By Victoria Middleton — Special to The Herald

September 6, 2013. Rock Hill Herald. The U.S. immigration system is broken, and its reform is long overdue. In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill by a wide margin (68-32). Now the House of Representatives must act to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship and does not waste money on unnecessary increased enforcement (which, since 1986, has consumed $219 billion in today’s dollars).

The congressional recess is critical for efforts at the federal level to reform our immigration system. We call on Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support a humane roadmap to citizenship without exclusions for minor crimes or past removal orders. This would help restore fairness to an immigration system under which almost 2 million people have been deported by the Obama administration.

This tearing apart of families has had a devastating impact: in a recent survey, one in four Latinos in the U.S. reported knowing someone who was deported or detained by the federal government in the preceding year. And the overemphasis on removal at all costs has eroded civil liberties throughout the country, as federal, state and local officials alike have engaged in racial profiling and unlawful detentions in the name of finding and apprehending undocumented immigrants.

Furthermore, our members of Congress should reject enforcement-only proposals such as the SAFE Act. This is a draconian bill authored by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., that would actually make our communities less safe and harm local economies, as well as expand the already massive and wastefully expensive immigration jail system. Facilitating local and state involvement in immigration enforcement, as the SAFE Act purports to do, is disastrous for everyone's civil rights.

Any attempts to include unnecessary border enforcement, which does not reflect our security needs and also harms civil liberties, should also be rejected. As Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has said about southwest border security, “It is a sort of mini industrial complex syndrome that has set in there, and we're going to have to guard against it every step of the way.”

The process of creating common-sense immigration reform has been in the works for decades and is long overdue. As leaders from both political parties have asserted, from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., – along with faith and business leaders across the country –modernizing our country’s immigration system by creating a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring citizens who already contribute to their U.S. communities would not only be more humane and fair, but would also improve our nation’s security and economy.

Victoria Middleton, a Charleston resident, is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.

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