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Office Hours: Week in Review

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office hoursHouse Republicans’ “Safe to Profile Act” Would Take Arizona Anti-Immigration Law Nationwide 

On today’s immigration reform “Office Hours” press call, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) joined labor and immigration leaders from across the country to discuss the latest enforcement-only legislative proposals at the federal and state levels and their impact on the undocumented community.

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee has passed the SAFE Act, or the “Safe to Profile Act,” and Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) has said the proposal may come to the floor in October.  On today’s call, speakers talked about how this approach encourages rampant racial profiling and discourages relationships of trust that are necessary for good community policing.

Said Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA):

The SAFE Act codifies racial profiling and endangers our communities. It doesn’t advance our country’s interests, Americans’ interests or immigrants’ interests. You can put feathers on a bull but it doesn’t make it a turkey.  You can call the SAFE Act whatever you want but the bottom line is that it will not make our streets safer, it won’t do anything positive for American citizens, and it certainly will hurt people who are here undocumented with their families, who just want to work, and are contributing to our economy. This is not something that congress should pass.

Added Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney at National Immigration Law Center:

One need only look at Arizona and Alabama to understand how harmful the SAFE Act can be,” said Kamal Essaheb, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Latinos, Asian Americans, and other Americans are harassed simply because they ‘appear’ foreign, and immigrants – regardless of status – are reluctant to call the police when they need help. These types of laws fly in the face of American values and make our communities less safe.

Anti-immigrant policy has reared its ugly head at the state level too.  As speakers explained, local efforts by law enforcement to track down immigrants have been met with fierce resistance by immigration advocates in state.

Jacinta Gonzalez, lead organizer for the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice Congress of Day Laborers, led a successful fight against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention holds by New Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman who reversed his position in a dramatic shift in August.  She said:

Previously when the Sherriff was submitting to ICE hold requests, it was clearly leading to racial profiling.  We filed a lawsuit against the Sherriff’s office after two of our worker members were unconstitutionally held in detention for more than 160 and 90 days respectively. Through the settlement, we won this incredible reversal of policy from the Sherriff who attributed his decision to the unconstitutional nature of ICE hold requests.  Everyone should feel safe, have the right to report crime and feel a part of the communities they helped build.

Added Chris Newman, Legal Director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON):

The CAMBIO groups have taken a non-negotiable position on the SAFE Act.  It is not compatible with immigration reform and not compatible with the Senate immigration proposal.  People marched in the streets in 2006 and resoundingly opposed this kind of criminalization of immigrant communities, and we did it again in 2010 against SB 1070 in Arizona.  There is a consensus to modernize our nation’s immigration system, and that consensus is literally arriving at Congress’ door.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The SAFE Act gets at the larger question of what America is going to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, most of whom have families here and most of whom have been here for more than a decade: are we going to move toward criminalizing them or toward legalizing them? That debate is happening in Washington in the context of immigration reform, but it’s also raging at the state and local level where too many law enforcement agencies engage in racial profiling and the targeting of immigrants – in collusion with DHS.  As advocates, we refuse to choose between calling on the President to stop deportations and calling on Congress to pass legislation.  For us, it’s both/and, not either/or.  We want ICE reined in to stop cruelly deporting people who are on the verge of legal status, and we want House Republicans to stop delaying so Congress can make the path to legal status and eventual citizenship a reality.