Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement: Hearing on “Sanctuary Cities: a Threat to Public Safety”
“I want to start by offering my sincere condolences to the Steinle family — who lost their daughter just three weeks ago — and to Sheriff Jones — who lost one of his deputies last Fall. You have our deepest sympathies and your losses are on each of our minds. Your presence here today is very much appreciated.
“I also want to say how unfortunate it is that we are having this important hearing only a few hours before we head to the Floor to vote on a bill that deals with this very issue. The lack of Committee process and regular order breaks the commitment made to this body by the Majority Leader and will lead to a less informed debate on this critical topic.
“The decision to rush H.R. 3009 to the Floor without any Committee process is not the only evidence we have that the Majority has already made up its mind on this topic. The pejorative title of this hearing demonstrates their belief that so-called “sanctuary cities” are a “threat to public safety.
“I disagree with that conclusion for several reasons.
“To begin with, numerous studies prove that communities which have adopted community trust ‘policies' are not less safe than other communities.
“In fact, studies show that crime rates actually decrease in communities after they adopt such 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.
“Clearly, every law enforcement agency wants its community to be safe and every police officer’s goal is to implement the best policy to protect the people they are sworn to serve.
“To suggest that local law enforcement officials are pursuing policies that make their communities less safe is simply false and offensive.
“Second, I know that each of us opposes violent crime and wants to do what we can to prevent tragedies like the ones we will hear about today.
“Nevertheless, in our zeal to achieve this goal, we must consider solutions that actually are effective and not rule out options based on any predisposition.
“To that end, we should consider the recommendations of law enforcement itself. The Major Cities Chiefs Association, for instance, opposes federal proposals that would “undermine the trust and cooperation between police officers and immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community-oriented policing.”
“The Association explains that such “measures would result in fear and distrust of local police, damaging our efforts to prevent crime and weakening our ability to apprehend those who prey upon the public.”
“Federal legislative proposals such as H.R. 3009 which is on the Floor today would do just that. It would erode community trust and make it harder for local law enforcement to fight crime in their jurisdictions.
“Finally, if we are looking for real solutions, we should be undertaking real comprehensive immigration reform.
“An immigration reform bill – such as the measure that passed the Senate in 2013 or the bill 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. As a result, it would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on deporting the worst elements.
“That kind of solution would help ensure that our entire community, citizens and immigrants alike, are protected from harm.
“Accordingly, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and I yield the balance of my time.”