CHN: Immigration bills are “an unacceptable rejection of American values”
Editor’s note: The following letter, authored by CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein, was sent to all members of the U.S. House on Thursday, June 21:
On behalf of the Coalition on Human Needs, I write to urge you to vote NO on the two bills related to immigration expected to come before you today: H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018 and H.R. 6136, Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018. The Coalition on Human Needs is an alliance of more than 100 national organizations representing people of faith, service providers, policy experts, and labor, civil rights and other advocates working to meet the needs of low-income and vulnerable people.
These bills embody an unacceptable rejection of American values. They are profoundly anti-family, by eliminating the ability of families to sponsor many family members for legal immigration, and by requiring mandatory and indefinite detention of immigrant children and their parents. While legal status and a smooth path to citizenship for the Dreamers is consistent with American values of fairness, these bills either offer no path to citizenship or a convoluted one that could take two decades. Both restrict access to legal immigration by people of color. Both make it more difficult for people fleeing life-threatening violence to seek asylum. And neither protects children from the harm of detention. Further, both require well over $20 billion in additional enforcement funding, including funds for an ineffective wall and many thousands more immigration agents.
The Trump Administration’s now-aborted decision to take children from their parents at the border has created a crisis of federally imposed child abuse. The very act of forcible separation has harmed children. But detaining parents and children together indefinitely is not the solution. Congress has a duty to learn from previous attempts at family detention. A report by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Women’s Refugee Commission in 2014 examined two such facilities and determined that “Family detention cannot be carried out humanely…Detention traumatizes families, undermines the basic family structure, and has a devastating psycho-social impact.” The report also found that families were detained with no assessment of flight or security risk. There are successful, cost-effective alternatives to detention, such as the Family Case Management Program, through which 99 percent of parents met their court dates. Congress should reinstate that program, which the Trump Administration discontinued.
Your actions are needed: to clearly end family separation and provide for the swift reunification of families, strictly limit family detention, ensure legal status and a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and to maintain an immigration and refugee system based on justice and American values. But the two bills before you would close the doors to people legitimately seeking protection from violence, would continue or worsen anti-family policies, would continue harm to children, and would fail to provide legal status for the Dreamers. Please reject them.