On Monday, March 26, 2012, the Commission on Immigrant Affairs and the Austin Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution condemning the implementation of S-Comm in Travis County. S-Comm (i.e. “Secure Communities”) separates families, undermines public safety, and wastes taxpayer dollars.
This resolution was brought forth by a coalition of organizations, including the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, Grassroots Leadership, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, ACLU of Texas, Detention Watch Network, University Leadership Initiative, Texans United for Families, Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, Workers Defense Project, American Gateways, and others.
I was asked to be one of the speakers in favor of the resolution. Here is more or less what I said in my two minutes at the podium in Austin’s City Hall:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I represent many religious traditions that have spoken out against Secure Communities. After hearing many stories, I believe we can do better.
My religious faith calls me to recognize that no one is “the stranger,” to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and to support justice for all. I believe these standards hold for the City of Austin and for Travis County.
We have heard stories about how real people and families are affected by SComm:
– Good, promising students live in fear of deportation.
– Families live with violence because they are afraid to call the police.
– Small children who are citizens are separated from their parents; 5000 Texas children are in foster care at taxpayer expense, and some have been put up for adoption without input from their own mothers.
– Records can be forged or altered or inaccurate. Yet people spend extra days in jail waiting for deportation, again at our expense.
– Travis County is asked to participate in deportation for minor misdemeanors even though the measure is intended for felony convictions.
Is this the kind of community we want?
We surely need immigration reform for many reasons, long-term issues for another day, but SComm is a poor substitute for reform. SComm is punitive, short-sighted, destructive of families, and does not promote a win for anyone.
I used to work at a shelter for battered women and their children. The women who succeeded in leaving their abusive partners finally stood up and said, “No to abuse.”
It’s time for Austin and Travis County to stand up and say, “No to SComm.”