fourth Amendment protections and community safety.
But, reactionary policy proposals, such as the one being proposed at the Senate hearing tomorrow, “are focused on heavy-handed, enforcement-only approaches despite the fact that studies show that deportation-only policies do not reduce crime rates,” the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Immigration Law Center, and United We Dream said in a statement last week.
Ahead of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow, members should review two important matters:
Firstly, heavy-handed enforcement proposals ignore the truth of the matter: Not only are immigrants less likely than native-born Americans to commit crime, but over a century of research shows that higher immigration levels are actually associated with lower crime rates.
“This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education,” said the American Immigration Council in a report earlier this month.
“In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not ‘criminals’ by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime.”
“Many U.S. policymakers succumb to their fears and prejudices about what they imagine immigrants to be,” continues the report.
“As a result, far too many immigration policies are drafted on the basis of stereotypes rather than substance. These laws are criminalizing an ever broadening swath of the immigrant population by applying a double standard when it comes to the consequences for criminal behavior.”
Secondly, committee members should review cautionary quotes from police chiefs, sheriffs, and law enforcement, particularly from their own states and communities, calling for limits on their own roles in immigration enforcement:
IOWA (CHUCK GRASSLEY-R)
“A number of Sheriffs across the United States who are following a judge’s ruling that holding an undocumented immigrant past the time period of their local charges is illegal and can get the county sued and the Sheriff sued. From that decision a number of Sheriffs realized of course we’ve got to follow the law. We here in Sioux County along with the other Sheriffs, no longer honor what is called an ICE detainer, which is request to hold the immigrant illegally past the time period they are allowed to be released from our jail.”
“They might be suspected of something, but unless we have probable cause to make a charge, then that individual cannot be held in the county jail… If a federal court says that that’s not appropriate, then we’re not going to do that until the government straightens it out with the federal courts to make sure the constitutional rights of individuals are being upheld… I also want to do the right thing and protect individuals’ constitutional rights.”
“We cannot deprive somebody of their freedom without a criminal charge or a warrant for their arrest, and a detainer is neither of those.”
ARIZONA (JEFF FLAKE-R)
“There is some tension that could be relieved by getting us out of the immigration enforcement aspect. It helps heal the relationship between the department and the community because there is a lot of mistrust, a lot of frustration on why are local police involved with federal immigration enforcement … civil immigration enforcement. This is a way to begin to heal that grief between the department and the community.
LOUISIANA (DAVID VITTER-R)
His refusal to hold non-violent illegal immigrants in prison after they finish their sentences is about “freedom and fairness,” as well as fiscal prudence.
Letter to Sen. Vitter:
“Our policy is about freedom and fairness, ideals upon which I hope we can both agree and upon which our country was built,” Gusman said in a letter to Vitter. “If we are to continue to be judged by these ideals, I believe our new ICE policy places us on the right side of this issue and keeps us on a path to a stronger future…The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office’s policy on ICE voluntary detainers clearly defines standards and procedures that will allow the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office to continue to cooperate with ICE personnel while protecting the Constitutional rights of all individuals who come into our custody, care, and control.”
GEORGIA (DAVID PERDUE-R)
“I have several concerns about this policy of detainer requests… Among them is the fundamental fairness of the requests, the damage they may inflict upon the relationship between our law enforcement officers and our immigrant community, as well as the unreimbursed cost of the detainers being passed on to Fulton County taxpayers.”
“The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause… If our judicial system determines that an individual should no longer be held in custody, it is not in my authority to countermand that decision.”
“We all benefit from a nation of laws that regulate the ways people can be detained, and we should be grateful that is the case,”
“The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office shall not detain or extend the detention of any individual at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement solely upon the issuance of an ICE detainer… unless ICE first presents (the sheriff’s office) with a judicially issued warrant authorizing such detention.”
NEW YORK (CHARLES SCHUMER-D)
“We are continuing to work with our colleagues in the Administration and the City Council toward the shared goal of ensuring that undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of serious or violent crimes are not needlessly exposed to additional civil immigration penalties because they were arrested. The signing of this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
“This legislation authorizes the Department of Correction to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement only where it is needed to protect public safety… It is consistent with our own comprehensive reform agenda, which is building a Department that operates more safely and more humanely and in the best interests of all New Yorkers.”
“This is an important piece of legislation… The City Council and the Mayor should be congratulated on setting a precedent by tackling this serious issue and focusing on deportation efforts for dangerous individuals.”
Chief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office:
“Laws are not a stagnant thing. The interpretation of them changes on case law. And based on the review by federal courts we felt like it was important to react to that.”
“We will still make a notification to immigration and customs but we will not hold them beyond the time it takes to process them now.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio:
“What these bills do is they protect the rights of undocumented immigrants, of visa holders, and legal permanent residents alike, all of whom have suffered under the previous approach, and ultimately prevent families from being torn apart.”
“When people understand in all cases police are here to protect, and will not be part of deporting, it will encourage people to come forward.”
“Taking a stand to protect individual rights while respecting the need for public safety”
“Mass deportation has not only pulled apart thousands of New York City families, it has also undermined public safety in our communities and imposed disproportionate penalties on immigrant parents and spouses who these families depend on for emotional and financial support..Our City is not served when New Yorkers with strong ties in the community are afraid to engage with law enforcement because they fear deportation.
Today, we send another message to Washington that the time to act has come to provide relief to so many individuals who contribute to our nation’s growth. I’d like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council for passing this legislation, which further establishes New York City as a leader in immigration reform.”
CALIFORNIA (DIANNE FEINSTEIN-D)
“It’s crazy to ignore or underserve this population.” The Trust Act will help encourage witnesses and victims of crime to come forward. “To me it’s non-political when it comes to public safety,”
“I don’t believe there should be any impact with people who are here to work hard, earn a living and not commit crimes. We are not involved in deporting victims of crime.”
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi:
“We all need to take a step back and summon the collective wisdom, while resisting the political opportunism, to effectively prevent further tragedies without eroding constitutional protections.”
“Local governments have the right to require a legal instrument such as a court order or a warrant… If ICE does not provide the proper legal instrument, they are jeopardizing also the city’s ability to detain somebody against their will. We need ICE to step up, and I hope this doesn’t happen in other cities, but there’s a good chance it can.”
ILLINOIS (RICHARD DURBIN-D)
“it would be unjust to hold someone at the mere request of another governmental entity when that individual has met all prerequisites for being released from the jail.”
“What we are doing is righting a wrong against people who are on the soil of Cook County under the protection of the U.S. Constitution… By refusing to detain people who are entitled to their freedom, based merely on a request from (immigration agents) we are upholding our system of justice.”
“It does not lend itself to a sense of community where people will gladly come to you with information about crimes, get involved as a witness, even come forward as a victim, frankly.”
“Well, there is this notion of justice that we’ve always felt very strongly about in this office. And whether it’s dealing with people who we felt were being dispossessed of their houses in the mortgage crisis. So we stopped. It’s the same issue here, where we are attempting to do what is right and just.”
CONNECTICUT (RICHARD BLUMENTHAL-D)
“Connecticut needs the TRUST Act because the numbers show that Secure Communities is not working. This program is supposed to be about improving public safety, but only 27% of individuals removed through S-Comm have committed serious offenses. Out of the 331 people from Connecticut deported under the program, 268 either had no convictions or were accused of a minor offense. What our communities don’t need is another reason not to trust their local police.”
“Clearly it establishes the principle that the state of Connecticut should not be acting upon ICE detainer requests for people who have not committed a serious crime.”