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The House Judiciary Committee is marking up a newly revised version of a 2013 bill that would expand detention and immigration enforcement, undermining community safety and protections for vulnerable communities. Even with revisions, FCNL’s concerns remain the same.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Statement for the Record as it pertains to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 2431

May 18, 2017

The Friends Committee on National Legislation operates on the Quaker principle that there is “that of God in every person” and seeks legislation that honors the inherent dignity of each individual. FCNL is deeply concerned about H.R. 2431. This bill would further expand immigration detention and enforcement, criminalize overstaying a visa, harm community safety, jeopardize access to relief for vulnerable populations, curtail access to lawful permanent resident status, and limit admissibility while expanding grounds for deportation. We ask that members of Congress oppose this bill and instead work towards practical solutions to the U.S. immigration system that meet the needs of our nation.

H.R. 2431 mandates expanded use of an unjust immigration detention system and explicitly authorizes indefinite detention for migrants, including survivors of trafficking and asylum seekers. FCNL is tasked by Quakers across the country to urge our elected officials to end mandatory detention as federal policy and reduce our reliance on private prison corporations. H.R. 2431 would instead further entrench a shameful practice. The bill also asserts that it is the sole discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine if children should be detained and under what conditions they are incarcerated, undermining existing legislation, litigation, and legal settlements pertaining to family detention practices. FCNL is unequivocally opposed to this new provision and urges an end to detaining families and other vulnerable populations.

H.R. 2431 encourages racial profiling by allowing local police to investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, and detain everyone who they suspect could be undocumented or deportable. The bill increases, incentivizes, and mandates programs that force local police to serve as immigration officials and share information with federal agencies. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly spoken out against comparable proposals, citing that that these actions cause immigrants to stop reporting crimes for fear of deportation of themselves or a community member. Of great concern to faith communities, this bill could criminalize anyone who transports or “harbors” an undocumented person requiring, in effect, members of faith congregations to check the immigration papers of any neighbor, church member, client, or program participant before offering any neighborly or humanitarian assistance. This is out of sync with our faithful call to welcome the stranger, care for the sojourner, and love our neighbors without exception. We will stay strong in our commitment to protect the most vulnerable among us and the communities into which they are welcomed.

Furthermore, H.R. 2431 would jeopardize access to relief for vulnerable populations. The bill requires congressional approval to enact or extend Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and weakens protections for unaccompanied children in the interest of expediting their deportation. Its overly-sweeping definition of “terrorist” could bar refugees and asylees fleeing terrorism from entering the country or adjusting their status. It is in our national interest to strengthen access to asylum and other forms of legal protection, not weaken access under the guise of “increased security.”

The measures laid out in this proposed bill are punitive and will further damage family unity and community relationships. Unjust enforcement and detention practices and shutting the door to humanitarian relief are not the solutions our immigrant and refugee community members need. H.R. 2431 is not part of fixing our broken immigration system, we urge all members of the Judiciary Committee to vote against this dangerous policy proposal.

Hannah Evans

Hannah Graf Evans

Former Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy
Hannah Graf Evans led FCNL’s lobbying for compassionate immigration and refugee policies, with a particular focus on detention practices, the rights of border communities, and protection of vulnerable communities.