People First Immigration

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Putting People First

One of my strongest memories of my grandmother is the way she would tell my twin brother, Joaquin, and me about how she came to this country as a child after being separated from her dying mother. Even as a seventy-year-old woman, when she recounted those moments, she would cry like the seven-year-old girl she was when it happened, sobbing that she never got to say goodbye. I see her image in the children at our borders today.

Today, the photos and videos of immigrant children crying for their parents haunt our collective conscience. Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy is responsible for children as young as infants being taken away from their parents, caged, and even “lost” in the foster care system. In federal detention, several immigrant children whose parents have presented their families for the sanctuary of asylum have even died. We are heartbroken. We are outraged.

It’s time for an immigration policy that puts people first.

This moment demands that of us. And in order to meet the challenge, we must not only expand our political will, but also our moral imagination. We must remember what immigration means to our national identity, and who we want to be as a country.

1

Reforming our Immigration System

  • Establish an inclusive roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals and families who do not have a current pathway to legal status, but who live, work, and raise families in communities throughout the United States.
  • Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and those under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, through the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, and defend and expand DACA, TPS, and DED protections, and re-institute the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program during the legislative process.
  • Revamp the visa system and strengthen family reunification through the Reuniting Families Act, reducing the number of people who are waiting to reunite with their families but are stuck in the bureaucratic backlog.
  • Eliminate the backlog of 4.4 million people waiting for visas to reunite with their families.
  • Recaptures immigrant visas lost to bureaucratic delay since 1992 and rolls over future unused visas to the following year.
  • Allow spouses and minor children of permanent residents to immediately reunite with their families in the United States.
  • Eliminate per-country limits for all visas, ending the decades-long wait time for citizens of certain countries to immigrate to the United States.
  • Provide relief to orphans and widows, allowing them to continue to wait in line after the death of a sponsoring relative.
  • Allow for equal treatment of all stepchildren under the visa system.
  • Reduce wait-times for certain children of veterans from the Philippines that fought in World War II.
  • Eliminate discrimination for LGBT families in bi-national same-sex relationships under the visa system.
  • Terminate the three and ten year bars, which require undocumented individuals—who otherwise qualify for legal status—to leave the United States and their families behind for years before becoming citizens.
  • Rescind Trump’s discriminatory Muslim and Refugee Ban, other harmful immigration-related executive orders, racial profiling of minority communities, and expanded use of denaturalization as a frequently used course of action through the USCIS Denaturalization Task Force.
  • Increase refugee admissions, reversing cuts under Trump, and restoring our nation to its historic position as a moral leader providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, violence, disaster, and despair. Adapt these programs to account for new global challenges like climate change.
  • End agreements under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other such agreements between federal immigration enforcement agencies and state and local entities that erode trust between communities and local police and end ICE detainers.
  • Allow all deported veterans who honorably served in the armed forces of the United States to return to the United States and end the practice of deporting such veterans.
  • Strengthen labor protections for guest workers and end exploitative practices which hurt residents and guest workers, provide work authorization to spouses of participating individuals, and ensure guest workers have a fair opportunity to become residents and citizens through the Agricultural Worker Program Act.
  • Protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, ensuring these individuals are not subject to detention, deportation, or legal reprisal following their reporting these incidents.

2

Creating a Humane Border Policy

  • Repeal Section 1325 of Immigration and Nationality Act, which applies a criminal, rather than civil, violation to people apprehended when entering the United States. This provision has allowed for separation of children and families at our border, the large scale detention of tens of thousands of families, and has deterred migrants from turning themselves in to an immigration official within our borders. The widespread detention of these individuals and families at our border has overburdened our justice system, been ineffective at deterring migration, and has cost our government billions of dollars.
  • Effectively end the use of detention in conducting immigration enforcement, except in serious cases. Utilize cost-effective and more humane alternatives to detention, which draw on the successes of prior efforts like the Family Case Management Program. Ensure all individuals have access to a bond hearing and that vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women, and members of the LGBTQ community are not placed in civil detention.
  • Eliminate the for-profit immigration detention and prison industry, which monetizes the detention of migrants and children.
  • End immigration enforcement raids at or near sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals, churches, and courthouses.
  • Reconstitute the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) by splitting the agency in half and re-assigning enforcement functions within the Enforcement and Removal Operations to other agencies, including the Department of Justice. There must be a thorough investigation of ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Justice’s role in family separation policies instituted by the Trump administration.
  • Reprioritize Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to focus its efforts on border-related activities including drug and human trafficking, rather than law enforcement activities in the interior of the United States. Extend Department of Justice civil rights jurisdiction to CBP, and adopt best practices employed in law enforcement, including body-worn cameras and strong accountability policies.
  • End wasteful, ineffective and invasive border wall construction and consult with border communities about repairing environmental and other damage already done. Properly equip our ports of entry, investing in infrastructure, staff, and technology to process claims and prevent human and drug trafficking.
  • End asylum “metering” and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, ensuring all asylum seekers are able to present their claims to U.S. officials.
  • Create a well-resourced and independent immigration court system under Article 1 of the Constitution, outside the Department of Justice, to increase the hiring and retention of independent judges to adjudicate immigration claims faster.
  • Increase access to legal assistance for individuals and families presenting asylum claims, ensuring individuals understand their rights and are able to make an informed and accurate request for asylum. Guarantee counsel for all children in the immigration enforcement system.
  • Protect victims of domestic and gang violence, by reversing guidance by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that prohibited asylum claims on the basis of credible fear stemming from domestic or gang violence.

3

Establishing a 21st Century ‘Marshall Plan’ for Central America

  • Prioritize high-level diplomacy with our neighbors in Latin America, a region where challenges in governance and economic development have consequences to migration to the United States, U.S. economic growth, and regional instability.
  • Ensure higher standards of governance, transparency, rule-of-law, and anti-corruption practice as the heart of U.S. engagement with Central America, rejecting the idea that regional stability requires overlooking authoritarian actions.
  • Enlist all actors in Central America to be part of the solution by restoring U.S. credibility on corruption and transparency and encouraging private sector, civil society, and local governments to work together – rather than at cross purposes – to build sustainable, equitable societies.
  • Bolster economic development, superior labor rights, and environmentally sustainable jobs, allowing individuals to build a life in their communities rather than make a dangerous journey leaving their homes.
  • Ensure regional partners are part of the solution by working with countries in the Western Hemisphere to channel resources to address development challenges in Central America, including through a newly constituted multilateral development fund focused on sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Central America.
  • Target illicit networks and transnational criminal organizations through law enforcement actions and sanctions mechanisms to eliminate their ability to raise revenue from illegal activities like human and drug trafficking and public corruption.
  • Re-establish the Central American Minors program, which allows individuals in the United States to petition for their minor children residing in Central America to apply for resettlement in the U.S. while their applications are pending.
  • Increase funding for bottom-up development and violence prevention programs, including the Inter-American Foundation, to spur initiatives that prevent violence at the local level, support public health and nutrition, and partner with the private sector to create jobs.