WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a letter to the House of Representatives, over 80 federal, state, and local organizations from across the nation expressed their strong opposition to the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act (H.R. 4088) of 2008, legislation that explicitly calls for the creation of a family detention facility that will result in the “incarceration” of immigrant children. The letter was spearheaded by First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization.

The SAVE Act disregards recommendations repeatedly made by Congress that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should “release families or use alternatives to detention…whenever possible.” Instead, the SAVE Act encourages the practice of detaining innocent children who are often caught in the crossfire of U.S. immigration policy, holding them in facilities that resemble prisons instead of nurturing home environments.

Recently, the Act was subject to a discharge petition, a procedural maneuver which, if a simple majority 218 Representatives sign a petition in support of the bill, shall allow the legislation to bypass the committee process and be placed on the House floor for a vote, despite objections by House leadership. Currently, the petition has over 150 signatures. The Act was introduced by Reps. Heath Shuler (D-NC), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), and Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

“The outpouring of opposition to this bill should send one message to the House of Representatives – placing children in prison-like settings is not who we are as a nation and we will not sit idly by while legislation that would do so is slipped onto the House floor through procedural maneuvers,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus. “The sad fact is this bill calls for the creation of a detention facility modeled after the controversial T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, which has been found to be an ‘inappropriate and disturbing setting’ to hold families. The inappropriate setting and inadequate living conditions of these facilities have led to poor childhood development, education, health care, and nutrition, as well as minimal time for recreational activity and threats of separation from parents. We hope this letter, supported by a broad cross section of organizations from across the nation, will convince many Members of Congress to oppose this ill-advised legislation.”

The letter has been signed by 32 national organizations, including First Focus, National Council of La Raza, the National Education Association, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Episcopal Church. Moreover, over 50 state and local organizations from across the country also signed the letter.