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Immigrant Justice Network: Biden, Harris Administration Must Take Bold and Inclusive Action to Transform Immigration System

 100+ organizations demand new administration root out systemic racism and xenophobia ingrained in the immigration and criminal legal systems  

Washington, DCAs the Biden, Harris administration is sworn into office, the Immigrant Justice Network calls on President Biden to take immediate and strong executive action on behalf of all immigrants. 

From the movement for Black Lives this summer to the horrifying white supremacist violence at the Capitol this month, the new administration cannot ignore that systemic racism and xenophobia are deeply rooted in this country’s institutions, including our immigration and criminal legal systems. This calls for more than undoing the harmful policies of the Trump administration. To transform our immigration system, President Biden must commit to new policies that include people facing the painful consequences of deportation and criminalization. 

The Immigrant Justice Network and more than 100 immigrant rights organizations signed a letter demanding that the new administration: 

  • Ensures that any moratorium on deportation or detention does not exclude people who have been criminalized, have had contact with the criminal legal system or have criminal records;
  • Ensures that any prosecutorial discretion policy does not exclude people who have been criminalized, have had contact with the criminal legal system or have criminal records; 
  • Ensures that any “legalization” bill or administrative policy supported by the Biden Administration does not exclude people who have been criminalized, have had contact with the criminal legal system or have criminal records.

The full text of the letter is available here

“As President Biden takes leadership of this country, we call on him to commit to transformative change in our immigration system, which is tied to a criminal legal system that was built on racism and white supremacy. To begin to heal as a country, we must move away from policies that criminalize people and create new ones that uphold values of compassion, fairness, and opportunity,” said Oliver Merino, Coordinator, Immigrant Justice Network.  

“The new Administration must keep their promise to uphold racial justice by dismantling immigration laws that have criminalized and dehumanized our communities. This moment calls for bold and decisive action to uproot systemic racism and usher in a new era for our nation’s immigration system. President Biden and Vice President Harris must enact immigration policies that reflect our values of compassion, fairness, and redemption. We cannot return to the painful status quo that existed before Trump, where our immigrant communities lived under constant threat of detention and deportation. We are hopeful that the new Administration will work with our movement and organizations to stop further harm to Southeast Asian American refugees and repair the damage done to immigrant communities,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director of SEARAC. 

“Notwithstanding campaign promises to reform an immigration system that has seen millions of families fractured through detentions and deportations, it would be foolish and deceptive for the incoming Biden administration to retain the very draconian enforcement policies of the past as bargaining chips as they seek reform. The decoupling of immigration from national security will be an essential first step to a new way forward,” said Donald Anthonyson, Director, Families for Freedom.

“We are in a unique moment of opportunity for transformative change.  This change can only be achieved through an honest reckoning with the racist origins and impact of our punitive immigration enforcement system, and a radical rethinking of a system based on criminalizing immigrants. We are encouraged by the positive steps that the Biden immigration proposal takes in this direction, but there is a lot more work to do to repair the harms that have been done to our communities. We urge the Biden administration to take bold executive actions to ensure that relief is available to all and that nobody is excluded based on their contacts with the criminal legal system,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

“President Biden keeping his promise to the immigrant community will mean that millions of immigrants across the country will breathe easier, and it would signify a good first step towards transforming the immigration and criminal legal systems of this country. And we know the work cannot end here. We must abolish laws and policies that criminalize and surveil our Black and brown communities like SB4, fund our community wellness instead of our policing and punishment, immediately release people from immigration detention, and investigate DHS through the lens of those it has harmed the most,” said Claudia Muñoz, Co-Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership.

“Our communities require bold and imaginative solutions to the crises caused by mass incarceration and mass deportation. We hope the Biden administration will meet the calls to action for an end to surveillance, criminalization, deportations and incarceration of Black and brown communities.  Uprooting systemic racism embedded within our criminal legal and immigration systems is the first step towards healing and reconciliation,” said Paromita Shah, Executive Director, Just Futures Law.  

“For the past several decades, we have fought back as the U.S. invested massive resources to shut out migrants and surveil, police, imprison, and exile immigrants. Calls to abolish the Department of Homeland Security grew under the Trump presidency, which further exposed the cruelty of a system designed to create a hierarchy of belonging and perpetually punish people. The Biden administration’s commitment to building a ‘fair and humane’ system and to tackle push factors provides an opportunity: to address the U.S.’s own role in the instability that drives people to migrate. These past several years have highlighted that there is no other path but to truly grapple with the question of how to build a humane world where people have the resources, freedom, and ability to sustain healthy and vibrant communities. A critical step is to reverse the policies that define “safety” through more policing, walls, surveillance and punishment,” said Mizue Aizeki, Interim Executive Director, Immigrant Defense Project.


 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. 

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Arianna RosalesView all posts by Arianna Rosales