Biden’s First 100 Days Shows Some Promise on Immigration But We Demand Much More

(Washington)— As we mark the first 100 days of the Biden Harris Administration, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) sees some promising action taken on immigration, but we demand much more.  For example, the ILRC welcomes Biden’s executive order directing the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with privately-run prison operators as an important step in tackling mass incarceration in the US. However, the ILRC is disappointed that this order does not extend to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, since ICE uses private prisons much more than the Bureau of Prisons.  Similarly, this week the administration announced efforts to limit enforcement actions at courthouses but created several extremely broad exceptions that will allow this harmful practice to continue. Particularly problematic is a “public safety” exception that ICE continues to use as a narrative to portray immigrants as dangerous. 

While the administration has championed legislation to address the need for relief for immigrant communities, including a path to citizenship, this vision wrongly excludes some immigrants who have had contact with the criminal legal system or criminal convictions.  The ILRC urges the administration to sign the New Way Forward Act into law, a bill that would decriminalize immigration and address injustice and systemic racism in the US immigration system. 

Moreover, the administration has continued enforcement actions on Black communities and communities of color, resulting in the detention and deportation of individuals, many to Haiti, and the continued destruction of families and communities. We demand the administration end these practices now and instead work with our communities to reimagine solutions that promote healthy and thriving communities. In his address to a joint session of Congress, Biden spoke of moving forward on bold immigration policies. He must throw out the playbook of past administrations to fulfill that vision.  

We need more from the administration than a change in tone from the previous one. While Biden’s first few days started with the promise of real change on enforcement priorities, the administration has not lived up to its commitment to significantly reform immigration enforcement and continues to rely on a model that inflicts harsh double punishment on Black and Brown immigrant communities. Biden has let ICE water his plan down and expand their own agenda. Biden has not changed the framework of immigration outcomes relying on a criminal legal system that is fundamentally racist and unjust. And the administration has done little or nothing to engage directly with immigrant communities to repair the damage of the previous one. Nominating a Texas sheriff who has been critical of President Trump does not move us closer to abolishing ICE. And nominating a law enforcement official to run an administrative agency perpetuates the tired and xenophobic notion that immigration is a public safety issue.