Washington, DC— Today, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Greg Casar (TX-35) reintroduced the New Way Forward Act, a crucial piece of legislation that takes major policy steps toward removing racism entrenched in U.S. immigration laws.
The New Way Forward Act recognizes that this country’s draconian and dehumanizing immigration policies are rooted in harsh immigration laws, which have for decades led to the targeting, jailing, deportation, and destruction of communities of color.
The bill’s introduction also comes in the context of the devastating tragedy yesterday which killed at least 38 migrants in a detention center in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Under the Biden Administration, the number of people incarcerated in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody reached as high as 30,000, and the agency is funded to detain up to 34,000 people. The administration has apprehended, deported, and expelled millions of people in the last three years, causing irreparable harm to those people, their families, and communities across this country. Meanwhile, programs like Texas’s Operation Lone Star have resulted in human rights abuses and even death for immigrants in areas where local law enforcement continues to act as enforcers of federal immigration law.
The New Way Forward Act legislation is a critical reimagining of our immigration system rooted in compassion, fairness, and humanity. The legislation takes key steps to separate U.S. immigration laws from the excesses and racist outcomes of the criminal legal system by repealing harsh and outdated 1996 immigration laws, and disentangling local police from federal immigration.
At a press conference this afternoon, community leaders Abraham Paulos, Deputy Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration; Robert Panton, a client of the National Immigrant Justice Center facing deportation; Ilse Mendez of the Laredo Immigrant Alliance, Phal Sok, formerly incarcerated community organizer and educator who received a gubernatorial pardon, and Karim Golding, fellow at Freedom to Thrive, joined Reps Garcia and Casar to share personal testimony about the need for a #NewWayForward on immigration policy. Speaker biographies are available here.
Among other provisions, the New Way Forward Act:
- Limits the criminal legal system to deportation pipeline
- Ends mandatory detention and for-profit detention
- Ends entanglement between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement
- Ends criminal prosecution of migration
- Provides people who have been deported the opportunity to apply to return home
- Restores due process protections and judicial discretion, so that immigration judges are no longer forced to deport people automatically without considering individual circumstances
- Implements a five-year statute of limitations for removal, so community members can move forward with their lives without fear that an old sentence could lead to deportation years later
- Creates a community-based support program outside of ICE to provide immigrants with access to social services, medical and mental health services, and other critical resources
A broad coalition of immigrant, civil rights, and criminal justice reform organizations praised the bill’s introduction. The following are statements from organizational leaders:
“Our current immigration laws are unjust and disproportionately harm communities of color, including Southeast Asian American communities. Exile is prohibited as a cruel and unusual punishment in our criminal legal system. And yet that is the fate that many of our community members face, even after they have served their sentences and have rebuilt their lives in the U.S. Many of our community members who fled from war and genocide now face deportation to the very countries they were forced to flee. By contrast, the New Way Forward Act would address systemic racism in our institutions and recognize the moral call to keep families together. We thank Reps. Garcia, Pressley, and Casar for recognizing that we need new ideas and new laws that acknowledge the humanity of our community members, and that we must continue to fight with them for a just immigration system.” - Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent civil rights organizations: Advancing Justice | AAJC (Washington, DC), Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice - Southern California, Advancing Justice - Atlanta, and Advancing Justice - Chicago
“Current immigration laws are rooted in racism and anti-Blackness. 76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of over-policing and racial profiling in Black communities. The New Way Forward Act is a policy that rolls back harmful immigration laws that for decades have led to racial profiling and disproportionately resulted in the incarceration, deportation, and destruction of Black families and immigrant communities.”
- Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration
"From mandatory detention laws to 287(g) agreements to the criminal prosecution of migration, our cruel and racist immigration laws have long been written to punish immigrants at every turn, deliberately criminalize Black and brown people, and expand the mass incarceration system. Our immigration system should uphold values of justice, freedom, and opportunity for individuals, families, and communities. Such a system cannot rely on any form of immigration detention and must be entirely disentangled from the criminal legal system. The New Way Forward Act takes bold, transformative steps toward this ultimate goal. The broad grassroots support for the bill is proof that this is what our communities are demanding. It is time for Congress to listen.”
