NNIRR Statement on the Citizenship Act of 2021.

The Citizenship Act of 2021 is a good first step, but only steadfast organizing can lead the way towards a more inclusive regularization program for all migrants and refugees.

NNIRR welcomes the introduction of the The Citizenship Act of 2021 introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and introduced in the House by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). This immigration reform bill includes substantial changes to the outdated immigration system and provides a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

This bill is a long-time coming, and the result of tireless advocacy and organizing for immigrant and refugee rights. Together with recent executive orders and administrative actions we see some progressive steps towards long awaited immigration reforms. 

According to NNIRR Co-Director, Alma Maquitico, “the Citizenship Act takes a significant turn away from the punitive, criminalized, toxic environment around immigration of the past years, and attempts to fix some of the worst historical dysfunctions of the US immigration system. However, there are areas of concern that leave some communities of color vulnerable to exclusion from legalization, and denies access to vital social protections to those on the path towards citizenship. NNIRR, together with grassroots immigrant rights groups, will advocate steadfastly for Congress to expand this bill to meet the needs of all immigrant communities.”

“We know of the incredible challenge in bringing about substantial policy change, but we have a historic opportunity and broad public support for inclusive immigration reforms. In the meantime, the Biden administration can expand TPS protections to those harmed by multiple and overlapping disasters such as the hurricanes that hit Central America and the Covid-19 pandemic” according to Jen Ferrigno, Co-Director of NNIRR. NNIRR urges members of Congress and the Biden administration to carry out their commitments to all migrants and refugees, many who worked in their communities to deliver Biden’s electoral victory, and over 5 million of whom are also essential workers.

“Congress and the Biden Administration must not commit the same mistake as in previous legislative attempts where border communities bear the brunt of militarized proposals. In this case, while we welcome the move away from border walls to appease immigration hardliners, the proposal to use ‘smart’ technology for border enforcement is presented as an innocuous way of monitoring the border region, but that expands Border Patrol’s deadly prevention-through-deterrence strategy. It normalizes surveillance technology which is a slippery slope for degrading everyone’s civil liberties” said Pedro Rios, NNIRR Board of Directors & Director of AFSC US/Mexico Border Program. “We must urge Congress and the Biden Administration to divest from security companies seeking to exploit misguided sentiments that contend border communities are dangerous and out of control.” 

NNIRR will push for legislation that includes:

  • Legal status for ALL 11 million undocumented, without long waits and with expedited access to health care and public benefits with the freedom to live, work, and provide for one’s family with equal civil and employment rights. 
  • Border governance rooted in human rights and civil rights protections. The language of “modernizing” border enforcement through investments in surveillance technology raises serious human rights and civil rights concerns for border communities.
  • No trade offs of more enforcement for legalization. De-link national security from immigration policy. 
  • Ending the inhumane and “for profit” system of immigrant detention and addressing immigration justice. Immigrant detention is wrong. 
  • An end to local policing/immigration enforcement collaboration programs.
  • Fundamental labor protections for immigrant workers, including the right to organize without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Genuine increases in access to regular immigration pathways. “Fixes” such as juggling visas from one category to another are not a solution.
  • Phasing out of temporary worker programs that are fundamentally built upon denying worker’s rights, including exclusion from the right to apply for residency or the right to family reunification. 
  • Tackling root causes through multilateral approaches that holistically address the drivers of migration, and that  includes robust consultations with civil society groups to tackle climate change, poverty, and uneven development, rather than funding programs that result in social repression or are mismanaged by repressive governments. 

And finally, as this bill was unveiled, ICE has continued its daily deportations. More than 26,000 people and counting have been deported since Biden took office, putting in danger the lives of thousands of asylum seekers.

Deportations must come to a halt, and this administration has the power to stop it, today!



If you haven’t yet, this would be a great time to Sign our joint petition to President Biden, urging his administration to deliver on promises to immigrant communities!