Biden Administration & Immigration Policy

This section provides information and resources on current issues related to U.S. immigration and immigrant communities. New information and resources are added regularly. THE BIDEN-HARRIS ADMINISTRATION & PROMISES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM NEW! NNIRR’s Organizers’ guide to the Executive Orders with human rights concerns and questions for community dialogue and planning for action and advocacy. NNIRR Statement on Day 1 Executive Orders and priorities for changes moving forward. The Biden-Harris Immigration Plan 2021 Immigration Action Plan, sponsored by the Immigration Hub and endorsed by NNIRR and 200+ organizations

NNIRR’s Advocacy

The Biden Administration started off their 100 days with a mixture of Executive Orders and a sweeping legislative proposal, both giving immigrant communities hope and relief. However, in practice there has been a concerning number of deportations and detentions, including Unaccompanied Minors who are being held in camp-like facilities instead of going through a streamlined process to reach family members or guardians in the US.  From January to March 15th the number of deportations reached over 130,000 according to United We Dream. For a President who ran on compassion and promised a “fair and humane overhaul” of immigration, this is a far cry from such a declaration and the administration must be held to account. The political partisanship is further complicating progress towards meaningful reform. NNIRR, along with partners in the immigrant rights movement, will push this administration and Congressional leaders to live up to their promises to bring relief and long-term solutions to migrant and refugee communities.
The Citizenship Act of 2021​


The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (Senate version/House version) was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) in the House on February 18, 2021, presenting a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive. Here we share some very brief highlights from the proposed legislation, as well as a few of NNIRR’s human rights concerns and principles we will advocate for to protect rights and dignity of all migrants:

Title I: Earned Path to Citizenship and Other Reforms

  • Creates a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented 
  • Reforms to the system, restores due process
  • Dreamers have access to health care and in-state tuition
  • Removes the term “Alien” from the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • Reunites families —allows family to petition for temporary visas while waiting for green card

Human Rights concerns: the length of time on the path to citizenship is too long and arduous.

Title II: Addressing root causes of migration and responsibly managing the border

  • Addresses “root causes” of migration  through investments, combating corruption and promoting the rule of law in Central America 
  • Smart technology and capacity at ports of entry, improving services for migrants at the border.

Human Rights concerns

The Border: Increased surveillance technology puts communities at risk and further exposed to human rights abuses by ICE and Border Patrol. Communities and community organizations must be at the forefront of consultations about policy and investments impacting the region.

Root Causes: While addressing the root causes of migration in the region is positive, little is known about how money will be invested and whether it will deepen human rights concerns in the region. Funds are likely to be managed by repressive governments routinely violating human rights and may also include military spending. What about the Hemisphere —challenges in the Caribbean, South America, Venezuela, the economic crisis in Argentina and elsewhere, Mexico? What about the humanitarian and climate crises causing people to seek refuge from other regions of the world? Is climate contemplated as a root cause and if so how is it to be addressed? Strong, principled diplomacy must include civil society organizations working for change, rather than with corrupt, abusive, and authoritarian governments.

Title III: Reform of the Immigrant Visa System

  • Promotes family reunification and clears backlogs
  • Increases diversity visas
  • Protections for LGBTQ families
  • Establishes the No Ban Act and limites presidential authority to issue future bans
  • Eliminates hurdles to green cards
  • Provides refugee integration and inclusion programs

Title IV: Immigration Courts, Family Values and Vulnerable Individuals

  • Reforms immigration courts and eliminates backlogs
  • Facilitates safe repatriation of families, unaccompanied children and other noncitizens, coordinating with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to promote the successful reintegration of noncitizens repatriated to their countries of origin.
  • Establishes supports for Unaccompanied Minors
  • Restores due process for refugees

Human Rights concernsRepatriation for individuals fleeing their country of origins risks lives. Many who have legitimate asylum claims who are denied may 

Title V: Employment authorization and protecting workers from exploitation and retaliation

  • Expands e-verify
  • Protects workers who have experienced labor abuses
  • Protections for farmworkers, including wage theft through overtime and exemptions from minimum wage
  • Upholds labor law and holds employers responsible for violations
Human Rights concerns: E-verify is a system fraught with errors and privacy protection breaches. This further divides a workforce, leaving some with protections and others subject to abuse and wage theft. We must revamp the system to guarantee fair wages and full labor rights protections for all workers.
Current legislative Proposals of the 117th Congress

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) passed on March 18, 2021. The bill’s main provisions provided paths to permanent residency to undocumented youth and to TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holders. However, the paths for some will be long and burdensome, and includes “criminal bars” and secondary review processes that will exclude many who are otherwise eligible.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 1537) also passed the House on March 18, 2021. The bill provides a path to permanent residency to certain undocumented farmworkers and modifies the current guestworker programs with additional protections for workers. However, like the provisions in the Dream and Promise Act, the bill extends the period of time that farmworkers must continue in agricultural work in order to qualify for access to a green card — and it continues the guestworker program, a system rife with a legacy of abuse and exploitation, and designed to provide a cheap labor force of largely non-white workers.

