Tuesday, March 28, 2017

CONYERS Statement At Judiciary Subcommittee Immigration Hearing

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
President Ronald Reagan once said: “Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”

That quote was uncontroversial among my Republican colleagues then and it should remain so now.  Affirmation of the moral and social worth of immigrants is not a partisan position. It is simply American.

As we begin today’s hearing, I urge my colleagues to use this forum to examine sensible, effective measures, rooted in fact and practice, for enforcing our laws, and keeping our communities safe.

One fact that we must consider is that studies have repeatedly shown that immigrants in the United States are less likely than native-born Americans to engage in crime.  The vast majority of immigrants in the United States are peaceful, law-abiding individuals who support their families and communities.

Another fact is that the southern border is more secure than ever. Apprehension rates at the southern border have plummeted since the 1980s. And apprehensions of Mexicans specifically have reached their lowest point in nearly half a century. This helps explain why most Americans don’t want Trump’s border wall, which could cost upwards of a staggering $20 billion to build and $750 million annually to maintain.

Notwithstanding these facts, and many more, the current Administration continues to vilify immigrants and attack the communities that have decided not to conscript their law enforcement into a mass deportation force.  In fact, yesterday, Attorney General Sessions threatened to withhold federal funds from such jurisdictions.  

Let me be clear, Attorney General Sessions should not substitute his judgment for that of law enforcement in local jurisdictions, who know what is best to keep their communities safe. The Attorney General purports to place a high priority on fighting crime, but threatens to withhold much-needed Justice Department funding from the very agencies that are on the front lines in protecting all of us. 

Over 600 counties and cities have made the decision to resist the Administration’s efforts to conscript their local officers into a mass deportation force because experience and data show that local enforcement of federal immigration law often makes communities less safe. 

It breeds profiling, discrimination, and distrust. Immigrant victims and witnesses stop reporting crimes to authorities and criminals grow emboldened.  In fact, studies have shown that these sanctuary cities are actually safer and more prosperous than their non-sanctuary counterparts. 

Finally, under the guise of enforcing the law, we have already witnessed Donald Trump and his Administration follow through on divisive campaign rhetoric with actions that threaten our core American values and will do nothing to make us safer.

To cite just a few examples, in less than 90 days this administration has already:
·         Threatened an unconstitutional use of federal spending authority to strong arm local jurisdictions into enforcing federal immigration law,
·         Undermined the 4th Amendment by pressuring cities into detaining immigrants without probable cause,
·         And has conducted indiscriminate raids of peaceful immigrant families in their homes, places of work, and even in their schools.

Such anti-immigrant measures not only raise serious constitutional concerns, they are contrary to our proud history as a nation of immigrants.

I thank our witnesses for their testimony today and I yield back the balance of my time.
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