June News & Updates—a whirlwind month for immigrant rights

Photo credits: Victoria Pickering

June News & Updates from NNIRR

While some important immigration policy wins have been achieved this month, the disappointments stress the need for loud and vocal demands that the Biden administration make good on its promises to provide relief for migrant communities—and to pursue durable, impactful reforms.

The Administration is working to stem the bleeding from the past 4-year nightmare, but addressing this deeply flawed immigration system needs a stronger, persistent commitment and energy. The Administration and allied legislators are also not immune to the backlash and hostility of the Right and anti-immigrant voices, and we know the 2022 midterm elections are also a major factor influencing how far policy changes will go. In the meantime, some immigration policy proposals may be woven into must-pass budget bills.

We have seen progress when we put on the pressure, but the environment for immigration reforms continues to be complex and controversial, as evidenced in the brief updates below.

Congress will be on break this coming week, and advocates and organizers around the country are using the opportunity to reach out to their representatives in district to press the need for immigration policy changes. You can also take action by contacting your Representatives in Congress, during the break or during the regular session. We provide some background and demands below.

Citizenship for Essential Workers Act

Senator Alex Padilla (D-Ca.) is advocating for the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 5 million undocumented immigrants who work essential jobs during the pandemic, to be included in the infrastructure bill. In an LA Times op-ed supporting the bill, journalist and author Jean Guerrero argues that the debate around immigration reform is “about workers in the U.S. who have been here, on average, for 18 years, and who saved our economy last year. They have kids, homes and jobs here.” She notes that about 74% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. work jobs in healthcare, agriculture, childcare, and other essential occupations, and that thousands died due to the pandemic.

The time for action is now. Urge Senators to ensure this is included in the final bill. Call your Congressional Representative and Senators and tell them now is the time for a pathway to citizenship and to include the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act in the infrastructure bill.

Funding for ICE & CPB in Biden’s FY22 Budget Request

Biden released his FY2022 budget proposal, and much to our dismay, the proposed budgets of $8.4 billion for ICE and $16.3 billion for CBP remain as high as under Trump. Both of these agencies continue to terrorize migrants and refugees, repeatedly committing extreme human rights abuses that disproportionately target Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples.

These budgets would fund the incarceration of 32,500 people per day in immigration detention, including 2,500 beds for family detention—more than double the number of people that were in detention when Biden came into office.

JUST IN: On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed Homeland Security budget for FY2022. It is being analyzed in more detail as of this writing. This includes the funding for CBP, ICE, border infrastructure and migrant processing, among other critical items.

Congress must pass funding bills that invest in a just and compassionate immigration system. NNIRR supports the #DefundHate demand for a budget that centers civil and human rights. Together we call for:

  • Significant cuts in funding for immigration detention
  • Significant cuts in ICE and CBP agents
  • No border wall funding and no funding harmful and invasive border surveillance technology

Take action by contacting your Congressional Representative and Senators with these demands.

DACA’S 9th Anniversary: DACA is Not Enough!

This month was also DACA’s 9th anniversary: We are supporting the call that DACA is not enough!

The Biden administration marked the day with a meeting between Vice President Harris and DACA recipients. While this was a notable meeting, it’s time for Biden and the Democrats in Congress to make good on promises to the immigrant community and deliver an inclusive and expedited path to citizenship. Young immigrants and allies fought to win DACA and protect it from Republican attacks—and they also worked hard to get Biden elected. They will certainly not let up on demands for access to permanent residency.

Other notable news this month

While we have been on a constant rollercoaster the past several years, this month has been particularly eventful. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • VP Harris’s visit to the border. Vice President Harris was given the task of addressing the root causes of Central American migration, and made news with her recent visit to the region by admonishing potential migrants in Guatemala, “Don’t come.” So much for commitments to fair, just and safe migration and refugee policies and the fundamental legal right to seek asylum. Last Friday Harris visited the El Paso border area as Republicans sought to dominate the border narrative with inflammatory rhetoric intended to stonewall immigration policy reforms, and set the stage for mid-term elections. Meanwhile, the Texas governor has enacted draconian policies in a cynical and theatrical response to this “crisis,” fueling potential violence with dangerous language declaring an “invasion.” In El Paso, Harris toured CBP facilities, spoke with staff and some young migrant girls being held there, and also met with advocates, faith groups, and community representatives—who had demanded more direct engagement with her to provide local perspectives on the impact and consequences of immigration policies. In that meeting, Harris is said to have listened to examples of how migrants were being treated, as well as recommendations on the border narrative, the need for specific policy changes and broader reforms, including legalization.
  • Biden Administration Removes Trump-supporting Chief of Border Patrol. Meanwhile, the Biden administration removed Rodney Scott as head of CBP. A supported of Trump border policies, Scott earlier this year refused to follow a Biden directive to stop using the term “illegal alien” in reference to undocumented immigrants.
  • Senator Padilla Introduces Bill to Hold Federal Law Enforcement Accountable. S. 2103 the Accountability for Federal Law Enforcement Act, if passed, will allow individuals to sue federal law enforcement officers and agencies if they have experienced civil and constitutional rights violations.
  • DHS & State Department Announce legal pathway for Central American minors. On the anniversary of DACA, the state department and DHS issued a joint statement expanding legal pathways for minors from Central America to reunite with family members in the U.S. and seek safety from violence and threats in their home countries. This is an important protection for migrant children from Central America, although there is more to do to protect the right to seek asylum at U.S. borders and ensure the safety and well-being of children in migration.
  • DHS Attorney General reverses obstacles to protections for asylum seekers. Attorney-General Garland’s Decision on Matter of A-B- and L-E-A- ends Trump-era rulings that gutted asylum protections for people escaping gender-based violence, gang brutality, and other human rights violations. This decision ensures judges cannot prejudge cases involving gender and gang-related violence, and must provide each asylum seeker a fair opportunity to present claims.
  • DHS is considering reopening cases of asylum denied under Trump. “DHS will expand the pool of MPP-enrolled individuals who are eligible for processing into the United States,” the department added. “DHS will continue to process for entry into the United States MPP enrollees with pending proceedings.”
  • Title 42 may be lifted. The Biden administration is reportedly considering ending Title 42, the public health order enacted under Trump under pretense of preventing the spread of COVID-19 but with the real objective of closing the borders to asylum seekers. Migrants expelled under Title 42 have faced horrific abuse and violence after being turned away at the border. While a welcome move, the first phase will impact families, and may, for example, include having asylum seekers wear ankle bracelets, along with other concerning restrictions. There is still time to weigh in! We are calling for an end to Title 42 in its entirety.

Another important thing happened this month…NNIRR turned 35!

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