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On Inauguration Day, Immigrant Rights Advocates Are Ready for Reform

WASHINGTON –  As we celebrate a peaceful transition of power after weeks of unrest, the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) network extends its sincerest congratulations to soon-to-be President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The inauguration of Harris, in particular, as a Black woman and a first-generation new American of Jamaican and Southeast Asian heritage, is a significant moment in American history. Her story is the story of the American Dream and shatters the glass ceiling for so many women of color across the country as she becomes our first woman Vice President and first Vice President of color.

“After four years of vicious attacks on immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers under the Trump administration, and with New American Voters contributing to the record voter turnout among people of color, we’re ready for full immigrant inclusion under the Biden-Harris administration,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA. “We are excited for what we hope will be an affirmative, aspirational, and solution-focused vision under this new national leadership.”

As the nation continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and look towards recovery, the inclusion and integration of immigrant communities are more critical than ever to our country’s health and prosperity. Election 2020 exit polls demonstrate that a large majority of Americans support immigration reform and reject the Trump administration’s most vile policies. Despite four years of federal mismanagement and malice, new Americans’ dreams are undeterred as they move forward with optimism for this next chapter. 

“As a naturalized citizen, I am proud to have participated in the historic 2020 election, as well as in the efforts to turn out Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other immigrant communities to cast their vote – many for the first time. New American voters and immigrants across the country were critical to the outcome of the election – we naturalized, organized, and voted. Now, we’re ready for real change. We’re ready to build a pathway to permanent lawful status for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, recover from this pandemic, create a National Office of New Americans, and finally achieve full inclusion for all,” stated Inhe Choi, executive director of HANA Center, NAKASEC affiliate, and NPNA Board Member.

The Biden administration assumes power at a moment when significant actions are needed to reform the federal immigration system. The NPNA network and other national immigrant rights organizations have been advocating for changes that would allow the Biden administration to turn the page and present an aspirational approach to how the federal government treats immigrants and refugees. This includes the passage of the New Deal for New Americans Act (H.R. 4928; S. 3470), which provides a proactive, visionary national strategy on immigrant integration, including the  creation of a National Office for New Americans.

In addition to legislative reforms, NPNA has also called for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to 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. 

NPNA has also consistently called on the federal government to allocate funding for legal services that would allow immigrant rights groups and other legal services providers to implement any administrative or legislative reforms that provide a path to permanent residency and citizenship, and/or protections against enforcement and removal, arguing that it is necessary given the current lack of access to counsel.

“After four years of sustained attacks on our immigrant and refugee communities, we can breathe a sigh of relief as we enter this new chapter of hope under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. NPNA is thrilled to see the Biden administration make the wellbeing of immigrants and refugees a day one priority. While we celebrate the progress expected today and in their first 100 days, we are also mindful that there is much work to be done,” said Eva Millona, CEO of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and co-chair of NPNA’s Board of Directors. “The Trump administration made more than 400 immigration policy changes, and our immigration system was dysfunctional long before President Trump took office. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Biden administration to ensure that immigration reform remains a top priority.”  

“Getting the Biden-Harris administration into the White House shows how eager the nation was to return to its values,” said Gustavo Torres, CASA executive director. “We know that we hold the power in our hands, and that’s why we mobilized, organized, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Now, it is time for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that call this country home to receive the recognition they deserve as frontline workers and pillars of this society: citizenship and relief from this pandemic have been well-earned.”