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Organizers and Directly Impacted People Respond To New Administration’s Announcements on Immigration

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You can listen to a recording of the call here.

Following a flurry of Day One announcements — six executive orders, a moratorium on deportations, and a legislative proposal to create a new roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America — leaders of membership organizations in the immigrant justice movement and directly-impacted people shared their perspectives today on a press call.  

Patrice Lawrence, Co-Director, the UndocuBlack Network, said, “UndocuBlack is a multi-generational network of Black currently or formerly undocumented people all across this country. We welcome this new day and this new week and what we have seen already from the president and what he will do for our communities. Our communities have rallied for a very long time and voiced what our needs were in various actions over the past four years. We are happy to say that it seems that some of those actions have indeed bore fruit. The first action that I’d like to respond to is the Liberian DED extension, the last generation of DED expired previously January 10th 2021 so we are pleased that the Biden Administration took that on their first day to put it back in place. What this affords is the ability for Liberians who are  eligible to apply for the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act  passed in 2019,  and we celebrate the fact that we were able to get that win. Under a cruel Trump administration, even though 10,000 people were eligible we saw less than 120 green cards accurately approved then given out for the population towards the end of last year. We are hoping that the Biden Administration will firm up USCIS practices to allow for an easier application process.  The other deal that we are very excited about is the rescinding of the Muslim and African ban. It was very clear that racism and cruelty was the point of this ban.  Advocates and members of the African immigrant community rose up and said “that cannot be the America that we subscribe to.” And so we’re very pleased that on its very first day the Biden Administration took a stance  to make sure to rescind this awful ban. There is still more work to be done as the Trump Administration continued to do additional Visa sanctions and those remain to be reversed. Those have impacted in particular African and Asian countries so we are waiting and will keep up the drum beat to make sure that that is reversed.  Lastly, overall, UndocuBlack Network supports legalization of the undocumented folks all across this country. We welcome pathways to citizenship for individuals and we need them to be quick.  We need them to be fair, and we need them to not criminalize our communities further. We support and are grateful for this moratorium on deportation, and we will insist and push that this remains so beyond a hundred days of the Biden Administration.”

Glo Harn Choi, HANA Center & NAKASEC community organizer based in Chicago, said, “While the bill and the executive orders are a critical first step, the work is far from over. Congress must now act and pass this legislation to ensure my family and I, and all immigrant families, can adjust their status. And when we say ‘citizenship for all, we’re talking about a shared humanity and belief that people belong in the place they call home, not preferential treatment based on employment skills or academic exceptionalism. The Biden administration must work with Congressional leaders to make sure it happens. It’s finally time for our movement to be bold and to shift onto the Offensive – we need to ensure this Administration and Congress listens to our community’s voice and enact sweeping and lasting changes that will allow our families, friends, and neighbors to pursue their life’s goals without undue and unjust barriers and the looming threat of family separation and deportation.”

Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, CASA, said “This is a historical week, and we are never tired of climbing this hill seeking an intersectional approach to a justice that includes all of us. And now – for the first time in four years – dignity, opportunity and citizenship are within reach. We worked for and secured a trusted partner for peace and security for people of color in welcoming the Biden-Harris administration. We celebrate the executive orders. We believe they are an extraordinary step and a repudiation of the previous administration. We congratulate the Biden-Harris administration for what they did in just 48 hours. The executive orders send a clear message to our families and communities and to our country. They make an extraordinary contribution to our society. We celebrate that, but we still have a lot of work to do. For instance, the Cameroonian community, who right now have a huge crisis, or the central Americans, who suffered tremendously under the previous administration, are not covered in these executive orders. We know that the executive orders are temporary fixes, that’s why we are mobilizing every week to pressure Congress to bring a solution for our broken immigration system. We are eager for the citizenship for all policy, which will create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million that make up undocumented communities. Many of the essential workers who save us in the middle of this pandemic are undocumented. They are helping us survive. It is now our responsibility to make sure that those people who give everything for us at least have a work permit and a path to citizenship. We believe it is important that we mobilize and fight back for the 11 million, and together – as a family united – we need to say “we need immigration reform once and for all.” 

Nanci Palacios, Faith in Florida La Red and DACA Recipient, said, “I am so excited and hopeful about the new announcements from the Biden-Harris administration. This victory is the result of years of work we have done in the community. The fact is we are leaving hard times under the previous administration and the new Executive Orders bring an overwhelming sense of hope for me and fellow DACA recipients. We can’t forget the damage that has been done to our communities, but now following the announcements of these new Executive Orders members of my community and clergy are calling me wanting to know what’s next. Next we are moving our Members of Congress into supporting legislation that’s going to protect each and every one of our community members. We have been hurt and let down too many times before, we are going to fight for our communities until legislation that has been proposed is passed. Immigrants and essential workers have kept America running throughout the COVID pandemic, and within the first couple hours of their leadership the Biden-Harris administration has shown us they’re serious about  honoring that. Everyone in Congress must take action to truly liberate our people and move legislation in the direction of healing for our country and dignity for all.”

Cynthia Garcia, National Campaigns Manager for Community Protection, United We Dream Member, said, “Immigrants have been under the highest threat over the last four years. But the threats against immigrants don’t leave with Trump. His presidency is the symptom of the white supremacy rooted in the inception of this country. United We Dream will continue to push for an equitable country and world where everyone has the freedom to move or to stay and to thrive. President Biden must use every tool that is at his disposal to provide relief to our community. That includes protecting and expanding DACA to protect more people, while also pushing speaker Pelosi and Senator majority leader Schumer to deliver on the actual pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people. We also need President Biden to take concrete steps to decrease funding to ICE and CBP and hold those agencies accountable for the pain and death of immigrants that they have caused. We know the memos issued by the Biden Administration will not change the culture within ICE and CBP because for years they have operated unhinged, with free reign and no accountability. While the pause on deportation is a welcome first step, President Biden must go further. He must instruct his DHS secretary to relieve people already in detention. He must stop all collaboration with ICE and local law enforcement and he must make sure ICE and CBP aren’t able to push vulnerable immigrants into voluntary departure in an attempt to rob them of their legal right to immigration. President Biden must use his power to create opportunities to permanently protect people and create an immigration system rooted in our humanity.”

Jacinta Gonzales, Mijente, said, “Today, immigrants across the country can really breathe a sigh of relief. The millions who have lost their jobs during the pandemic or have been forced in the fields or on the front lines without basic protections, have at least one less thing to worry about. We know it is safe to say that President Biden’s responsiveness to the needs of the movement is a testament to the tireless work of organizers who mobilized voters across the country to get to those polls, vote Trump out, and ensure that we have a different Senate and a different Senate leadership to work with. We really see this first announcement from the Biden administration as a starting point in our continued fight to dismantle our nation’s cruel and inhumane deportation machinery and end the criminalization of our people. We were excited to see that the moratorium memorandum also includes instructions to the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a full review of the way they use enforcement and what their priorities are. But, many of us have been asking for this type of investigation into the cruelty of this agency for some time. And we know that we can not trust the Department of Homeland security to conduct its own review. The voices of those who were abused in our immigration system must be centered in any shape or form. And we are having conversations about what it means to have a policing agency dedicated to immigration enforcement. We need to ensure that the lives of those people who are directly impacted by this are centered and are allowed to have active participation in this review.”