Groundbreaking #NewWayForward Act challenges racial profiling, mass incarceration in immigration system

For immediate release: Dec. 10, 2019
Contact: Arianna Rosales,, (408) 398-5140

Groundbreaking #NewWayForward Act challenges racial profiling, mass incarceration in immigration system

Immigrants facing deportation, civil rights groups praise bill to ease injustice of discriminatory laws which have criminalized immigrants, separated families

Washington, D.C. - Immigrant rights advocates hailed the introduction today of the New Way Forward Act, unveiled at a press conference with Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Judy Chu (CA-27), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Sylvia García (TX-29).

The “New Way Forward Act” would roll back harmful immigration laws that have led to racial profiling and disproportionately resulted in the incarceration, deportation, and destruction of families of color and immigrant communities.

At the press conference, immigrant leaders Alejandra Cano, Saray Phin, Alejandra Pablos, and Donald Anthonyson, who currently face or have faced detention and deportation, shared powerful testimony about the need for a #NewWayForward on immigration policy. 

A broad coalition of immigrant, civil rights, and criminal justice reform organizations praised the bill’s introduction. The following are statements from organizational leaders:

“For too long, our communities have experienced the devastation of mass criminalization and mass deportation,” said Julie Mao, Deputy Director at Just Futures Law. “New Way Forward is a powerful step towards ending those policies.”

“For far too long, policymakers have allowed a divisive discourse to poison proposals on reforming our immigration system based on a false dichotomy of the so-called good and bad immigrant. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a member of the Immigrant Justice Network, stands proudly with Rep. Garcia and the other champions of the New Way Forward Act to define a new way forward that recognizes the humanity of all members of our communities and acknowledges racial disparities in the over-policing and prosecution of Black communities and communities of color and how it impacts our immigration and criminal legal systems,” said Sameera Hafiz, policy director at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

“We are proud to stand alongside leaders in Congress and allies at this critical moment for movements fighting for human rights and against the criminalization and imprisonment of Black people and other communities of color. New Way Forward is a critical step towards repairing the decades of devastation wrought by racially-biased policies that entangled the criminal legal system with the immigration system. The crisis of mass prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation, calls out for strong action - and a vision for a better world,” said Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project.

“For over two decades, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Southeast Asian American communities and tore our families apart. And now, our country’s outdated and unjust immigration laws are being used by this Administration to deport our communities at an unprecedented level. Our country and our communities deserve a new vision of justice and equity inclusive of all immigrant and refugee communities, one that restores dignity and due process to all and provides individuals that our country unjustly removed an opportunity to come home and be reunited with their families. The New Way Forward Act is a milestone bill for our communities, and SEARAC is excited to continue working with Congress to help advance this bill,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director at Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

“The New Way Forward Act makes huge strides on immigration; from a cruel system that incarcerates and deports immigrants to one that welcomes all immigrants, regardless of convictions, and repealing decades of policies meant to racially profile and lock our communities up. We are proud to endorse the bill because it directly reflects UWD’s values of helping people without hurting people, and ensuring people are #FreeToMove and #FreeToStay,” said Sanaa Abrar, advocacy director at United We Dream

"This bill is a critical step in dismantling the criminal-immigration systems that have destroyed lives, decimated communities and unlawfully deprived hundreds of thousands of individuals of their rights," said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of NIPNLG

“For decades, immigration lawyers at the National Immigrant Justice Center have witnessed how the U.S. immigration system’s obsession with incarceration and punishment puts lives in danger, breaks up families and communities, and violates basic norms of due process that should be the foundation of our justice system. We are grateful to Rep. Garcia and the other members of Congress who are working to correct these wrongs. Today’s introduction of the New Way Forward Act is an important step toward creating a more just immigration system,” said Heidi Altman, policy director at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

"With New Way Forward, we have an opportunity to finally address some of the deep inequities embedded in our immigration and criminal legal systems that unjustly target, lock up and deport communities of color. We are long overdue in repealing some of the most blatantly racialized aspects of our immigration laws, and New Way Forward is a welcome chance to bring more due process and humanity to our immigration system and limit the number of people forced into a massive detention and deportation pipeline. We are grateful to our leaders in Congress and to directly impacted communities who have fought for this important legislation," said Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center.

“The New Way Forward Act will lead to a dramatic and large scale reform of our existing punitive immigration enforcement system. This bill will restore the fundamental principles of due process and compassion to a deeply imbalanced immigration process. The Act corrects injustices embedded in our immigration laws, many of which have enabled the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane assaults on noncitizens in our country and at the border,” said Madhuri Grewal, ACLU federal immigration policy counsel.

"As a holistic, public defender office working in one of the most impoverished congressional districts in the United States, we directly combat the devastating collateral consequences of policing and criminalization of poor Black and brown communities every day," said Sarah Deri-Oshiro, Managing Director of the Immigration Practice at The Bronx Defenders.  "As part of the New York Immigrant Unity Project, the first-of-its-kind universal representation program for detained immigrants in deportation proceedings, we see every day how unjust, racist immigration laws doubly criminalize and indefinitely incarcerate immigrants. New Way Forward is critical legislation to end the long-time criminalization, incarceration, and family separation that has occurred in immigrant communities for over two decades."  

Background: The introduction of the New Way Forward Act comes amid mounting criticism over injustices deeply embedded in U.S. immigration laws. Many of these stem from harsh laws passed in 1996 which drove mass incarceration and mass deportation of people of color.  These laws tied the immigration system to the flawed criminal legal system, which suffers from racial bias and significant obstacles to equal justice. The New Way Forward Act also takes aim at a harsh law originally passed by a white supremacist legislator in the 1920s which in recent decades has enabled abuses, from “assembly-line” hearings of shackled people, to Trump’s infamous tearing of children from parents at the border. This cruel law now accounts for more than half of all federal prosecutions

The New Way Forward Act would reduce mass incarceration by ending mandatory detention and banning for-profit immigration jails and by ending federal prison sentences for people who cross the border seeking freedom, safety, opportunity, or to reunite with their families. It would advance racial justice by limiting deportation for drug convictions and others that result from enforcement that disproportionately targets communities of color. The bill would 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 conviction could lead to deportation. The legislation further strengthens fairness by allowing independent federal judges to review certain decisions of immigration judges that the 1996 laws unfairly tried to remove from judicial oversight.

Other key provisions include protecting communities by ending the harmful practice of local police acting as deportation agents or carrying out mass deportations with ICE and allowing people previously ordered deported the opportunity to come home. Reps. García, Pressley, Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Karen Bass (CA-37) are original cosponsors of the bill.