Reps. Zoe Lofgren on Opposing the House GOP's Immigration Bill H.R. 2278, the "SAFE Act"
Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) delivered the following statement during a mark-up of H.R. 2278, the "Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act" (The SAFE Act), in the House Judiciary Committee:
Thank you Mr. Chairman. This bill must be opposed.
It would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight.
It would turn State and local law enforcement officers around the country into immigration agents.
It would expand mandatory and prolonged detention.
It would deny due process and judicial review. It ignores the problems of racial profiling and unlawful discrimination that are sure to result from the language in the bill.
We had a similar bill eight years ago which I opposed for the same reasons. And, unfortunately, in some ways this bill is even worse.
Last Thursday we had an at times contentious hearing about this bill. My colleagues and I pointed out that while the entire country is looking for solutions to our broken immigration system‹which must include a path to earned permanent legal residence for the undocumented‹this bill would instead turn those people into criminals.
On Friday afternoon we received Chairman Goodlatte's proposed amendment to the bill. And rather than remedying this fatal flaw‹an approach that was soundly rejected 8 years ago‹the Chairman proposes to add yet another criminal penalty onto the backs of the undocumented. This penalty for "unlawful presence" comes directly from the bill eight years ago. So now undocumented immigrants in this country could face prosecution for two separate criminal offenses. One being alive in America.
The country has considered and rejected mass deportation or self-deportation. And members of this Committee have admitted that is not realistic. So how can it make any more sense to imprison all of those people? And what comes after imprisonment? The bill doesn't say, but it certainly suggests that it would involve prolonged detention, no due process, and ultimately deportation.
I need to focus on one other aspect of this bill: the decision to delegate immigration enforcement authorities to state and local officials and agencies without any checks at all. The bill does this in several different ways. And, taken together, the bill will endanger public safety, increase racial profiling, and infringe basic due process rights.
This bill would allow every single State and locality to pass its own immigration laws. It's bad enough that the bill makes undocumented immigrants guilty of two Federal crimes. By allowing States and localities to pass similar criminal laws, the bill will make the situation infinitely worse.
This bill also eviscerates the minimal protections against discrimination and abuse that currently exist in the 287(g) program. We know those protections don't work.
The evidence of racial profiling and unlawful detentions and arrests in 287(g) jurisdictions is piling up. But instead of making the situation better out of respect for the Constitution, this bill does the very opposite.
I have spent a good part of the last four years working with people on both sides of the aisle to find compromise on the immigration issue. I have had numerous conversations, one-on-one, with Republicans and Democrats alike. On the issue of immigration, at this time, I believe there are more areas of agreement than disagreement. But this bill does not reflect that common ground.
I believe we agree that our immigration system is broken and that we need a solution that respects the rule of law and our common humanity.
I believe we want to empower state and local law enforcement personnel to do their jobs, which means first and foremost keeping our communities safe.
I believe we want to respect the Constitution and ensure that people are not deprived of liberty without due process or as a result of racial profiling or other forms of discrimination.
However, and unfortunately, this bill simply fails to meet all of these shared goals. Instead, the bill takes us back in time to an approach that has long been rejected by the American people. I hope that the Committee's consideration of this bill is merely a bump in the road, because I believe that we've been making solid progress up to this point.
This bill puts in doubt that shared belief that we can come together and solve the problem of our broken immigration system together on a bipartisan basis. None of us want to see proceedings in the House disrupted, but I understand why demonstrators were here this morning. This is very personal to families whose family members are threatened, and for people who live in fear and want to become Americans.
I think if this bill were to become law, we would expect‹as we saw eight years ago‹millions of American citizens taking to the streets to demonstrate to protect members of their family and members of their community from the wrong things that this bill would incur. I will offer amendments to the bill, but frankly, I don't believe the bill can be corrected. And I am very sorry we are proceeding with the mark-up.
# # #
Click here for video of Rep. Lofgren's Statement and other interactions during the mark-up.