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What 2021 has in store for immigration

“The Roadmap” is a plan developed by Reps Pramila Jaypal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Yvette Clarke, Judy Chu, Jesus Garcia, and Veronica Escobar. It goes beyond what President-Elect Biden has suggested he will do and does much more than reverse what has happened in the past four years.

Changes from The Roadmap

Pathway to citizenship

A pathway to citizenship for almost 11 million undocumented people in the US. This has been discussed in the amnesty video

Clear the existing backlog of naturalization applications. 

We would love to see a clearing of the backlog for ALL immigration applications. People have been waiting far too long to get a decision and that needs to change

Prioritize family reunification 

This change would include reuniting “eligible individuals who are deported, detained, or in sanctuary” with their families. It was mentioned previously that the Trump administration changed the priority of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from one of family reunification to one of enforcement. I think changing it back and putting processes in place that make it more than just words, would be ideal. 

Scalable consequences for violations

The Roadmap wants to establish a system of scalable civil consequences for immigration violations. Currently, the default for almost every immigration violation is detention and/or deportation and they think that should change. This means decriminalizing immigration violations, which isn’t likely to happen.

Eliminate for-profit immigration facilities. 

While the principle is good, it’s unlikely this will happen. Most prisons throughout the US are now run by for-profit agencies. If we were to do this, we would also need to do this for our own citizens in prisons which is not likely to happen. 

Changes do need to be made to this system and far more oversight and sanctions should be imposed on those who violate basic human rights. 

No state or local jails for immigration detention

The Roadmap proposes ending the use of state and local jails for detention. What is the alternative? It is unrealistic to expect the US government to not only change their detention from for-profit but to also require that an unknown number of immigrants now be put in these new facilities. 

Alternatives to detention and ending detention of vulnerable people

Another change proposed in the Roadmap is to promote alternatives to detention and end detention of vulnerable populations like families and children. 

This would require giving judges more discretion on who gets released while providing a framework for that discretion so that decisions are more uniform throughout the country.  

Also, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should exercise more discretion in releasing immigrants rather than detaining them.  This could include some combination of ankle monitors and monetary bonds.  

Who determines who is vulnerable?  This would have to be defined. Most would agree that we should not be imprisoning children or separating families, but we need to come up with viable plans to allow for that. 

Ensure that no one is removed, expelled, or denied access to the US without guaranteed, meaningful access to legal defense. 

This argument is understandable; however, it might be more important to end the policy that President Trump put in place where people have expedited immigration hearings without access to counsel. 

There is case law that requires an immigrant to have a legal defender in criminal cases but not in immigration hearings. It seems like it would be cost-prohibitive to provide adequate legal counsel for every asylum seeker that comes to the US. Is that really what our constitution intended? This would need to be carefully reviewed and implemented to be truly effective at a fair and reasonable cost. 

Create an independent court system with independent immigration judges. 

This is a great idea.  During the Trump administration, one of the most concerning policies put in place was that immigration court judges were required by the Justice Department to deny a certain number of applications as well as process a certain number for their annual employee review. 

This caused many cases to be processed in such a short period that it is difficult to believe they were given due process under the law. This (due process) should be standard in all of our courts. Immigration should be like Bankruptcy Courts, separate and independent from the Department of Justice.  

New border policies.

As mentioned before, we can all be kinder and more respectful. We want our borders protected but we should treat everyone humanely. End border patrol checkpoints in the interior of the country. 

Before the Trump administration border patrol could only check for immigrant status within 100 miles of our borders and at the borders. When that changed fear rippled through the US. CBP was boarding buses and asking for ID. People were being approached at work, home, and while out running errands. Communities started to create groups to inform people that ICE and CBP were closing in on certain businesses. 

Everyone would prefer to live in a country that doesn’t have a fissure of fear running through it. We are all suffering enough with COVID. Yes, we should absolutely protect our borders. And yes, we absolutely support legal immigration, but we don’t need CBP accosting people throughout the country. 

Change employment-based immigration so that those who have a visa can change employers, bring their families, and have a path to citizenship. 

This is a very interesting suggestion proposed in the Roadmap. There obviously needs to be changes to employment-based immigration. 

Is it reasonable that employees are held hostage by their employer who sponsored them? Do we not want families to be together? 

However, we also have record unemployment in the US and an economic situation that may impact us for decades due to COVID. All of that must be considered before any changes are put into place for employment-based immigration. 

Ensure access to healthcare and housing for all immigrants. 

This is a wonderful idea, but it seems like it would be unfair to citizens and permanent residents in the US if those coming to the US receive something they don’t have. Let’s see what we can do to have access to healthcare and housing for everyone. 

Create a truth and reconciliation process for those who have suffered under an inhumane system for decades. 

It’s not clear what is meant by this proposal. Who has suffered? How would that be fixed? What needs to change? Is it the suggestions they put forth already in their “Roadmap?” 

Maybe we can all agree that the immigration system in the US needs a massive overhaul. To change it, we need people on both sides of the aisle, both Democrats and Republicans, agreeing to the changes. That means more people and ultimately a lot more money put toward changing the current system. 

With the country grappling with thousands of deaths a day from COVID, even though we have a vaccine, there is much that is going to have to be considered in every area of our nation and government before drastic change can happen. Do we want it to happen? Absolutely. We would rejoice with everyone if legal immigration were easier for our clients and all who want to enter the US. 

Will happen overnight or even in the next four years? There may be small, positive changes but I think it unlikely the system will be dramatically different in four years. If there are changes, you’ll hear about them from us. 

If you need an immigration lawyer, call our office. If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money. We can’t help you if you don’t call us. Contact us today through Andres Mejer Law.