Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “New Orleans: How the Crescent City Became a Sanctuary City” Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to preface my remarks regarding today’s hearing, which deals with community policing policies, by observing that our Nation’s conscience continues to be rocked by a series of tragic events involving law enforcement and the loss of too many black lives.

In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  Earlier this summer, my Congressional colleagues and I staged an unprecedented sit-in – just to try to get a vote on common sense gun legislation. 

In this Committee, Chairman Goodlatte and I formed a bipartisan Policing Strategies Working group to begin examining how we can best ensure that Congress takes responsibility for the conversation about race and policing in America.  I believe this working group is one of the finest examples of how we can come together at a time when the nation needs leadership to reduce the levels of violence in our communities.

And, just this past week, I joined my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in protest of yet another series of senseless killings of black men and black children by police in Cleveland, Tulsa, and Charlotte.

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.

We mourn the loss of all of these lives and want to see an end to this violence across the United States, including in the iconic American City of New Orleans.

To achieve this, first, we need to ensure police accountability, prevent violent attacks on law enforcement, and improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. 

Community trust policies are integral to smart law enforcement for diverse communities, including those with immigration populations like New Orleans and my district in Michigan.

Second, studies show that crime rates actually decrease after localities adopt community trust policies.  Further, these studies find that strong-arm policies – such as Secure Communities – fail to lower crime rates.

Instead, they can make communities less safe because residents become more fearful and therefore less likely to report criminal activity or cooperate with investigations.

We share the common goal of community safety.  To suggest that local leaders and law enforcement officials are purposefully pursuing policies that make their communities less safe is simply false and offensive. 

Finally, if we are looking for real solutions, we should be undertaking comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, this hearing, which pejoratively refers to New Orleans’ community trust policy as a “sanctuary city” policy, is not about comprehensive immigration reform; it is about anti-immigrant politics and fear mongering.

An immigration reform bill – such as the measure that passed the Senate in 2013 or the legislation that had 201 House cosponsors in the last Congress – would allow law-abiding immigrants to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.  And, it would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on deporting the worst criminal elements. 

That kind of solution would help ensure that the City of New Orleans and all communities, citizens and immigrants alike, as well as the brave men and women serving in law enforcement, are protected from harm.

In closing, I thank the Chairman and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

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