CWS Strongly Opposes Renamed Version of the SAFE Act

March 12, 2015

Church World Service, a humanitarian organization comprised of 37 member communions, strongly opposes The Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act, formerly known as the “SAFE Act”, as it would harm families, communities and faith groups across this nation. CWS strives to fulfill the Biblical call to love thy neighbor and welcome the immigrant by assisting displaced and marginalized persons around the world. and by seeking policies that protect individuals fleeing persecution, promote family unity, and affirm the dignity and value of all individuals. As the committee considers The Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act, CWS encourages members of the committee to reject these bills and any similar legislation that would force local law enforcement officers to serve as immigration officials or criminalize faith groups and volunteers that help undocumented persons.

The Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act would take our nation backwards by encouraging racial profiling, jeopardizing community safety, criminalizing compassion, and denying protection to vulnerable persons fleeing persecution. The bill would nationalize Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which mandates that police stop and ask the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be undocumented. Such policies have led to racial profiling, stigmatized immigrant communities, redirected limited police resources, and placed all community members at risk, as many individuals do not report crimes they witness or fall victim to, fearing the deportation of themselves or a loved one. When the trust is broken between communities and police, criminals continue to go undetected. As evident from Arizona’s legal problems with S.B. 1070, the indictment of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and proven failure of the now-defunct Secure Communities program, these policies are ineffective and have led to consequences of racial profiling and reduction of community trust.

CWS is also concerned about the provision that would criminalize faith communities who provide needed assistance regardless of an individual’s immigration status, as well as volunteers, community members, friends and even family members who “transport, move, harbor or shield” a refugee, asylum seeker or anyone whose immigration status has lapsed. We are called by our faith to treat the immigrant as the citizen among us, and this legislation would interfere with carrying out our mission to welcome the stranger. It would also broaden the problematic “material support” bars that have already unjustly denied protection to Burmese pro-democracy freedom fighters, parents forced to pay ransoms for their children’s freedom, and women forced to cook and clean for their captors, incorrectly labeling them as supporters of terrorism. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security to add additional detention beds, increase mandatory detention and allow for indefinite detention, which would negatively impact vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers.

The Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act would reduce the safety of immigrant families who are already part of the fabric of communities across the United States. CWS is committed to working with all members of both the House and Senate to support policies that unite families; strengthen migrant and refugee communities by treating all persons with dignity and respect; and respect the role that faith communities play in welcoming newcomers and assisting those in need. CWS believes in welcoming and loving the immigrants among us and urges the House Judiciary Committee to uphold these values in federal policy.