BY JOSÉ ARNULFO CABRERA | May 21, 2021
When President Biden was elected as the 46th President of the United States, many of our partners created migration policy recommendations to send to the incoming Administration. Justice for Immigrants (JFI), a diverse group of Catholic organizations with national networks, created its own recommendations for the incoming Administration to make our country a more welcoming place, guided by our beliefs as Catholic organizations. The Transition Documents include four sections; Guaranteeing Just and Humane Border Policies, Ensuring Access to Lawful Status and Citizenship, Reforming Enforcement and Ending Mass Detention, and Addressing Root Causes of Migration from Central America. Now that the Biden Administration has completed 100 days in office, JFI has highlighted which immigration policies the Biden Administration has acted upon and has yet to do so regarding our recommendations.
While we are glad that many of our recommendations have been heard and acted upon by the Biden Administration, like rolling back the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), rescinding bans on migration from certain Muslim-majority countries, restoring longstanding public charge guidance, fortifying DACA, and more we there is still a lot of work ahead.
The Biden Administration has continued to allow Title 42 expulsions, which have permitted mass deportations and have sent individuals back to places they are fleeing. Title 42 is a part of U.S. health law. Section 265 of U.S. Code Title 42 states allows for expulsions when “there is serious danger of the introduction of [a communicable] disease into the United States.” DHS has used this to deny entry to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Biden’s 100th day in office, many immigration advocates pointed out that because of Title 42 expulsions, deportation has been continuing to rise and has disproportionately targeted Black immigrants.
While the Biden Administration fortified DACA, there is still a federal court case pending in Texas on the DACA program. In December of 2019, U.S. District Judge Hanen heard oral arguments on the legality of the DACA program. To this date, Judge Hanen has yet to rule on the case, and many advocates are worried about Judge Hanen’s ruling, given that he has in the past ruled against pro-immigration policies. At the same time, there are currently eight different bills in Congress that would create a pathway to citizenship for different undocumented communities—in the House, Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (H.R. 1909), Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R.1537), American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6), and U.S. Citizenship Act (H.R.1177), and in the Senate, Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (S.747), Dream Act (S.264), SECURE Act (S.306), and U.S. Citizenship Act (S.348). Of all of these bills only the U.S. Citizenship Act in both the House and Senate would create a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and address many problems with our broken immigration system. The House has already passed the American Dream and Promise Act, and Senate Democrats have been in negotiating talks with Senate Republicans regarding which bills the Senate could pass. Unfortunately, at the moment, there isn’t much movement in Congress on the U.S. Citizenship Acts.
There is still much work to be done. The Biden Administration must:
- end Title 42 and work to ensure that asylum seekers have speedy access to credible fear interviews by fully qualified personnel and are fully apprised of their rights under domestic and international law;
- expand community-based alternatives to detention;
- end mass deportations of individuals fleeing from dangerous conditions and those who are longstanding members of our communities
- develop a just and humane foreign policy strategy toward the northern countries of Central America; and
- continue to push Congress to work towards a pathway to citizenship.
JFI’s Reflecting on the First 100 Days of the Biden Administration highlights even more migration policy recommendations the Biden Administration must take to create a more welcoming country that treats all migrants with dignity and respect!
José Arnulfo Cabrera is the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. He is a 2018 graduate of Xavier University, a DACA recipient, and an immigration activist. He previously worked with the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he provided training on lobbying, organizing, and immigration policy, as well as shared his own immigration story, and as a government relations associate with NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice in Washington, D.C.