- Hillary Li, Policy Counsel at Detention Watch Network
“Our immigration laws function to expand and entrench the racist criminal legal and incarceration systems, unfairly criminalizing Black and brown immigrants. Under these policies, many face unjust double punishment — particularly Black immigrants, who then face disproportionate levels of abuse and racism in immigration detention. The New Way Forward Act would be a crucial step in the right direction as we work to right these wrongs and build an immigration system rooted in our values of fairness, dignity, and freedom.”
- Andrea Carcamo, Policy Director with Freedom for Immigrants
"The New Way Forward Act is a clarion call for challenging the pervasive racism and anti-Blackness embedded in U.S. immigration laws. As communities across the country continue to organize against criminalization, detention and deportation, we applaud Representatives Garcia, Pressley, and Casar for reintroducing this vital bill. New Way Forward would take bold steps to ensure immigration laws reflect our values of fairness, dignity, and humanity."
- Jon Rodney, Narrative Strategy Director, Immigrant Defense Project
“The New Way Forward Act will address the harms caused by mass detention and deportation policies that have separated millions of immigrant families for decades. This important legislation will pave the way to create an immigration system grounded in dignity, restoration, and repair. The bold vision of New Way Forward has resonated across the country and more than 300 immigration and criminal justice organizations have endorsed the bill. We thank Rep. Garcia, Rep. Pressley, and Rep. Casar for their leadership.”
- Oliver Merino, Coordinator at Immigrant Justice Network
“It’s time for Congress to finally confront the systemic racism embedded in our immigration system and the New Way Forward Act will be a powerful step toward this. The bill would overhaul an immigration system that relies on mass detention, criminalization and deportation. Immigrant families continue to be separated. We call on Congress to stop using the same tactics and commit to passing laws that uphold our values of compassion, fairness and respect for all.”
- Nithya Nathan-Pineau, Policy Attorney & Strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center
“The New Way Forward Act is a critical step towards addressing some of the deep-rooted inequities in our immigration system that have harmed communities and deprived so many people of their rights for decades. The National Immigration Project is proud to stand alongside leaders in Congress and allies across the nation as we fight to create an immigration system that is rooted in our fundamental principles of compassion and justice.”
- Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
“The New Way Forward legislation gives us a pathway to follow for a better immigration system. This bill goes a long way in undoing the racism written into our immigration laws and replaces it with humanity. The critical provisions included will decriminalize migration and reunite families that were separated through a decades-long policy of mass deportation and suffering.”
- Paromita Shah, Executive Director of Just Futures Law
“The U.S. immigration system fails to see me as a person, a father, or a community member, or to acknowledge anything positive I have done in my life in the more than 30 years since I made a mistake that resulted in a conviction. Everybody makes mistakes, and after we serve our debt to society we should be given the grace and forgiveness to rebuild our lives. The New Way Forward Act ends the pipeline between the criminal legal system and the deportation system, and puts limits on ICE’s ability to deport someone based on a conviction that happened long ago. It makes sure others do not suffer this same unfair double punishment. It gives us a chance.”
- Robert Panton, a father, advocate, and youth mentor fighting deportation after serving 30 years incarceration for a drug conviction, client of National Immigrant Justice Center
“Overhauling our country’s inhumane and racist immigration policies is long overdue. In spite of the Southeast Asian American (SEAA) community’s arrival to America as refugees escaping war, violence, and persecution, SEAAs have only been further targeted for unjust deportations, even after they have completed their sentences. We must reject how our current laws harm generations of families and their communities, and instead, restore due process for immigrants of color and for all people. The New Way Forward Act would transform our immigration system toward compassion and humanity. SEARAC thanks Reps. Garcia, Pressley, and Casar for reintroducing this critical legislation, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure its success.”
- Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)