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Washington’s Refusal to Pass Humane Immigration Reform is the Real Public Safety Threat
 
Statement by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
 
Today the House of Representatives passed harmful legislation that will penalize local law enforcement agencies that have refused to take on federal immigration enforcement responsibilities. The bill, H.R. 3009, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), exploits recent tragedies to promote dangerous policies that make law enforcement less effective. NIJC thanks Illinois Democrats and Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL), who voted against this extreme legislation that would hurt our communities.
 
In 2011, Cook County stopped honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers (requests to detain people the federal government suspects may be deportable) because ICE routinely issues detainers without probable cause. In fact, in 2013, ICE issued detainers on more than 800 U.S. citizens. Several federal courts have ruled that the detainers are unconstitutional, and more than 300 jurisdictions throughout the country have followed Cook County’s lead. They recognize that ICE detainers are too costly and carry too great a legal liability.
 
More importantly, the cities, counties, and states that have rejected ICE detainers know that when local police start enforcing federal immigration laws, they drive a wedge between police officers and the communities they are meant to serve. Many U.S. citizens and immigrants, including domestic violence victims, will not report crimes if they fear that doing so could lead to deportation and family separation. As NIJC explained in a statement this week for a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, police cannot do their jobs without the trust of their communities. Withholding critical federal funding, as H.R. 3009 proposes, to punish local police for doing what they think is best to promote safety will do far more harm than good. Thirty-nine Illinois nongovernmental organizations sent a letter to Congress this week opposing such legislative attempts.
 
Americans need commonsense immigration reform to allow immigrants who want to fully and lawfully participate in our society to legalize their status and live without fear of deportation. Attacking police for refusing to assume liability and financial responsibility for ICE’s haphazard immigration enforcement practices puts us all at risk.