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Mayorkas Addresses Bipartisan Immigration Coalition Offering Glimpse of Biden’s New Approach

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Where Trump’s Team Rewrote Emma Lazarus’ Powerful Poem To Signal Exclusion, Biden’s Team Seeks To Restore Lady Liberty’s Commitment to a Fair, Humane and Functioning System.

Yesterday, speaking at the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) summit, DHS Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas delivered immigration remarks that encapsulated the sharply distinct visions between the incoming Biden administration and the outgoing Trump administration.

Beyond important reiterations of the Biden administration’s confident embrace of pro-immigrant policy views and commitments, Mayorkas noted “this issue is about more than figures on a balance sheet. On the base of the Statue of Liberty, it is written: that ‘from her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.’” 

The comment presented a visceral contrast with Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS under Trump, who infamously suggested changing the Statue of Liberty’s inscription to: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” 

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

The Biden administration’s confident, pro-immigrant vision sets a starkly different tone from Trump’s dehumanizing vision and treatment of immigrants. The Trump approach is to keep out as many people as possible, shrink legal avenues for immigration and deny any form of legal status to immigrants already living and working here, including taking away legal protections from DACA and TPS holders. It has been marked by episodes of vicious cruelty, including taking children away from their parents to deter the parents from legally applying for asylum. 

Though this was the first policy speech from Mayorkas, to a bipartisan immigration coalition led by American business leaders, it previews a Biden approach that promises a restoration of legal immigration opportunities, policies that comport with US and international law, and that is based on establishing an immigration system that is fair, humane and functional.

The recent election outcome and public opinion polling indicate that the American people stand squarely with the Biden and Mayorkas vision for immigrants and America. While the electorate is divided politically on many issues, support for immigration and for citizenship are a point of broad consensus among a multiracial majority of Americans and has grown significantly under Trump. 

For the American people, the Statue of Liberty and her accompanying Emma Lazarus poem are not subject to editing, erasure or amendment by Trump or anyone else. The remarks by Secretary-designee Mayorkas are an early indication that a new era is dawning. The question for President-elect Biden is not how we keep aspiring Americans or asylum seekers out or make them deportable, but rather how we incorporate immigrants and immigration into a stronger, more prosperous nation in a way that works for the American people.

Below, find excerpts from yesterday’s remarks by nominated DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas:

“For more than 200 years, our country’s bipartisan tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has kept us dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has strengthened our families — including my own — our communities, our economy, and our nation.

… Today, our immigration system is badly broken — and we all know it. The cost of that broken system is incalculably high. It represents a profound toll not only on families seeking to contribute to our nation and forge their own American dream, but on our economic prosperity and our moral authority as well. 

As President-elect Joe Biden takes office, he has committed to fixing this broken immigration system … We must stop vilifying these communities. We must bring to an immediate end the inhumane and unjust treatment of immigrants. There is no more powerful and heartbreaking example of that inhumanity than the separation of children from their parents.

Immigrants have been essential to our communities’ ability to survive the current pandemic — serving our nation in vast numbers as health care workers, researchers, and scientists; as delivery drivers, care givers, and clerks; and in so many other critical roles — and they will be vital to our economic recovery from this crisis.

…But of course, this issue is about more than figures on a balance sheet. On the base of the Statue of Liberty, it is written: that “from her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.”

Immigration is a foundational part of who we are, and who we have always been as Americans, from our very earliest days. It is an issue especially ripe for bipartisan solutions, because it speaks to our common history as a people, and because it serves the interests of each of us to further that distinctly American tradition.

We are a nation built on the energy, aspirations, and ideas of immigrants and the generations that followed them. A Biden administration will center an immigration agenda that is humane, fair, strengthens our nation and its economy, and keeps our families and communities safe.

And we will roll up our sleeves, starting on day one, to fix what is broken, to keep families together, to build an immigration system that works for all of us.”