Bob Goodlatte’s SAFE Act–or as we alternatively call it, the unSAFE Act, the Safe-to-Profile Act, and the Arpaio Act–is a punitive and discriminatory piece of legislation that House Republicans are expected to take up this fall. Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) sent this letter to their House colleagues detailing the reasons why Congress should avoid the SAFE Act and pass real immigration reform with a path to citizenship instead.
As the letter begins:
We write in opposition to the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act (H.R. 2278). The SAFE Act presents the enforcement-and deportation-only approach that has failed both as an immigration policy and as a political strategy. Along with the other bills the Majority has introduced, it does not provide an opportunity for the 11 million undocumented immigrants to get right with the law and earn legal status.
Sadly, this mean-spirited bill combines the worst of the 2005 “Sensenbrenner Bill” (H.R. 4437) and the worst of Arizona’s SB 1070 and may sideline chances of a bipartisan immigration reform solution in the House. But don’t take our word for it, look at what is in the bill:
Criminalizes all undocumented immigrants: making them subject to fines and jail time. The bill changes current law and adds a criminal provision that would criminalize “unlawful presence.” This new provision would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight and subject them to criminal prosecution. Dumping 11 million immigrants into the criminal system is bad policy and a poor use of resources.
Authorize all states to enact their own immigration laws: Allowing 50 states and thousands of localities to enact their own immigration laws is a recipe for chaos, confusion, and racial profiling. We have seen states attempt to pass their own statues mirroring criminal provisions in federal immigration law. Many of these statutes have been struck down, like large portions of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, and all have received considerable public pushback.
Delegates authority to enforce federal immigration laws to state and local law enforcement officers: Worse, it withholds funding if they fail to fully enforce federal immigration laws in their own communities. We know from past experience that when local police start enforcing immigration law, immigrants are less likely to report a crime or to serve as witnesses and informants. This will decrease public safety across the board and puts our entire society at risk.