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NPNA Welcomes Day 1 Immigration Reform Bill, Administrative Reforms Also Needed

Washington DC – On the first day of the new administration, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which creates a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, including for DACA and TPS recipients and agricultural workers, strengthens family immigration, addresses roots causes of migration, expands access to asylum and refuge, and bolsters due process protections in immigration court. 

The bill includes provisions similar to the New Deal for New Americans Act (H.R. 4928; S. 3470), a bill championed by the National Partnership Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a national coalition of 41 immigrant and refugee rights organizations, as comprehensive immigration integration legislation. The Biden-Harris administration’s proposal includes New Deal-like provisions such as granting funding for community-based organizations that offer immigration legal services, English-language learning, and other programs to integrate and include immigrants. NPNA has advocated for the New Deal, arguing that it’s necessary given immigrant communities’ lack of access to citizenship, legal services, and workforce development and English-language learning programs. 

NPNA applauds the Biden/Harris administration for recognizing the urgency of fully including immigrants and refugees in the economic, social and cultural fabric of our society as we begin to rebuild our economy after the Covid-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on many immigrants, refugees, and communities of color.

“As our country works to heal after four years of a draconian approach to immigration and almost a year of pandemic-rooted socio-economic difficulties, our communities are ready for full immigrant inclusion,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA. “It’s a heartening start to a Biden administration that must live up to campaign rhetoric after the spectre of Obama-era policies that led to massive deportations. We applaud the administration for listening to community organizations and immigrant rights organizations in crafting legislation. Reversing the hundreds of disastrous administrative actions from the Trump administration must also take precedence as immigrant and refugee communities are reeling from the socio-economic effects of the pandemic.”

The Biden administration will take the reins of DHS at a time when urgent changes are needed to reform the federal immigration system. The NPNA network and other national immigrant rights organizations for years have pushed for legislative reforms, like the 2020 New Deal for New Americans Act, which would create a proactive and visionary national strategy on immigrant integration. Part of the legislation would create a National Office for New Americans within the Executive Office of the White House and lead a national strategy on immigrant and refugee inclusion, such as expanding access to citizenship, workforce development, English-language learning programs, and immigration legal services. The office would also coordinate among all federal agencies and state and local governments with a vision of full refugee inclusion. 

In addition to legislative remedies, NPNA has also called for urgent actions to reform the federal immigration system, many of which can be carried out administratively. DHS and its sub-agency USCIS could take immediate steps to expand access to citizenship, including reversing the Trump administration’s efforts to increase naturalization and immigration application fees and eliminate fee waivers; reducing the backlog of over 744,000 citizenship applications; streamlining the application process; and implementing voluntary, automatic voter registration for all newly naturalized citizens.