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Statement by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center

On Tuesday evening the president delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress. His statements on immigration, like the policies he has promoted during his first weeks in office, relied on false premises about immigrants in our communities in the United States. It is dangerous to govern a nation on a foundation of mistruth and fabrication. To set the record straight:

Americans want compassionate immigration reform, not senselessly ramped up enforcement. According to a recent Gallup poll, 84 percent believe that immigrants living in the United States should be given the opportunity to become U.S. citizens, and 66 percent of Americans are opposed to deporting the undocumented population back to their home countries and value the importance of keeping families and communities united and strong.

Immigrants make us a safer and stronger nation. Studies repeatedly show that immigrants commit less crime than native born Americans, border towns are some of the safest in the United States, and jurisdictions that have adopted “sanctuary” or “welcoming” policies toward immigrants have lower crimes than similar jurisdictions without sanctuary policies.

Refugees seeking protection at the U.S. southern border are fleeing a humanitarian crisis fueled by the U.S. government. Detaining and quickly deporting people fleeing to the U.S. seeking safety is good for the private prison industry, but fails to address the extreme violence and other dangers driving people to flee their homes and needlessly puts thousands of lives at risk.

Just hours before the president’s speech, NIJC and partners briefed congressional staff on the harmful implications of the president’s immigration agenda, which promises to resurrect the programs that enlist local police as federal immigration agents and put anyone living in the United States without authorization at risk of arrest and deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Numerous elected officials invited immigrants to bear witness to the president’s address, and we are hopeful that their presence reminded the president and all those in the audience of the lives and families harmed by immigration policies fueled by hate.