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New House Immigration Bill, Detention Stats, SAFE Act, and Other News in Immigration Reform

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Big news in immigration reform happened today when House Democrats released a new immigration reform bill–containing citizenship–and asked Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors.  The bill serves as a rebuke to commentators who feared that the breakup of the House Gang of 7 meant that immigration reform was dead.  And it serves as a spur to action for conservatives who claimed that the reason for House inaction for immigration reform was that no comprehensive bill existed in the House.  Now there is.  (In fact, there are now two immigration reform bills containing a path to citizenship in the House, the one introduced this morning, and the CIR ASAP bill introduced by Reps. Grijalva and Vela last month.)  House Republicans have run out of excuses.  The time to act on immigration reform is now.

In case you missed it, here are two other important notes in immigration news today:

Yesterday, TRAC Immigration released a report showing that only one out of every 10 immigrants that ICE has placed detainer holds on in the last 6 months actually poses a serious threat to national security.  Last December, ICE issued new guidelines requiring enforcement officials to reserve immigrant detainers for those convicted of serious criminal offenses, but TRAC’s report seems to show that ICE is not honoring its own priorities.

As of June 2013, 62% of those placed in holds have no criminal convictions, and most other have only been convicted of minor criminal offenses, such as traffic violations.  Even though Washington, DC is mired in a government shutdown this week, immigrants can still be arrested, detained, and deported.  As we wrote about last week, the immigrant detention system is incredibly expensive, shockingly inhumane, and guided by constraints that lack common sense.

Also yesterday, the National Immigration Law Center sponsored a conference call about the anti-immigrant SAFE Act, featuring police chiefs from Salt Lake City (UT), Dayton (OH), Fort Worth (TX), and the district attorney for San Francisco.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank talked about the flaws of the SAFE Act, which is being pushed by House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, and explained how the bill would make communities less safe:

By placing federal detainers for civil [immigration] violations on the NCIC system.  It further clutters the system and makes it impossible for officers to make those determinations [of whether a person is a wanted criminal] in the field and would result in criminals potentially going free.

He also noted that nationwide, laws that use local police for immigration enforcement have “caused community members not to trust the police,” and Latinos are less likely to report crime.

Burbank noted that about 25 percent of Salt Lake City’s population is Latino, and many of the schools in the city are 50 percent or more Latino. “Why would I, as a police chief, ever want to alienate such a large segment of my society by engaging in civil enforcement actions that interject bias into our business?”