Washington, DC—Late yesterday, the Biden administration announced it would pause the deportation of immigrants living in the U.S. since Nov. 1, 2020. Significantly, the moratorium on deportations does not exclude people based on contact with the racially biased criminal legal system. However, the administration’s interim guidelines for arrest and detention, including during the moratorium, leave people who recently arrived in the country and incarcerated community members at risk of further separation from their families and exposure to COVID in ICE detention.
In response, the Immigrant Justice Network released the following statement:
Yesterday, a day that brought hope and relief to people across the country, the president spoke of a cry for racial justice 400 years in the making. Today, we must organize and push to ensure the administration’s policies fully answer that cry and uphold our values of compassion and respect for everyone’s rights.
Significantly, the deportation moratorium does not exclude people based on arrests or convictions in the U.S. criminal legal system, which is tainted with racism. To save lives and uphold family and community unity, we call on the Biden administration to also pause ICE arrests and free people from immigration detention.
Unfortunately, last night’s announcement of “enforcement priorities” means that ICE will target some incarcerated community members for arrest and detention at the moment they finish their sentences or become eligible for release – a time when they should be reunited with their loved ones. People convicted of a crime called “aggravated felony” — a category which is vast, vague, arbitrary, ignores transformation, and often forces immigration judges to order deportation — will be more vulnerable to arrest and detention. To further punish our neighbors who have already suffered in a criminal system based in racism a second time simply does not reflect our values.
Additionally, we call on state and local officials to stop transferring immigrants deemed eligible for release from state or local custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. Like any other individual, immigrants who have contact with the criminal legal system–including those who have completed their sentence, been granted parole, had charges dropped, or been granted release by a judge—should be allowed to return to their communities. We also need a memo that does not leave people in immigration detention, where medical neglect is rampant and has resulted in devastating COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities across the country.
As we work to uproot systemic racism, we must remember that while only 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, Black immigrants made up 20% of people facing deportation on criminal grounds in the U.S.
For meaningful change, our communities need bold solutions that don’t offer relief for some in exchange for the further criminalization of others. President Biden must immediately re-issue guidelines to protect all immigrants.
Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) members include Families for Freedom, Grassroots Leadership, the Immigrant Defense Project, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Just Futures Law, the National Immigrant Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Puente Human Rights Movement, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network.