As Biden Promises Pathway to Citizenship for Millions of Immigrants
By Nelson A. King
NEW YORK, Feb. 22, CMC – New York immigrant rights advocates have welcomed the introduction of the bicameral United States Citizenship Act of 2021 that seeks to overhaul America’s immigration system.
Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke last Thursday joined California Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez and New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in introducing the Act.
The Act is in keeping with US President Joe Biden’s “bold, inclusive and humane” plan for the future of the United States immigration system, opening up a pathway to citizenship for millions of Caribbean and other immigrants.
Over the weekend, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 immigration groups in New York State, embraced the US Citizenship Act’s introduction, pledging to continue to work with the state’s Congressional delegation to strengthen the bill to meet the needs of immigrant New Yorkers and to swiftly pass it into law.
Murad Awawdeh and Rovika Rajkishun, NYIC’s interim co-executive directors, said that Biden’s Citizenship Act is “a vital first step in creating opportunity, security and stability for hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers, who live, work and contribute to America with few protections.
“While we applaud President Biden and our leaders in Congress for introducing this expansive and visionary piece of legislation, we demand and deserve a permanent solution that serves all of us, and leaves no one behind,” they, however, added.
“We will continue to work to ensure that any bill delivers real racial justice for all, especially Black immigrants, who have been harmed by the racist criminal legal and immigration systems,” Awawdeh and Rajkishun added. “The US Citizenship Act is a powerful testament to decades of fierce advocacy.
“By marshalling the power of our communities, we will finally transform our immigration system,” they continued. “We are committed to fighting for the boldest and most expansive immigration reform that does not leave anyone behind.
“The New York Immigration Coalition will ensure that every single member of Congress in New York, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leading the way, fights to ensure its passage,” Awawdeh and Rajkishun said. “Today, the real work begins.”
As the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, said she is “uniquely familiar with the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
“As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, I have seen the glaring inequities, blatant racism, vicious xenophobia, and civil rights violations immigrants face, particularly in immigrant communities of African descent,” she said. “Our immigration system is broken, and I will not relent until our immigration system reflects a modern and equitable approach to this issue.
“Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough,” Clarke added. “We must reimagine the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and fair.
“This bill is the Biden-Harris administration’s vision to fix our immigration system once and for all,” Clarke continued. “The time has come for the values of our nation to be reflected in our immigration policies. I am proud to co-lead this paramount legislation.”
The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants a pathway to earned citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients and “essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic.”
The measure would also prioritize family reunification, keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth.
Additionally, the legislation would also equip the country to “responsibly and effectively manage the border with smart and effective investments”; address root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America; and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.
“I am deeply proud to introduce the US Citizenship Act in the House of Representative today, a vision that provides long-overdue permanent protections, and restores humanity and American values to our immigration system,” said Congresswoman Sánchez, who presents California’s 38th District.
“I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico; this is personal to me,” she said. “I have dedicated my career to building an immigration system that lets people live without fear, and a system that gives immigrants – like my parents – who sought a better life and contribute to our nation a fair opportunity to thrive.
“After all, immigration reform isn’t just about policy changes and politics-as-usual; it’s about people: our loved ones, friends, and neighbors who have been living in our communities and contributing to our country for decades,” Sánchez added. “They deserve real relief.
“With President Biden’s leadership and vision, Democratic majorities in both Chambers, and the support of the majority of Americans, this is our moment to finally deliver big, bold, and inclusive immigration reform that our nation and its people deserve,” she continued.
Menendez said: “As the son of Cuban immigrants who fled an oppressive regime for a better life in the United States, I have dedicated much of my career in Congress, both in the House and the Senate, fighting for the dignity of immigrant families in New Jersey and all across America.
“Immigrants contribute greatly to our country and society; they own businesses, pay taxes and teach our children,” he said. “They are our coworkers, neighbors and friends. “We have an historic opportunity to finally enact bold immigration reform that leaves no one behind, addresses root causes of migration and safeguards our country’s national security. We have a moral and economic imperative to get this done once and for all.”
Clarke said the US Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes “a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive.”
She said it creates an “earned roadmap” to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders and some farmworkers with “an expedited three-year path to citizenship”, and giving all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with “an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.”
The congresswoman said the Act reforms family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration.
The Act also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows and children, and allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the US on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available, Clarke said.
Additionally, she said the Act, among other things, “grows our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from US universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system.”