A return to the Obama years would mean more desperation, more deportations, and more death. Here, Mijente lays out six policies the Biden Administration can enact if it is serious about improving the lives of immigrants.
When it comes to immigration policy, Joe Biden has promised to undo the harms of the Trump administration.
Good. But nowhere near good enough.
We need to be clear: the vicious system that cages our gente, separates our families, and deports our people predates Donald Trump. Trump merely exploited it.
Recall, Barack Obama expanded the practice of caging migrant children and he deported more people than any other president in U.S. history. It was George W. Bush who created ICE and CBP and criminalized border crossings. And it was Bill Clinton who signed a 1996 bill into law that made internal enforcement and deportations the rule–not the exception–and created the legal architecture for human rights abuses at the border.
Reversing Trump’s immigration policies without further action would merely dull the sharpest edges of a fundamentally deadly system.
If Joe Biden is serious about securing the rights and wellbeing of immigrants, here are six policies his administration can enact on day one–beyond rolling back Trump era regulations–without Congressional approval.
1. A Blanket Moratorium on Deportations and Enforcement Actions
The policies and practices of DHS pose life-or-death risks to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Our gente are in danger while in DHS’s custody, and especially so during this deadly pandemic.
As such, Joe Biden must issue a 100-day blanket moratorium on all immigration enforcement actions–including but not limited to deportations, removals, apprehensions, and arrests. And he must issue executive orders mandating the immediate release of all persons held in ICE and CBP detention camps.
2. A Thorough and Wide-Ranging Investigation into DHS
Since its creation in 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has systematically violated the rights and assaulted the dignity of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Despite this rotten and repeated history of alarming abuse and naked white supremacy, DHS has never been the subject of an official and far-reaching investigation, and the Department has repeatedly rejected calls for transparency and stonewalled demands for accountability.
On January 20, Joe Biden must issue an executive directive initiating an immediate, thorough, and wide-ranging investigation into DHS. The investigation must include input from directly impacted people–including people caged by DHS and their families–and the investigating panel must hold listening sessions in all 24 cities that house ICE Field Offices to ensure community input.
3. End Operation Streamline and the Criminalization of Migration
Prior to Operation Streamline, the vast majority of border crossings were considered violations of immigration law – civil matters akin to speeding tickets or landlord-tenant disputes.
But since 2005, Operation Streamline–and initiatives like it–have been used to prosecute border crossings as criminal offenses punishable not just with deportation, but with prison sentences, too.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With the stroke of a pen, Joe Biden can shut down Operation Streamline, end all prosecutions under INA Sections 1325 and 1326, and abolish all programs that criminalize migration.
4. Abolish the Secure Communities Program and All Programs Facilitating Information Sharing Between Local and Federal Officials
Secure Communities (S-Comm) is a program run by ICE in which, any time an individual is arrested and booked into a local jail for any reason, that person’s fingerprints are electronically run through ICE’s immigration database. ICE then issues a detainer request to the local jail in an effort to seek the person’s detention and deportation.
S-Comm allows ICE to easily identify non-citizens and to initiate deportation proceedings against them. Such a program invites racial profiling by state and local law enforcement officials and fuels mass deportations. Joe Biden has the ability to end S-Comm on the first day of his presidency and he has a moral obligation to do so.
We also call for the end of all 287(g) agreements. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes DHS to deputize state and local law enforcement officials–including city police officers and sheriff’s deputies– to act as immigration enforcement agents.
287(g) agreements pose a direct threat to our gente as they expand the government’s deportation force and increase the number of apprehensions, arrests, and removals of migrants. Such agreements have also been found to increase instances of racial profiling and police brutality.
While Joe Biden has pledged to terminate 287(g) agreements entered into during the Trump administration, we demand the Biden administration immediately end all 152 existing 287(g) agreements and institute a blanket ban on their future use.
5. Terminate All Contracts with Private Prison Companies, for Both Detention and So-called “Alternatives to Detention”
The U.S. experiment with outsourcing the caging of human beings to private corporations has been a monumental and repulsive failure. Profiting off of the caging of immigrants is not only immoral–it also creates a perverse incentive to cage more people and build more private prisons.
Joe Biden has pledged to end all contracts with private prison companies–including those that cage immigrants. But that’s not enough. Joe Biden must also terminate all contracts for so-called “alternatives to detention” like ankle bracelets.
While such technologies are branded as “humane” alternatives to incarceration, surveillance companies collect data on the movements of migrants, violate their civil liberties, and charge migrants hundreds of dollars a month to wear the surveillance devices. If our people can’t pay, they risk ending up behind bars.
These aren’t bracelets–they’re shackles. And Joe Biden must end their use.
6. End the Surveillance of Black, Brown, and Immigrant Communities
DHS is working in collaboration with technology megacorporations to build a massive surveillance apparatus to track and criminalize both immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.
As such, Joe Biden must end all contracts, agreements, and pilot initiatives with corporations– such as Palantir, Clearview AI, Vigilant Solutions, and Thomson Reuters–that build the technology and surveillance programs that lead to DHS enforcement.
Biden must also strike memoranda, rescind regulations and cancel contracts and/or agreements that authorize invasive technologies such as DNA collection, facial recognition, social
media surveillance, and other biometrics collection.
We also demand the Biden Administration cut the amount of funding requested from Congress for DHS biometrics and surveillance programs and equipment by 50% in FY 2021. Joe Biden has the authorization to initiate all of these actions on Day One and he must do so.
Latinx voters, Black voters, immigrant communities, and communities of color helped deliver this election to Joe Biden. It is now time for Joe Biden to deliver for us.
We voted for bold and transformative changes that make our lives safer and better, not a meek and milquetoast approach to immigration policy. Joe Biden’s current plan–a defacto return to the Obama years–would mean more desperation, more deportations, and more death. We demand that Joe Biden to go further and implement these six policies on Day One.
We are committed to dismantling the immigration caging and deportation machine, and we will fight like hell to ensure it happens.