We Won’t Wait: To Protect Immigrants, Joe Biden Must Act Immediately

Greisa Martínez Rosas

It is undeniable that record turnout from Black and Latinx voters and young people propelled Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race, especially in states like Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada. Now our communities have a clear message for Biden: We need restitution for immigrants — executive actions and legislation to protect immigrants right away. We won’t wait.

Biden must take action immediately to advance immigrant justice. From the first moments he entered the White House, Donald Trump used executive action to advance his white nationalist, anti-immigrant agenda. During his first week, Trump issued a sweeping ban on Muslims and refugees and another executive order targeting undocumented immigrants. Trump had two goals: to prevent Black and Brown immigrants from entering; and to make undocumented immigrants here immediately deportable.

Looking back, Trump’s initial executive orders in January 2017 quickly set the tone and agenda for how his anti-immigrant administration would operate. It was a horrific preview of the next four years: murder of immigrants by ICE and CBP agents, immigrant families ripped apart at the border, kids locked up in cages, forced sterilizations of immigrant women, efforts to destroy DACA and TPS, and new restrictions on the number of immigrants who can legally migrate.

Now Biden must take swift executive action not only to repair the harm done to immigrant communities by Trump, but also to create a better America.

After relentless organizing and pressure from immigrant youth, Biden made commitments during his campaign to enact policies that will protect immigrant communities. He agreed to end the use of for-profit detention facilities, stop deportations in his first 100 days, expand protections for undocumented people, introduce legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship, and guarantee free health coverage to all people, regardless of immigration status, during a pandemic like COVID-19.

For the Biden administration, executive action is the clearest and quickest path forward on immigration. But Biden should also push Congress to ensure that all immigrants are fully included in the next COVID-19 relief package, regardless of who controls the Senate.

Biden should use the transition period to plan a series of executive orders on immigration and COVID-19 that can be rolled out in January 2021. At the same time, he must also pressure Congressional leaders in both parties to put immigrants at the center of the next federal legislative agenda.

Specifically, Biden should prepare and announce executive orders that:

  • Reverse all of Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders;
  • Reunite families that were separated by Trump;
  • Ensure all immigrants have access to free and safe Covid-19 testing, treatment, and an eventual vaccine;
  • Reinstate and expand DACA and TPS;
  • End for-profit detention facilities and release all immigrants from detention immediately;
  • Reinstate the refugee and asylum programs that were gutted by Trump.
  • Halt all deportations until there are permanent legal protections for immigrants;
  • Divest billions from ICE and CBP to fund COVID-19 relief efforts.

The immigrant youth movement successfully pushed Obama to create DACA in the first place, and now we will make sure the Biden administration continues the program. Protecting DACA during the Trump years has not only helped immigrants but also transformed American life for the better. Countless young people across the country have been able to pursue higher education, careers, homeownership, and more.

But protecting DACA is the floor, not the ceiling, of what Biden must do. Just as Trump and Republicans have been unapologetic in moving their unpopular agenda, Biden should pursue every executive and legislative path to advance justice and protection for immigrants. When all the votes have been counted, it’s very likely that Biden will have over 5 million more votes than Trump. That’s a clear mandate from a majority of voters who rejected Trump’s attacks, especially on immigration, and who want Biden to govern like he won.

During this pandemic, there have been millions of essential workers on the frontlines helping to keep the country safe, many of whom are undocumented. There is no relief for essential workers without immediate relief for all undocumented immigrants — the two are inextricably linked and cannot be separated. Biden should push both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to ensure that COVID-19 relief bills include all immigrants, because that is a critical part of ensuring that our country is on the road to recovery.

Biden must govern boldly with — not against — the many Latinx voters, young people of color, and new American voters who elected him in big numbers. We are the rising and growing majority of this country, but our communities are struggling for survival after four years of Trump.

That’s why we’re calling on Biden to lead right now as our next President.

We won’t wait.

UWD is the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation & advocates for the dignity of immigrant families, regardless of immigration status.