February 18, 2021
U.S. Citizenship Act Makes Strides for Pathway to Citizenship, Family Immigration
Asian Americans Advancing Justice welcomes immigration bill as a start to a more inclusive immigration system
Nationwide – Congresswoman Linda Sanchez introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act, President Biden’s immigration proposal that would offer 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. a path to citizenship with a faster path for DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status holders. Senator Menendez plans to introduce the same legislation on Monday in the Senate. Among other provisions, the bill also includes Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Reuniting Families Act and her No Ban Act, two pieces of priority legislation for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, issues the following statement:
“Tireless advocacy from organizers and communities across the country has led to the inclusion of key measures that will start the process of truly transforming our deeply flawed immigration system. Asian Americans Advancing Justice commends the President and Congressional leaders in their fulfillment of a campaign promise to offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, and TPS holders that includes 15,000 people from Nepal. Yet several key aspects of the bill fall significantly short of the long-term promise to undo harms levied against immigrants and transform our immigration system.
We celebrate the inclusion of Congresswoman Chu’s Reuniting Families Act and the No Ban Act in today’s legislation. The No Ban Act would restrict the executive power to enact future discriminatory bans such as the Muslim and African Bans and prohibit religious discrimination in our immigration laws. The Reuniting Families Act would start to clear the family-based and employment-based backlogs, providing relief to separated families and Indian families stuck in temporary nonimmigrant visa status. The bill also includes LGBTQ equality provisions in our immigration laws, repeals the harsh three and 10-year and permanent bars to inadmissibility and other relief for immigrant communities. It would also expand the diversity visa program, a main pathway for immigrants from Africa.
While these provisions would positively impact many Asian American and Arab Middle Eastern Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) community members, the bill includes harmful provisions as well. Specifically, the bill includes new additional criminal grounds of inadmissibility which will further punish vulnerable members of our communities. Immigrants with criminal convictions have already suffered cruelty and racial targeting in our justice system; they should not be doubly punished. The provisions originally in the Reuniting Families Act provided vital protections through waivers, but those presented in this bill fall short and exclude some community members. This comes at a time when large numbers of Southeast Asian refugees continue to be ripped from their communities and deported, often to countries they have never known and mass prosecutions of Asian American and immigrant scholars for espionage-related and large numbers of Asian American and immigrant researchers and scholars are being profiled, targeted and prosecuted for espionage and related crimes when they are not spies.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to strive to build support in Congress and among the public for truly transformative change in our immigration system including for those with criminal convictions.”