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IMMIGRATION: The first 100 days of Biden’s administration

By Pedro Ríos, Director of the AFSC’s U.S./Mexico Border Program  |  Issue: February 2021
Friendship Park
Once a year family from both sides of the border would get to visit each other in Friendship Park.
Photo: Pedro Ríos

Joe Biden recently stated that in his first 100 days as president he will prioritize immigration by sending a bill to the U.S. Senate. This is an important commitment given that the Trump administration had decimated the asylum process and closed off immigration opportunities for thousands of migrants. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations, has put forward a Framework listing priority recommendations for “Welcoming and Supporting Migrants, Immigrants, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees.” The framework addresses complex issues related to immigration policy, but of special interest are the calls for reforming border security, interior enforcement, and detention. These are well worth the President-elect’s attention.

Beginning with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), recommendations include centering human and civil rights of migrants and border communities. It notes that militarization of border communities has taken place for more than 30 years and has included border wall infrastructure and militaristic projects that have devalued the quality of life of border community members. The Framework calls for reversing the damage border walls have caused to Indigenous communities and to sensitive ecosystems. Supporting this call is the recommendation to stop all border wall contracts on the first day of Biden’s administration. In addition to this, the call to demilitarize border communities includes a recommendation to remove internal Border Patrol checkpoints and end the deployment of National Guard and Department of Defense personnel.

militarization welcome the migrant caravans
Reinforced militarization was the welcome to the migrant caravans from Central America.
San Ysidro, California / Tijuana Baja California.
Photo: Pedro Ríos

On interior enforcement, the Framework calls for opposing laws and policies that allow collaboration to take place between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It also recommends placing a moratorium on deportations, protecting sensitive locations from immigration enforcement, and stopping mass deportations. While not a part of the Framework, the American Friends Service Committee has called for abolishing ICE. In San Diego since 2003, ICE has repeatedly terrorized working families with indiscriminate operations and documented civil and human rights abuses.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition framework also proposes important recommendations on issues related to migrant detention, recognizing that most detention is driven by a for-profit industry that makes money from human suffering. The recommendations include calling for investing in community-based case management while simultaneously reducing the use of detention for immigration enforcement purposes. The recommendations specifically call for ending reliance on immigrant detention, including family detention, and eliminating mandatory detention and local bed quotas. It also recommends ending all contracts with private prison corporations. Other recommendations address establishing oversight and accountability mechanisms at all facilities concerning access to medical and legal services; pastoral care, and visitation rights. A specific recommendation on the COVID-19 pandemic calls for “greatly reduc[ing] population density in detention centers and ensur[ing] that all detainees and staff have access to personal protective equipment, personal hygiene products, and are able to socially distance.”

There are other important and more extensive recommendations in the Framework related to border and asylum issues that the Biden administration should pay attention to. There are also recommendations related to broader immigration policies that, if the Biden administration addresses them, will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of migrant families that have been persecuted in the last four years and longer, under inadequate and poorly drafted policies.

The full Framework can be found at
www.interfaithimmigration.org.

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