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New Hope for Path to Citizenship and Humane Immigration System

February 19, 2021

The Viatorian Community joins with the National Immigration Justice Center in welcoming the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which creates a path to citizenship for millions of people in the United States. It also abandons the failed framework of past immigration reform efforts which only offered access to legalization for some people as a tradeoff for ramping up detention and deportations against others. Unfortunately, this bill continues to place outsized reliance on the criminal legal system to steer decision making in our immigration system, which undermines efforts toward racial justice.

NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy issued a statement Thursday, responding to the bill’s introduction:

“This bill is a significant step toward rebuilding our country’s immigration system with a vision that offers hope and stability for millions of our community members who have waited for years for the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Importantly, it abandons the failed framework of past immigration reform efforts which only offered access to legalization for some people as a tradeoff for ramping up detention and deportations against others. This new approach makes important progress toward addressing the cruelty that permeates the U.S. immigration system. It has become all the more urgent as DHS continues to deport Black and Brown immigrants and turn away asylum seekers at the border.

“Unfortunately, this bill continues to place outsized reliance on the criminal legal system to steer decision making in our immigration system. The bill blocks some people from access to citizenship if they were convicted of a broad range of criminal offenses, fails to address harmful provisions of current law that deny immigrants access to judicial review of their detention, and fails to end harmful collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement that encourages racial profiling. Members of Congress need to understand that deportation and family separation will continue to cause harm to communities until we extract the immigration system from the criminal legal system.”

Recently, the Viatorian Provincial Council signed a letter drafted by the NIJC calling on the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to ensure that the 14,000 people in ICE detention are not left behind as they begin implementing new DHS enforcement priorities. In the letter, they further ask ICE to implement an affirmative file review of every person in ICE custody, utilizing a presumption of release, with a process for review and escalation.

Read more information here about how the NIJC is advocating the Biden administration reduce the harms of detention and deportation through crucial executive actions within the next 100 days.