Biden’s first acts would help thousands of NJ immigrants get citizenship
In one of his first official acts on Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed executives orders on a broad range of issues, including immigration.
President Joe Biden will order his Cabinet to work to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012.
There are 80,000 Dreamers in New Jersey and about 53,000 of them are eligible for DACA, according to immigration rights group, Make the Road New Jersey.
Then-President Donald Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, triggering a legal challenge that ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place because the Trump administration failed to follow federal rule-making guidelines in undoing it. But DACA is still facing legal challenges.
In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship. There are currently about 700,000 people enrolled.
Biden also is revoking one of Trump’s first executive orders, which declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are considered priorities for deportation.
New Jersey has roughly 475,000 residents who are in the country illegally, based on a 2016 estimate by Pew Research.
The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden’s campaign site says deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats.
The order says nothing about a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised during the campaign. Susan Rice, who is tapped to run the White House Domestic Policy Council, says any decision on moratoriums would come from Homeland Security.
Biden is also proposing legislation that would grant green cards and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1, 2021, an estimated 11 million people.
“In his inauguration address, President Biden said, 'It is the time for boldness.' We call on the Biden-Harris Administration to boldly recognize migration as a human right and end all policies that restrict that right," Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said in a written statement.
"The introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is just one example of the bold vision and leadership needed to regularize immigration by creating a clear pathway towards citizenship for the 11 million undocumented American immigrants, including permanent residency for immigrant farmworkers, DACA-recipients, and TPS holders," she said.
Nearly 1 in 3 New Jersey residents is an immigrant and 40% of New Jersey children have an immigrant parent, according to Torres, who added that "the Alliance is thrilled that New Jersey’s own senior U.S. Senator Bob Menendez will lead this bill."
Most would have to wait eight years for citizenship but people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young immigrants and with Temporary Protective Status for fleeing strife-torn countries would only wait three years.
Other provisions lessen the time that many people have to wait outside the United States for Green Cards, provide development aid to Central America and reduce the 1.2 million-case backlog in immigration courts.
"Biden’s day one bill and executive orders on immigration policy are a dramatic and welcome departure from the racism and xenophobia of the Trump era. Today, immigrants like me across the country can begin a new chapter," Olga Armas of Make the Road New Jersey said in a written statement on Wednesday, responding to the proposed new immigration legislation.
Biden also is immediately ending the national emergency that Trump declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the Defense Department to wall construction. He also is halting construction to review contracts and how wall money might be redirected.
Despite Trump's repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Americans have committed $15 billion for more than 700 miles.
It is unclear how many miles are under contract and what penalties the government would have to pay for canceling them.
The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments Feb. 22 on the legality of Trump’s diverting Defense Department funds for counter-narcotics efforts and military construction projects to wall construction.
"We are here because we fought tirelessly for our dignity. We mobilized, we went to the courts and we helped our citizen brothers and sisters get to the ballot box. After years of family separation, living under fear of deportation and being terrorized by our government, we celebrate our resistance, we welcome the Biden administration and together, we turn a new page. Now we begin repairing the damage & pain our communities have endured," Armas said.
"We urge our New Jersey delegation to express support for the Biden immigration legislation and to take immediate steps to enact this pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people. The Biden administration must also ensure an immediate end to cruel immigration enforcement by ending immigration detention immediately, investigating abuses at DHS and stopping the arrest of immigrants."
Make the Road NJ has planned a rally Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Newark field office of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, 970 Broad St., aimed at urging the state's congressional delegation to support the measures being proposed by Biden's administration.
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