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Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration, Immigrant Justice Advocates Discuss Priorities for the New Administration

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You can hear a recording of the call here

Earlier today immigrant justice advocates gathered on a press call to make clear movement priorities on the eve of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being sworn in. The Biden-Harris administration must undo the damage of the last four years and build a fair, humane and functional immigration system. Panelists discussed the need for the new administration to impose a moratorium on enforcement, dismantle the detention and deportation machinery turbo-charged by previous administrations, and build a fundamentally new approach to governing immigration, centered on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including millions of people who are serving in essential roles on the frontlines of the pandemic.  

Lorella Praeli, President of Community Change Action, said, “After four years of Trump, it’s more clear than ever that we must transform enforcement and we can no longer lead with detention and deportation. The new administration will face a moral and political mandate to deliver on immigration for a more just and free country. Immigrants were Trump’s number one target and his administration systematically dismantled rights and protections for immigrants and refugees. Meanwhile, 11 million of us live and work every day, raise families and build community, without any protection from deportation and family separation, vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the workplace. It is long past time for real change. ”

Greisa Martinez, Executive Director United We Dream, said, “We have made it to today because of  the resilience of people putting their lives on the line to stop deportation and stop the separation of families. We cannot move forward as a country without the accountability for the politicians who have attacked our communities and who have incited white supremacy violence in our nation’s capital. In order to heal, move forward, and let all of us as a nation thrive, the incoming Biden administration must provide bold programs to protect and uplift immigrants. We are demanding that Biden take a clear and bold stand on immigration. The time for compromises that harm people is over. The time for change is now.”

Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, said, “Starting on Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration must dismantle the punitive policies of the Trump Administration, including a moratorium on deportations, detentions, and new arrests. It’s not enough to simply aim for an end to all of the racist policies that Trump enacted during his presidency. We must remain steadfast to dismantle the systems in this country that are rooted in white supremacy and xenophobia. An entire overhaul of the enforcement system is necessary, a focus on protection rather than punishment should be paramount.”

Maria Praeli, Government Relations Manager, FWD.us, said “After decades of pivoting and political games, we must ensure a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals, including millions of essential workers on the frontlines of the response and recovery to COVID-19. For all of them, the broken immigration system stands in their way of being recognized for who they already are – important members of our communities. I look forward to the day I can wake up without the fear of deportation in the country I’ve called home since I was five years old; to the day the millions of undocumented individuals who have been contributing and a part of our society for decades can wake up with a little more ease. We deserve the opportunity to live a dignified life without fear. We deserve a pathway to citizenship.”

Teresa Romero, President, United Farm Workers, said “Our communities have worked relentlessly to organize and mobilize for this moment. The incoming administration must repair the damage of the past four years — and the structural inequality of this country — then get to work with us to move forward toward immigration justice. ¡Si, Se Puede!”

Marisa Franco, Director of Mijente, said, “The last several years have been difficult for immigrants. Draconian, mean-spirited, failed immigration policies will be the legacy of the Trump Administration. And as we turn toward President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and their call to restore a sense of dignity, it must be said and emphasized that restoring that sense of dignity requires deliberate and decisive action on immigration. I want to call for an investigation into ICE and look to repair the harm done. It’s important that we craft and advance and win legislation that opens paths for immigrants and does not present the obstacle course that we are seeing used over many decades and we really need to look at undoing past harms related to the policies that have catalyzed these deportations. There needs to be more protections for immigrants and those with temporary protected status. Trump leaves with a despicable legacy. We have an opportunity to turn back Trumpism and the way we do it is not just through words, but through actions. We have the opportunity to make our own legacy.”

Lawrence Benito, CEO/Executive Director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), FIRM Action, said, “After the last four years, pro-immigrant voters and supporters voted to redirect our country, to make it a more welcoming place for all. We built a multi-generational and multi-ethnic coalition of voters to win the White House and the Senate. And now, they must work with Congress to deliver on their promises to protect immigrants and create the road to citizenship for the 11 million.”

Nanci Palacios, Faith in Action LA RED and DACA recipient, said “This historic inauguration will begin a new day not only for America, but for our immigrant and undocumented community that has endured unrelenting struggles over the last four years, from fear of inhumane deportation to keeping our families together. Though we are hopeful the Biden-Harris administration will work with us to prioritize the needs and rights of our community, we are committed to holding them accountable. A moratorium on deportations, a clear path to citizenship, relief for our undocumented essential workers – these policies are essential to undo the injustices of the outgoing administration, and they are just the beginning. As a DACA recipient, I know how it feels to have your future lie in the hands of someone else. If this administration and the 117th Congress truly care about our community, it must allow America’s DREAMers, immigrants and undocumented essential workers to finally, legally call this country home.”