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Moving Beyond “Enforcement Only” – Leading Voices Call for Biden Administration to Now Focus on Relief for Long-Settled Immigrants

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Washington, DC — Alongside ongoing analysis and attention to the details and implications of yesterday’s executive order focused on the border and asylum seekers, some observers are calling on the Biden administration to now move beyond the focus on the border and asylum to address the full range of Americans’ immigration priorities, including policies and supports for long-settled immigrants.

As Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice, stated yesterday: “Yes, our immigration system is broken, and yes, we need an orderly and safe border. However, the American public has made it clear they want a broader, commonsense set of solutions beyond the enforcement-only particulars of today’s executive order announcement. Alongside support for border security, this also includes policies to facilitate legal and orderly immigration and legalize and support long-settled immigrants who strengthen America every day (see a detailed public opinion analysis from America’s Voice here). As a result, today’s announcement is a missed opportunity to address the full scope of Americans’ broader set of immigration priorities.”

This assessment was shared and echoed by many elected officials and experts, including:

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), per a recap in the Washington Post: “House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said during a Tuesday news conference that he was concerned the order would focus on ‘the enforcement-only side of the strategy’ — omitting efforts to expand legal pathways to citizenship. ‘We need to continue to do both of these strategies.'”
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX): “While I understand the administration is doing its best to navigate this challenge without adequate resources and appropriate legislation, I am disappointed that the focus today is only on enforcement, and it is my sincere hope that administrative actions on immigration relief, like parole in place for the spouses of US citizens and designations of Temporary Protected Status for vulnerable populations, will also happen … The Republican majority in the House rejected the president’s request for the resources necessary to deal with this challenge and they have also refused to bring real and sustainable legislative solutions to the floor … My colleagues in Congress who want fewer administrative actions must also be willing to compromise and work on lasting, comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform.”
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Deputy Chair Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), and Whip Sylvia Garcia (TX-29): “We encourage the White House to take immediate executive actions that would keep families together by providing relief to long-term immigrants, including protections for spouses of U.S. citizens by providing them work permits, and increased processing resources. We should also prioritize policies that benefit the farmworkers that feed us and allow caregivers in mixed-status families, including Dreamers, to seek relief from deportation.”
  • Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA): “I urge President Biden to live up to his pledge to restore our nation’s ‘moral standing in the world and our historic role as a haven for refugees and asylum seekers.’ And I encourage the President to use his executive authority to provide relief to American families including Dreamers, caregivers, and undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens who deserve better than to continue to live in the shadows.”
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement Subcommittee: “The American people want and deserve an orderly immigration system that is humane and focuses on real solutions rather than harsh enforcement. Our country desperately needs reforms to the legal immigration system that bring the United States into the 21st century, including ensuring families are reunited, that migrants have the opportunity to be quickly processed and given work permits that help address our own economic needs and that asylum claims are adjudicated in a fair and efficient manner…We should be looking to manage the border, expand lawful pathways, provide a roadmap to citizenship and celebrate the contributions of immigrants by prioritizing a fair, orderly, and humane system. Today’s actions are a dangerous step in the wrong direction.”
  • Andrea Flores, VP for immigration policy and campaigns at FWD.us in a New York Times op-ed, “To Win on Immigration, Biden Must Move the Debate Beyond the Border,” noted: “When the immigration fight is only about fear mongering around the border, Donald Trump wins. But our nation’s immigration challenges transcend the border. The president can set himself apart by taking a more holistic approach. To do so, he can enact policies that benefit immigrants and Americans alike. Only Congress can create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. But Mr. Biden could use his executive power to shield immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally. Even temporary protections of this kind could have a profound effect on people’s lives … Congress needs to provide a permanent path to citizenship. But in the meantime, it’s critical that the president takes seriously the urgency of protecting longtime undocumented people in the United States and continues to build political momentum for sensible immigration laws.”
  • Immigration Hub Executive Director Kerri Talbot: “As President Biden takes executive action on the border, he also must keep American families together by advancing popular legal pathways for Dreamers and other long-settled undocumented families in the U.S, including immigrant family caregivers, undocumented spouses of American citizens, and workers who have long contributed to the country. Administrative action on behalf of undocumented communities in the U.S. also offers the President a critical opportunity to galvanize key voters in battleground states ahead of November, including Biden’s 2020 coalition of supporters such as independents, youth, Latino, and Black voters. We urge the administration to meet the moment and take swift action to help immigrant and American families.”