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OFFICE HOURS: Immigrant Advocates on Progress and Challenges

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A recording of the call can be found here.

Washington, DC – On Friday May 21st, immigrant advocates gathered for an “Office Hours” press conference to wrap up key developments on immigration from the week and to preview what’s coming down the road. Topics discussed included:

Silky Shah, Executive Director, Detention Watch Network, said “We applaud the Biden administration for finally taking a first step to address the inhumane immigration detention system with the announcement to cut the contracts for the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia and the Bristol County Detention Center in Massachusetts. This is a decisive victory for, and made possible by, the immigrant rights movement and the growing demand to shut down ICE detention centers nationwide. Immigrant lives are in jeopardy anytime they are in ICE custody. And although we are celebrating yesterday’s announcement, it comes against the backdrop of a nearly 33% increase in the number of people in ICE custody since the start of Biden’s presidency. Last week, the daily detained population rose to over 20,000 people. We urge President Biden to reverse this alarming trend.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director, Project South, co-author of IMPRISONED JUSTICE: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers, said “We are thrilled about this development. Given its extensively documented history of human rights violations, Irwin should have been shut down long ago. We will not rest until the women who suffered medical abuse at Irwin receive a measure of redress and compensation; and until ICE and the prison corporation LaSalle are held accountable for allowing the abuses to take place.”

Paul Christian Namphy, Lead Organizer for Miami-based Haitian advocacy group Family Action Network Movement (FANM), said “We are reaching out regarding the situation of redesignation of TPS for Haitian nationals, we are calling on the Department of Homeland Security and the Biden administration for promises made during the 2020 campaign. In Haiti, there’s a horrific situation of gender-based violence, insecurity, kidnappings, and the country is being ruled by decree. It is very important that we ensure that Haitian nationals in the United States are not sent back to Haiti. This battle is linked to many other issues, like permanent status for TPS holders. All of these situations are inextricably linked and from Hatian Bridge Alliance and other organizations in our community, we’re pushing for this important priority.”

Zaira Garcia, FWD.us Texas State Immigration Director and We Are Home campaign Lobby Day participant, said “For far too long, our easily weaponized immigration system has locked people out of opportunity, separated families, and threatened the economic stability of our nation. At a time when our country’s recovery from the most deadly pandemic in decades hinges upon 23 million immigrants—more than 5 million of whom are undocumented—immigration reform centered on a pathway to citizenship is absolutely crucial. As a proud Texan and proud daughter of immigrants, I will continue to take every opportunity to protect the millions of hardworking families, like my own, who deserve justice and dignity in the country they call home.”

Leydy Rangel, UFW Foundation and one of six DACA recipients who met with President Biden at the White House on May 14, said “Farm workers like my parents and siblings have fought for years to emerge from the shadows. They are essential to our nation—not just during the pandemic—and they deserve to live and work free from the constant terror of deportation and family separation. Without people like my family, our fellow Americans would not have fresh fruits and vegetables on their dinner tables. When farm workers wake up early each morning, they don’t ask if the food they’re producing is going to Democratic or Republican tables. Everyone benefits from their hard work.”