Posted by on May 25, 2023 11:18 am
Categories: News The Hill

Civil rights groups to Biden: ‘Take all actions within your authority’ to protect undocumented immigrants

A coalition of civil rights groups is calling on President Biden to pull no punches in using the powers of the presidency to protect undocumented immigrants from criminalization and deportation.

In a letter to Biden Wednesday, the groups urged the president to “immediately take all actions within your authority to protect undocumented immigrants, many of whom have resided here for years, throughout the United States.”

The letter said that protecting undocumented immigrants, especially those who’ve lived in the United States for years, is an economic imperative.

“But the nation also has a moral imperative to protect these communities: immigration is one of the key civil rights issues of our time,” wrote the groups.

They emphasized the added challenges faced by Black immigrants, who they say face a tougher road in the immigration system, “in part due to the unacceptable but well-documented occurrence of over-policing of Black communities in America.”

“Immigrants make our communities stronger,” said NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund senior policy counsel Amalea Smirniotopoulos. 

“Yet we’ve seen an onslaught of attacks in recent years on undocumented immigrants–thousands of whom came to the United States to escape violence, poverty, and environmental disasters. Black immigrants in particular continue to fare worse in our immigration system, and may face higher rates of deportation and detention.”

The letter, led by Haitian Bridge Alliance, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, cites research that shows Black immigrants compose 9 percent of the country’s immigrant population, but 20 percent of “immigrants facing deportation based on criminal issues.”

“For too long, anti-Black racism and cruelty have pervaded our immigration system, and it’s time to end unjust treatment and human rights abuses inflicted by our government,” said Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“We must return to our nation’s values of being a nation where immigrants forced to flee due to political instability, violence and persecution can find a home and safe haven in the United States.”

According to the groups, former President Trump’s border and immigration crackdowns disproportionately affected Black migrants, “including the travel ban, which virtually blocked immigration from several African countries.”

But the Biden administration’s border enforcement has at times also taken a greater toll on Black migrants.

The Biden administration expelled more than 25,000 Haitian migrants encountered at the border under the now-defunct Title 42 policy, which allowed quick expulsions under the guise of coronavirus protections.

Those expulsions took place despite Haiti’s near-failed state status, which the Biden administration recognized with renewals and redesignations of the country’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Under TPS, nationals from a country undergoing man-made or natural disasters or their aftermath are allowed to work and live in the United States, so long as they were present in the country before the TPS designation.

The civil rights groups’ top demand for the Biden administration is to extend, designate or redesignate several countries for TPS, including “Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, and other African nations, as well as Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras.”

While the Trump administration aggressively tried to curtail TPS, both Republican and Democratic administrations — including the Biden administration — have used the tool proactively to prevent repatriations that could put immigrants in danger.

The civil rights groups also called on Biden to provide “protections by any tool necessary” to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and reduction in backlogs for immigration processing.

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