With the beginning of September, Congress’s five-week August recess is fast coming to an end. Our elected officials return to D.C. on September 9 to address a pile of unfinished business including immigration reform. In this blog post, I’d like to update you on some of this activity.
Five bills making changes to pieces of our immigration system have passed various committees in the House of Representatives and may eventually come up for a vote. Among these bills, one deserves careful attention – the Strengthen And Fortify Enforcement Act (HR 2278), or “SAFE Act” as it is known. If enacted, this bill would harm our communities and decrease access to justice, protections, and immigration relief for certain migrants and refugees.
As Lutherans and people of faith, we are deeply concerned over provisions in the SAFE Act that conflict with our principles for a fair and compassionate immigration system. Incredibly, the SAFE Act would make it a new crime to provide services, transport, or shelter to undocumented immigrants. Our faith compels us to welcome the newcomer and we are troubled that the criminalization of compassion may prevent churches, individuals, attorneys, social service agencies, and refugee organizations from acting in good faith to care for those in need. These concerns were highlighted in a recent letter signed by 150 faith-based organizations and leaders opposing the SAFE Act that was sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH8).
The SAFE Act is a collection of provisions that increase harsh enforcement without providing a roadmap to citizenship for any undocumented immigrations. The bill would make it a crime to spend one day in the United States without proper immigration paperwork. It expands the use of mandatory and indefinite detention for individuals facing civil immigration charges. It endorses the approach of Arizona and SB-1070, which the Supreme Court gutted as unconstitutional, by encouraging state and local law enforcement officials to participate in immigration enforcement.
The SAFE Act is not the answer that America needs to our outdated and inadequate immigration laws. We need immigration reform that underscores our American values by emphasizing compassion and family unity.
The House of Representatives may soon begin considering the SAFE Act and other bills that address immigration reform. Please join us in contacting your representative by calling 1-866-940-2439 or the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to let them know that you oppose harsh and unreasonable bills like the SAFE Act (H.R. 2278), and urge them to instead support immigration reform that will create a roadmap to citizenship for the undocumented, protect individuals seeking refuge in the United States, uphold the rights of workers, provide fair and humane enforcement of immigration laws, and unify families.