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Immigration Experts Discuss Political and Legislative Implications of Biden-Harris Day 1 Immigration Bill

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A recording of the call is available here.


Earlier today, immigration policy experts convened to dive deep into the Day One Biden bill as well as today’s immigration-related executive orders. 

Greisa Martinez Rosas, Executive Director, United We Dream:

During the past four years under Trump, we were able to not only survive, but thrive. We made it to this day, and we made it happen; we hold space for those who couldn’t make it here with us. We are resolute in our commitment to bring peace, joy, and stability to our people as we begin a new chapter in this country. I’m grateful to this coalition that worked to keep DACA alive and millions of immigrants protected from deportation and the unwavering commitment of a Black led multiracial coalition of organizers that got us to this moment. This is the most progressive immigration bill in history not by accident but because of the work that we did. This bill will help people without hurting others – there is an expedited path to citizenship for TPS holders, farmworkers, and young immigrants like myself, but no increase to detention and deportation or funding for the border wall. Immigrant youth and our allies look forward to working with the Biden administration because the lives of millions and a visionary future are on the line.

Kerri Talbot, Deputy Director, Immigration Hub:

It is incredibly important that this bill covers all 11 million immigrants who can meet the requirements. As of January 1 of this year, undocumented immigrants are eligible to apply for temporary legal status that could become permanent after 5 years. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farm workers immediately qualify for green cards. After 3 years, all green card holders who were physically present in the United States as of January 1, 2021 who pass background checks and can demonstrate knowledge of English are eligible to apply for citizenship. There are exceptions to the physical presence rule for those who were deported during the Trump administration who had maintained residency for at least three years prior to January 1, 2017. The immigration system has not been reformed for decades and doesn’t address current realities. We have a backlog in the system with wait times exceeding 20 years, often taking decades just to reunite one family member. This bill will reduce wait times, reclassify spouses, permanent partners, and children as immediate family members, increase per country visa caps, and allow families to reunite on a temporary basis while they wait for their green card to be approved. It is an amazing progressive step forward to reform our immigration system.

Tom Jawetz, Vice President, Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress:

The individuals who would be provided a path to citizenship in this bill–who have lived in the country for an average of 15 years–are woven tightly into the fabric of our country. While we estimate that there are 10.4 million undocumented immigrants in the country today, those individuals have more than 10 million family members who are not undocumented–these are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents whose lives and communities would be transformed by this legislation.

It is also groundbreaking that one of the central pillars of the Biden bill is a constellation of provisions designed to create safe, humane, and orderly pathways for migration and humanitarian protection in the Western Hemisphere. That fact alone—as well as statements by Ali Mayorkas, the nominee for DHS secretary at yesterday’s hearing—reflect a deep understanding that until our immigration system provides adequate and well-designed pathways for future migration, immigration will continue to take place outside of and around the system rather than through the system. I am further heartened that so many of the policies in the bill–the Central American Family Reunification Parole programs, restoration of the Central American Minors program, and improvements to refugee processing–can be made entirely through the administration’s ample executive authority.

Kamal Essaheb, Deputy Director, National Immigration Law Center:

Today marks a new day. We have some renewed hope and resolve to work towards a more equitable society. We’re glad that this administration is prioritizing the lives of immigrants. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed historically racial inequities in our society, especially in our labor systems. Immigrants have played an essential role at the forefront of this pandemic and must be included in economic relief. Biden’s proposal will strengthen rights for all workers by strengthening labor rights for immigrants. The bill exposes that there’s no recovery without the contribution of immigrants. And regarding the Muslim Ban, which was first announced 4 years ago this week, has marked a long winding battle up to the Supreme Court. The provisions in the bill is an important step for all seeking a better life regardless of who they pray to. As of now, there’s little to no accountability, but this bill will create requirements to protect everyone from religious discrimination. These policy proposals are a really important milestone and roadmap, and we thank the administration for addressing it on day one.

Carlos Guevara, Associate Director for Immigration Initiatives, UnidosUS: 

Today the Biden Administration is setting the tone and tenor for the next four years. We applaud this new and bold vision for immigration policy. As we celebrate today, tomorrow it will be time to get to work. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration over the next 100 days, and beyond, to advance and enact this vision into law for our communities and the nation.