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Clergy: SAFE Act threatens immigrants

Immigration reform advocates throughout the Houston, Texas, area recently participated in a large meeting to bring attention to potentially detrimental federal legislation. The group, which consisted of a large contingent of religious leaders, is pushing back against the SAFE Act, which contains immigration provisions they say would be harmful to their congregations. The legislation, also known as the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee during the summer. The measure has not yet passed, but it would expand the reach of local law enforcement agencies to allow for more arrests of immigrants who may have overstayed their visas. Now, instead of a civil matter, overstaying a visa is likely to turn into a criminal concern.

Opponents of the measure say that the national legislators should be focusing on matters that would enhance the lives of millions of law-abiding immigrants, many of whom need additional workplace protection and a quicker pathway to citizenship. Supporters, however, say that the bill is designed to protect the American public from criminals. Those individuals who cause the most societal ills are targeted under the program, they argue.

Still, Texans are concerned that the scores of immigrants in the state who are protected under the DREAM Act might fall victim to provisions in the SAFE legislation. In fact, as those individuals' paperwork is being processed, they could be vulnerable to unfair enforcement efforts. This matter is a growing concern among the 1.8 million illegal immigrants who live in Texas; more than one in 10 illegal immigrants resides in the state. Houston alone hosts some 500,000 immigrants.

Residents who are concerned about their immigration statuses may need to speak to a qualified legal professional to find out more about their rights and responsibilities under the new legislation. As immigration reform continues to top the list of national concerns, changes are sure to continue. Those modifications often require the interpretation of a professional attorney, who can maximize client outcomes through education and advocacy.

Source: www.chron.com, "Houston clergy urge lawmakers to defeat immigration enforcement plan" Cindy George, Oct. 23, 2013

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