Read NNIRR’s Statement on the Dream and Promise, and the Farm Workforce Modernization bills.

The New Way Forward Act (HR 536).

Introduced Jan. 28, 2021 by Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, with 41 co-sponsors. The bill proposes to:

  • End mandatory immigration detention
  • Restore judicial discretion and end summary deportations
  • Limit the criminal legal system to deportation pipeline
  • End entanglement between federal immigration law enforcement and local law enforcement
  • Provide an opportunity to come home for people previously deported.
  • Decriminalize migration by repealing criminal prosecution for illegal entry and re-entry

Roadmap to Freedom Resolution (H.Res. 64) Introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and others on January 27, 2021. The Roadmap to Freedom “re-establishes the United States as a beacon of hope and humanitarian protection for those seeking safety on our shores and achieves a vision of an immigration system that works for all” by:

  • Ensuring a fair immigration process that establishes a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million people while centering family unity and promoting and preserves diversity

  • Welcoming immigrants by supporting integration efforts and ensuring access to critical public services

  • Creating a just, humane way to uphold immigration laws, including by investing in humane, community-based alternatives to detention and creating scalable consequences for enforcement. This is possible by modernizing the system, ensuring judges have the ability to exercise discretion, and having reasonable, more humane options on the table

  • Investing in border policy that protects the rights of communities in the borderlands and ends the mass militarization of the region

  • Understanding that we must uphold the rights of all workers and that increasing protections for immigrant workers will lift up all workers—immigrant and American-born alike.

PROKID Act (HR 1238) Introduced in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and others on Feb.23, 2021. This bill (Protection of Kids in Detention) will establish a permanent Office of the Ombudsperson within the Department of Health and Human Services to act as advocate, subject-matter expert, and independent authority to ensure the rights afforded to children by various statutes are recognized, applied and enforced.

SENATE

DREAM Act (S. 264) Reintroduced to the Senate by Senator Durbin, Feb. 4, 2021. This bill provides a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented people, including current DACA recipients, those eligible to apply for DACA, and other immigrant youth. For Senator Durbin’s remarks on the Senate Floor while reintroducing the bill, go here.

SECURE Act (S. 306) — Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency Act. Reintroduced to the Senate on Feb. 8, 2021 by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) & Senate Majority leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). This bill gives Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Press release from Senator Cardin here on the bill. 

PROKID Act Introduced by Senator Gillibrand and others on Feb. 23, 2021. The bill will:

    • Ensure that immigrant children are only held in government custody in the least restrictive setting;
    • Empower the Ombudsperson to advocate for the quick, safe, and efficient release of immigrant children from government custody whenever possible, including the right to review placement decisions;
    • Create an expert advisory committee made of up immigration law and child protection specialists to report on trends from the field and advise on best practices; and
    • Mandate the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate a close working relationship and ensure visibility, real-time communication, and influence policy and procedures for those children in temporary DHS custody
NNIRR's principles for human-rights centered immigration reform

NNIRR welcomes the administration’s proposal to provide a pathway to citizenship for the country’s undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. A broad program to quickly “regularize” the status of millions of immigrant workers and their families is a top priority for immigration reform advocates, and there is increasing Congressional support for an “expedited” process for DACA and TPS holders and essential workers. “There is certainly ample reason to fast-track regularization of status for the millions who have been denied this opportunity for decades,” stated Ferrigno. 

While we are aware of the many challenges in passing such legislation, we desperately need bold action to reshape long-standing immigration policies that have criminalized immigrant communities and undermined their health, safety, labor rights, and overall welfare.

Inspired by the UN Global Compact for Migration, which NNIRR helped to shape, we will strive to re-envision an immigration system that places migrant’s human rights at the center of immigration and border policy. NNIRR will continue to work for immigration policy reforms that keep families together, decriminalize migrants, ensure immigrant workers’ rights, and seek solutions to the root causes and drivers of migration. 

We will push for an immigration system that restores protections to dreamers, and those with temporary status, and extends protections to the essential workforce of healthcare workers, caregivers, domestic workers, farmworkers, food services workers, who need ample social protections and equal access to justice.

NNIRR urges the Biden Administration to:

  • Make border governance consistent with human rights, and ensure that all border procedures are effective, humane and non-discriminatory.
  • Ensure a fair and robust asylum program for those seeking freedom and safety from life or-death situations.
  • Address the crisis of migrant deaths in consultation with forensic teams and civil society organizations who are supporting the families of missing loved ones.
  • Engage in multilateral and collaborative approaches within the global community, with an emphasis on establishing expeditious regular migration pathways that uphold human rights, ensure workers’ rights and address the root causes and drivers of migration.
  • Address the large-scale racial inequities and abuses against black and brown migrants within the current immigration system that exacerbate the already harrowing path towards citizenship and asylum status.

The new administration has an important role to play in breaking up the hostile, racist xenophobic rhetoric that accompanied the hundreds of anti-immigrant policies and practices of the past four years. NNIRR calls on the Biden-Harris administration to boldly take up this task as part of its commitment to unify the country.