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Legal advocacy group proposes 10 executive actions for Biden to 'reclaim the narrative' on immigration

A top legal advocacy group for immigrants is calling on the Biden administration to flex its executive muscle to better manage immigration amid legislative paralysis on the matter.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) on Wednesday released a 10-step list of actions available to the executive branch that advocates say would bring order to the immigration system while improving conditions for immigrants, from new arrivals to long-term U.S. residents.

“The Biden administration must reclaim the narrative. Trying to out-do the extremists with increasingly harsh stances will never work politically and will come at an unbearable human cost,” said Heidi Altman, director of policy at NIJC, in a statement.

“The administration should instead acknowledge immigrants’ deep connections to U.S. communities, champion their contributions to the United States, and uphold American values of welcoming and respect for human rights.”

The list touches on a series of policy choices enacted by successive administrations, often prioritizing tougher enforcement for political gain.

At the top of NIJC’s list is an appeal to create a White House task force to better coordinate the arrival and early onboarding of migrants.

Civil society organizations, particularly those near the border, have long coordinated to maximize shelter space, transportation and social services for new arrivals, though government-led coordination at the state and federal level has been lacking.

NIJC’s proposal would also have the administration channel funds — and future congressional budget requests — around quick processing of migrants, rather than around enforcement and detention.

While such measures would go contrary to political common wisdom amid growing emphasis on hawkish border stances and the negative effects of uncoordinated arrivals, advocates say a focus on order would blunt migration-based political attacks against President Biden.

“For too long, extremist lawmakers and commentators have shaped the immigration debate through misinformation and rhetoric that demonizes people seeking safety and a better life,” said Altman.

“The result is a punitive, enforcement-oriented approach to immigration policy that has caused great harm and worsened humanitarian and operational challenges in the midst of a global increase in forced migration.”

NIJC’s list of executive actions line up with proposals from other advocacy groups, ranging from human rights-focused activists to more politically inclined organizations.

A coalition of 35 groups, including faith-based, voting rights, immigration advocacy and civil rights organizations is backing a blueprint released by The Immigration Hub that touches on many of the same points as NIJC’s proposals.

The parallel proposals go beyond messaging: They reflect frustrations long held by immigrant advocates that Democratic administrations have missed political opportunities to change the conversation on immigration.

“Taking steps to continue restoring our immigration system from the complete destruction that it suffered under the Trump administration is always good politics and smart and needed for the country,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic political strategist.  

“[Biden] should also work to expand legal pathways, which were also completely diminished under Trump, and this would help restore some sanity and fairness into the system and depressurize the chaos at the border.”

The calls for executive action come as Democrats regroup after a failed attempt at bipartisan border policy reform — one that advocates said tacked in the wrong direction — and after a special election win by former and future Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), where improvements to the immigration system were part of the winning formula.

Yet the Biden administration has placed more public emphasis on its border security enhancements than on its various initiatives to dismantle or reform more than 300 Trump-era border and immigration policies.

For immigrant advocates, two issues have been especially painful: the lack of pathways for long-term undocumented immigrants to regularize their status, and the intersection between the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems.

NIJC’s proposal would have the Biden administration attack those two issues.

“The administration must utilize all tools at its disposal, including designations and re-designations of Temporary Protected Status, dramatic expansions of existing parole programs and the creation of new ones, and regulatory measures to allow people with long-standing ties in the United States to seek affirmative protection,” reads the proposal.

NIJC would have the Biden administration phase out immigration detention — a demand that echoes the advice of incarceration experts, human rights groups, and even some Democrats.

In parallel, advocates say a functional immigration system would do away with 287(g) agreements, which allow local police to either participate in certain elements of immigration enforcement, or coordinate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to flag undocumented detainees.

On the law enforcement front, NIJC is also calling on the Biden administration to proactively dismantle Operation Lone Star, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s (R) immigration enforcement initiative, which has at times been limited by the Supreme Court’s stance that immigration is strictly a federal jurisdiction.

NIJC’s proposal also calls on the administration to improve asylum processing and to protect asylum in its present form, as a means of humanitarian relief for any foreign national on U.S. soil, regardless of how they arrived, and for a review of unjust deportations.

While implementation of executive actions like the ones proposed by NIJC would mark a radical left turn for the Biden administration on immigration, advocates say there’s political realism in a revision of the administration’s attempts to appear tough on the border.

“This would go a long way to mobilize the Democratic coalition that Biden needs to make sure is restored before the election,” said Cardona.

Source: The Hill

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