Gowdy's Misnamed Safe Act Poses Threat To U.S. System Of Justice, Due Process And Human Rights

The Rights Working Group strongly opposes the proposed legislation sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) which seeks to change the nation’s policies on immigration enforcement by empowering states to create their own criminal penalties for immigration status violations.

“HR 2278 is not about creating commonsense immigration reform to enable people to participate more fully in civic life, which the vast majority of Americans support,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “This ugly bill seeks to threaten the effort to pass immigration reform,  creating a climate of fear and alienation among people of color,” said Huang. “It’s a  threat to Constitutional rights to due process and would lead to racial profiling.”

“The misnamed “Safe Act” would, in fact, make us all much less safe,” she added.

Attempts by states to come up with their own set of immigration laws are bound to lead to wide scale discrimination as seen when Arizona enacted SB 1070 in 2010 and when Alabama passed HB56 in 2011. HB 56 sought to prevent immigrants from applying for jobs or attending public universities. It required public school administrators to inquire about immigration status and made it a crime for anyone to give a ride to an undocumented immigrant. Contracts with undocumented person were made null and void. Although many of the most odious parts of the law were blocked by federal courts, it wreaked havoc in immigrant communities, leading to a decrease in school attendance and an exodus from the state. HB 56, like Arizona’s SB1070, also allowed police to investigate someone’s immigration status based on how they look.

HR2278 would allow similar provisions to be adopted by states as well as:

•Allow unfettered delegation of immigration enforcement authority to states and municipalities allowing local and state authorities to arrest people based on mere suspicion that a person has committed a civil immigration violation.
•Deprive the Department of Homeland Security of the ability to exercise discretion in deciding whether a person should be released on bond or own their own recognizance.
• Strip away federal control of the 287(g) program by requiring DHS to accept any state or local jurisdiction’s request to participate in the program.
• Require mandatory detention of people on the mere suspicion of gang membership, including those incorrectly listed in gang databases because of the neighborhoods they live in.

“This bill, if passed, would lead to massive violations of the U.S. Constitution and myriad human rights abuses,” said Huang. “It must be stopped so that we can focus attention on a commonsense approach to immigration reform that expands due process and human rights for everyone in the U.S.”

For more information: Keith Rushing, Communications Director, krushing@rightsworkinggroup (c) 202.557.4291
Rights Working Group (RWG) formed in the aftermath of September 11th to promote and protect the human rights of all people in the United States. A coalition of more than 350 local, state and national organizations, RWG works collaboratively to advocate for the civil liberties and human rights of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, citizenship or immigration status.

Keith Rushing
Publication Date: 
Jun 18, 2013