Office of Government Relations

EPPN: Compassion should never be criminalized – Oppose the SAFE Act

October 16, 2013
Office of Government Relations

Compassion should never be criminalized, but there is an immigration bill in the House of Representatives that would do just that, placing immigrant and non-immigrant members of our communities at risk.

If enacted, the SAFE Act would criminalize religious leaders, lay leaders, and volunteers in faith communities across the country for providing aid and fellowship to immigrants. Regardless of an individual’s immigration status, Episcopalians proudly accept all newcomers and those in need into our congregations and communities. However, under the SAFE Act, acts of kindness and hospitality such as providing transportation to a church or school event or serving someone at a soup kitchen would be criminalized, wrongly placing members of our congregations and mixed-status families in danger of facing sentences that range from 3 to 20 years in prison.

The SAFE Act also poses great dangers to asylum seekers and refugees by expanding laws that falsely label victims of kidnapping, extortion, and rape as “terrorists” if they were coerced to provide goods or services to a terrorist group. The bill would create new grounds of inadmissibility and deportability for persons whom Department of Homeland Security “has reason to believe” have been members of a gang, even if they were not actually gang members. It would expand the immigration detention system that holds many torture survivors and asylum seekers by mandating detention even when unnecessary, and it would authorize indefinite detention for persons who have been ordered removed. Additionally, the SAFE Act would:

  • Allow expansion of the 287(g) program
  • Authorize all states and localities to create their own immigration enforcement laws, allowing laws like Arizona’s SB1070 to proliferate across the country
  • Subject certain migrants who cannot be returned to their countries of origin, including stateless persons and asylum seekers, to indefinite detention
  • Expand both the categories of migrants who are mandatorily detained and the number of immigration detention facilities nationally

These concerns, rooted extensively in Episcopal Church General Convention and Executive Council resolutions (see additional resources) are why we need to take action TODAY to oppose the SAFE Act. Our broken immigration system needs a solution that protects our borders while upholding our tradition as a nation that welcomes the integrity, ingenuity, and contributions of immigrants. Instead, the SAFE Act expands, rather than reforms a flawed “enforcement only” strategy, endangering immigrants and the communities that welcome them. Write to your Representative to day and ask them to OPPOSE the SAFE Act.

General Convention & Executive Council Resolutions:

Decry the use of racial profiling as a reason to question an individual's immigration status and call for the immediate end to the Secure Communities program which leads to lengthy detention of immigrants who have no serious charges against them and discourages victims of crimes, such as domestic abuse, from reporting those crimes (GC '12)

Urge the US government to terminate any program that allows or funds local law enforcement agencies' enforcement of immigration law, thereby allowing immigrant victims of crime to report it without fear of deportation. (GC '09)

Urge the US government to consider alternatives to a costly prison-like detention system for immigrants. (GC '09)

Declare strong opposition to any legislation that would make it unlawful for faith based or humanitarian organizations to act to relieve the suffering of undocumented immigrants in response to the Gospel mandate to serve the least among us and our Baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons and calls upon the people of the Episcopal Church to act on their baptismal covenant without regard to such unjust legislation. (EC 3/06)


The Episcopal Church joined our partners in Refugee Council USA and over 250 national and state faith groups in two letters to Congress opposing the SAFE Act: July Letter, August Letter

Want to share information with your community about the SAFE Act? Use this informative infographic from Cambio

Check out the EPPN website!

The Office of Government Relations