The Immigrant Justice Network, along with a coalition of grassroots and national organizations, demands that Congress take legislative action to disentangle the criminal legal and immigration systems that propagate mass incarceration and mass deportation, paving a New Way Forward for immigrant justice.
The “New Way Forward Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Karen Bass (CA-37), marks an important step toward remedying injustices in the U.S. immigration system and securing the full human rights of all members of our communities. The New Way Forward Act rolls back harmful immigration laws that, for decades, have led to racial profiling and disproportionately resulted in the incarceration, deportation, and destruction of families of color and immigrant communities.
The New Way Forward Act would:
- Reduce mass incarceration by ending mandatory detention and banning for-profit immigration jails.
- Allow immigration judges to consider a person’s individual circumstances during deportation proceedings, allowing more people to remain with their families and move forward with their lives without fear that an old offense could lead to deportation.
- Allow independent federal judges to review certain decisions of immigration judges that the 1996 laws unfairly tried to remove from judicial oversight.
- End federal prison sentences and criminal prosecutions for people who cross the border seeking freedom, safety, opportunity, or to reunite with their families.
- Advance racial justice and address obstacles to equal justice in the criminal legal system by limiting deportation for drug convictions and other offenses that result from enforcement that disproportionately targets communities of color.
- Protect communities and local resources by ending the harmful practice of local police acting as deportation agents or carrying out mass deportations with ICE.
- Allow people previously ordered deported to apply for the opportunity to come home.
In the late 1990’s, the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) along with grassroots and national partners began a conversation about the mass incarceration of immigrants in the U.S., grounded in the values of justice, human dignity, and due process, the #Fix96 campaign was launched.
#Fix96 was a call to challenge the two immigration laws signed during the Clinton administration in 1996–the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). These laws further entrenched mass incarceration and laid the blueprint for the deportation machine we face today.
Although the #Fix96 campaign was supported by grassroots organizations across the country, elected officials on both sides continued to focus on exclusive immigration reform efforts and have failed to address the mass criminalization and enforcement enabled by the 1996 bills.
Now, with the New Way Forward Campaign, IJN continues to call for dismantling the systems that criminalize and incarcerate immigrants. In addition to the 1996 bills, we must also repeal harmful laws enacted decades earlier that criminalize migration and have led to a mass expansion in federal private prisons and enabled significant abuses, from “assembly-line” hearings of shackled people to Trump’s infamous family separation policy.