Friends and Partners,
It is a nice change of pace to share that we are happy! President Biden’s first moves in office were a bold and welcome departure from the racism and xenophobia of the Trump Administration. Biden announced multiple immigration-related executive orders and groundbreaking immigration legislation, The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, on Day One of his term.
I attempt to capture everything that has been announced, with resources, for you below. Our heads are spinning with a changing policy landscape, and it is important for all of us to stay up to date.
We also need to keep the pressure on the Biden Administration and Congress. The immigration policy changes announced so far prioritize keeping families together without draconian enforcement tradeoffs. This is wonderful and must continue. We also have to turn our attention to the border.
NJFON Advocacy Consultant and Arizona JFON Executive Director Alba Jaramillo reminds us:
“We have witnessed the devastating impacts that the destruction of our asylum laws has had on our asylum seekers in Sonora…now we anxiously await President Biden to halt Border Patrol from using the controversial CDC Order (Title 42) to expel asylum seekers on supposed public health grounds. These practices violate international and U.S. law and put the lives of asylum seekers in further danger.”
Let us catch up on the past week and get to work!
|A Breakdown of The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021
Biden introduced a new, comprehensive immigration bill last week that is now headed to Congress. Central to the legislation is the creation of a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live, work, and belong in the United States. It includes:
- A path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
- Dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers will qualify for green cards immediately and can apply for citizenship after 3 years.
- All other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes will have an 8-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation and with work authorization.
- Reformations to the family-based immigration system.
3. Reformations to the employment-based immigration system.
- Explicitly allows LGBTQ+ petitioners to sponsor family members.
- Eliminates the 3- and 10-year bars
- Includes spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, not subject to the cap
- Increases per-country caps for family-based immigrants
4. Funding for immigrant integration initiatives.
- Eliminates per-country caps
- Improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries
- Gives dependents of H-1B holders work authorization and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system
5. Stops future Presidents from discriminatory actions like the “Muslim Travel Ban.”
- State/local governments, NGOs, and other community organizations will receive funding for inclusion programs, English language assistance, and naturalization resources.
6. A pilot program aimed at utilizing immigration to meet regional economic needs.
7. Protection for workers, including seasonal workers, from exploitation.
8. A focus on the root causes of migration, while improving immigration courts and increasing protections for asylum seekers.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the highest-ranking Latino in the United States Congress, outlined the Biden Administration’s Immigration Plan, which he will be leading in the Senate, last week. The recording of this virtual briefing can be watched here.
|Other Key Immigration-Related Policy Changes:
Through an executive order, Biden has directed the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to take action to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects more than 700,000 people who came to the United States as children from deportation, and gives them authorization to work in the U.S.
- Affirmation of DACA Protections
To learn more, check out these resources:
-United We Dream’s DACA one pager + messaging
-Home is Here Campaign’s Updated talking points
Through another executive order, Biden rescinds the bans, orders visa processing to resume, and requires the secretary of state to propose a way to fairly reconsider visa applications that had been denied. The administration will also work to reform the screening and vetting of people traveling to the United States.
- Rescission of the Muslim and African Travel Bans
To learn more, check out these resources:
-Advancing Justice’s Practice Advisory
-The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Recording of an information session
-Penn State Law’s Practice Advisory
A new memo from DHS on enforcement (“Pekoske Memo”) announced last week does two things:
- A Moratorium on Deportations for 100 days
This does not prohibit the apprehension or detention of people who aren’t listed as a priority, and it is therefore critical to add here that we must urge the new administration and Congress to end the deportation and detention pipeline for good. The memo is a good start, but it is not enough.
- It establishes temporary enforcement priorities while the agency reviews and revises their existing enforcement policies; and
- It places a 100-day “pause” on deportations of certain persons with final orders of removal. It also rescinds and supersedes certain memoranda by the previous administration. This memo applies to DHS. Local law enforcement remains bound by any applicable local/state laws and policies.
To learn more and get involved, check out these resources:
-United We Dream’s Moratorium one pager
-Detention Watch Network’s Analysis of DHS memo announcing moratorium on deportations & interim enforcement priorities
-The Defund Hate Coalition’s Statement on the moratorium
-Detention Watch Network’s Big picture administrative advocacy priorities for the first year of a Biden administration
While in office, President Trump declared a national emergency that allowed him to reallocate funding from other priorities to build a harmful border wall. Biden, in one of his first executive actions, terminated that national emergency and halted construction on the border wall. Now the administration is working to determine which contracts it can get out of and which can be repurposed, and to develop a plan for redirecting border wall funds.
- Border Wall Construction is Halted
On the first day of the Biden administration, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would no longer put new people into “Remain in Mexico” program, which began in January 2019 and forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to return to Mexico, for an indefinite amount of time, while their claims are processed this program.
- Termination of ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program
Now the administration must work to bring those who are already in the MPP program to the United States to complete their asylum process in safety— and ensure the immigration legal system is prepared to resolve cases humanely and with due process.
To learn more and get involved, check out:
-Sign-on to this letter from Mexico-based organizations who serve the returned and deported. It asks that the White House to broaden the scope of people who can benefit to achieve true family unity.
-Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC)’s Transition Paper: Remedying the Separation of Families at the Border
The Biden Administration’s goals to overhaul the U.S. immigration system present an opportunity to make families whole again. We congratulate and are indebted to the immigrants, especially immigrant youth, who have brought us to this moment. Let our first act be to thank our clients and communities for their wisdom and leadership.
Melissa Bowe, J.D.
National Justice for Our Neighbors
7630 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003