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Practical, comprehensive immigration solutions promote public safety

Washington, July 21 - Since the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco this month, there has been a flood of criticism leveled against state and city policies that limit local involvement in immigration enforcement and questions raised about whether the federal government is doing enough to enforce the immigration laws. Congress has scheduled two hearings this week to explore these issues, and we share legislators’ desire to find solutions. At the same time, we caution that anecdotes are no substitute for hard data and that our laws and policies must be grounded in analysis of the facts, thoughtful discussion, and practical solutions.

For too long, U.S. immigration laws and policies have been shaped by fear and stereotype rather than by empirical evidence. Empirical data shows that immigration is associated with lower crime rates and immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be serious criminals. Yet, we have spent billions of dollars deporting millions of people who have committed only immigration violations, and we have focused on quantity, not quality of deportations, while separating families. 

Congress should take steps to enact practical measures that promote the public safety and well-being of everyone in our communities. Our nation is safer when everyone is accounted for and fully documented. A major benefit of comprehensive immigration reform is that every person in our country would get documents and be “on the grid” of U.S. life, with driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and other forms of identification. Such a system would help us make smart national security and law enforcement decisions and differentiate those who are law-abiding from those who are not.  Comprehensive immigration reform is practical policy, and more productive than finger-pointing at local officials or demonizing an entire group for the mistakes of a few.

Instead of debating the patchwork of local immigration enforcement laws that have developed over the past several years, Congress should get to the important job of passing immigration reform. Fixing our system and getting everyone on the books would go further towards securing our communities than any piece-meal measures currently on the table. It also would allow us all to benefit from the economic potential of immigrants and bring our immigration system into the 21st Century.

Congress has the power to make our communities safer by passing comprehensive immigration reform.


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