For four years the United States’ (U.S.) immigrant community endured inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric and dehumanizing policies by the Trump administration. These policies wreaked havoc on and caused harm to undocumented individuals and families for generations to come. Now under the Biden administration, we are already seeing President Biden taking steps to undo some of the most egregious harms towards immigrants. However, more policy reform is needed to ensure undocumented individuals’ and families’ rights are protected and enforced in our legal system.
On February 10th, 2020, NYLAG held a live discussion analyzing major immigration policies on deportations, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and more. You can view the pre-recorded video and read our five-point immigration policy agenda for the Biden Administration below.
NYLAG's Five-Point Immigration Policy Agenda for the biden administration
President Biden issued an Executive Order his first day in office to halt deportations for 100 days which was disappointingly challenged in court. That same memo outlined priorities for arrests and deportations and strongly messaged that most immigrants should not be subjected to these harsh enforcement tactics; however, ICE continues to deport people without heeding the order. Allowing these deportations to proceed perpetuates the racial violence and anti-immigrant mission the Trump administration, when ICE is supposed to be non-partisan. President Biden has issued guidance on ending federal contracts with private prisons; we urge him to issue similar or even more direct orders to eliminate ICE contracts with state and private prisons.
We urge President Biden to greatly reduce and limit ICE. ICE officers and management have shown their unwillingness to comply with orders from President Biden, which is unacceptable. They have become an increasingly rogue agency with little to no accountability. Abuse and crimes committed by ICE officials should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We, at NYLAG, demand a separate oversight agency designed to prevent further abuse and monitor ICE’s behavior and adherence to the law.
Seeking asylum is not a crime. Under President Trump, he and his administration vilified asylum seekers and made the experience of seeking asylum a more difficult, more inhumane inexperience. President Biden has a chance to improve the U.S. immigration system to better support those children, families, and individuals fleeing violence and persecution, and seeking safety in the U.S. We urge the Biden administration and his newly appointed task force on this issue to redesign asylum policies to respond to current realities and to reverse the illegal and unconstitutional attacks on Asylum Law perpetrated by the Trump administration.
Firstly, practical policies should be placed to protect children and families currently seeking asylum and who may come to the U.S. in the future for refuge. The U.S. has the resources to bring all asylum seekers into the country and place them in communities while they petition for legal relief under asylum protections. Additionally, the U.S. has the capacity, and legal commitment to resettle refugees and we have sadly failed in that international obligation over the past four years. Our Refugee Resettlement agencies that have assisted immigrants and refugees for more than a century have been unfunded and without work for much of the last four years. The Biden Administration can and should restore their funding and allow them to assist the refugees at our borders. Also, the Biden administration should end the Remain in Mexico program and allow those families the support of our Refugee Resettlement Agencies. For more on this policy, click here.
Secondly, we advise Biden and the newly appointed task force to review the policies and practices put in place by the previous administration and find a more humane path that honors our international commitments and allows vulnerable people to exercise a legal right to seek asylum. We must end the harmful and illegal Remain in Mexico policies.
The Immigration Courts are overwhelmed and made to do too much. The Trump administration weaponized the bureaucratic burden to deny immigrants’ rights and due process and fed undocumented immigrants into the detention and deportation machine. This must stop. Immigration Courts must be made into independent Article I courts and they must be given tools to drastically reduce their caseloads, to terminate removal proceedings, and to re-prioritize cases to more humanely and reasonably enforce immigration laws.
USCIS (and its former iteration Immigration and Nationality Services) have operated as a benefits granting agency for more than 80 years. Its mission and purpose were perverted by the Trump administration and USCIS became another anti-immigrant enforcement agency. The Biden administration will have a lot of work to do to re-establish trust and faith in our laws and our systems. A large piece of that regarding immigration will be reforming USCIS to be a welcoming, non-political agency. To start, the USCIS’ customer service must be properly resourced and publicized. The USCIS’ Ombudsman also needs to be revived as an oversight body staffed with people who can liaise with immigrant communities, legal advocates, and elected officials. USCIS must be insulated from political maneuvering and prevented from harming immigrants due to bureaucratic inefficiency and confusion.