Immigration activist fight the “Safe to Profile Act” proposal, which mirrors Arizona’s SB 1070 law. (AP Photo/ David Wallace)

Groups denounce “SAFE” Act, say it would lead to nationwide Arizona immigration laws

A group of immigration reform advocates and governmental leaders say the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act” or SAFE Act  – which was referred to by the group today as the  “Safe to Profile Act” -will lead to racial profiling and the lack of trust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement.  The SAFE Act was passed by the House Judiciary Committee and will possibly be brought to the House floor for a vote in October, according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

The proposal, which mirrors Arizona’s SB 1070 law, grants states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. But today, immigrant groups said it woud give state and local authorities permission to implement “racial profiling” immigration laws, prohibit humanitarian groups from helping undocumented immigrants and end the Deferred Action program.

“Racial profiling will have a chilling effect on immigrants,” said Rep.Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) “Local law enforcement does not want their officers to act like ICE officers. This drives more people into the shadows.”

Cárdenas said that passing this proposal would force undocumented immigrant to be fearful and silent of reporting crimes, even when they are a key witness.

“What we should be doing in this country is supporting immigration reform because ultimately this is the best thing we can do for our economy,” Cárdenas said.

RELATED: Arizona ACLU shows new app to report racial profiling allegations

Jacinta Gonzalez, a lead organizer for the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice Congress of Day Laborers, said her state and local authorities have been successful in their fight against racial profiling.

After their work, she says, local sheriffs are declining voluntary detention requests from ICE, only detaining someone being held for felony charges for violent crimes.

“It was leading to systematic racial profiling and constitutional violations,” she said.

But the group pointed out that Americans needed to understand that just because a bill has something good “doesn’t mean we have to swallow something bad – there are ways to address immigration, but it doesn’t have to include these Arizona-like state laws.”

RELATED: Former Arizona police officer tells story of being racial profiling victim

House Judiciary Chair Goodlatte says the SAFE Act is a necessary component in reforming the nation’s current immigration laws.   “Interior enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to the success of our immigration system.  One reason why our immigration system is broken today is because past and present Administrations have largely ignored the enforcement of our immigration laws.

Cárdenas said that his concern was that the SAFE Act proposal “encourages racial profiling by people with badges.”

“People with badges do not want to have that responsiblity,” he said. “Laws like these take away from the real issue–the real issue is about what’s best for this country, who has welcomed immigrants.”

The group of activists said they will continue to fight so that before the proposal comes to the floor, immigrants can be “legalized instead of criminalized.”

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