By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday the U.S. the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act,” (H.R. 2278 The SAFE Act). The SAFE Act would make it a federal crime for someone to be in the United States illegally and would empower states to pass their own immigration laws as long as they were consistent with federal law. The SAFE Act would make efforts like the Arizona immigration law and Alabama’s own HB56 legal. Both were largely tossed out by federal court rulings giving the federal government sole jurisdiction in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) issued a written statement on Friday strongly opposing the SAFE Act.
Rosa Calderon, an ACIJ member from Harvest said in a written statement, “The SAFE Act would allow states like Alabama to continue to arrest and detain people who contribute to our community and our economy. I have personally experienced the negative effects of immigration detention on my family and I do not want other aspiring Americans to be detained far away from their families.”
Ms. Calderon said, “The Senate has made incredible progress in the past few months on a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would create a road map to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans. It is outrageous that the House would introduce a bill like the SAFE Act that undermines this important work and gives local police the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws. As we have seen in Alabama under HB56, this means crime will not be reported, more families will be separated, and local officers will be diverted from their work to capture true criminals.”
Ms. Calderon continued, “The people of Alabama and the people of this country want a road map to citizenship that allows people to contribute to our community and boost our economy. Our representatives need to work together to create a common sense immigration process.”
SAFE Act sponsor Trey Gowdy (R) from South Carolina said in a written statement after the Committee voted 20-15 to approve the SAFE Act: “Ensuring public safety and protecting national security must be the primary objective of immigration reform. Our history of selective enforcement of immigration laws has made our nation vulnerable, threating the wellbeing of every citizen. The SAFE Act represents a common sense approach to the enforcement of our nation’s laws. Utilizing the law enforcement infrastructure existing in every state and community across this country to support enforcement efforts increases accountability and effectiveness, while using resources wisely.”
Rep. Gowdy said, “America is a nation of laws and a democracy comprised of a people who have a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law. The open process is long and tedious but absolutely necessary for all perspectives to be heard. The passage of the SAFE Act by the House Judiciary Committee is the first step in a larger reform process.”
The House and the Senate are both considering immigration reform bills, but the two Houses appear to be headed along radically different paths to this point.