Jayapal, Escobar reveal progressive resolution on immigration reform

by | Jan 29, 2021 | Immigration/Border, Policy

Several progressive House Democrats gathered virtually with immigrant activists on Wednesday to announce the introduction of a resolution outlining their immigration reform goals for the new Congress.

Dubbed the Roadmap to Freedom, the resolution is exactly that, a roadmap for Congress to begin overhauling its immigration system. 

The finer points of the resolution include promoting a roadmap for full citizenship, eliminating barriers to family reunification, decriminalizing migration and seeking asylum, and ensuring immigrant access to healthcare, housing and public services.

The resolution is not legislation. Rather, it is a progressive “North Star” for what humane immigration policy should look like, said Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), one of the six lawmakers co-leading the resolution along with El Paso’s Rep. Veronica Escobar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. 

“We are not just about simply reversing the hateful immigration policies of the last four years,” Jayapal said during the press conference. “America’s racist and xenophoic immigration system has been broken for decades. And as we begin a new presidential administration, we need to finally leave our country’s long history of criminalizing immigration and separating families.”

“We need to enact reforms that focus on respect, and dignity, family unity and opportunity for all immigrants,” Jayapal said.

“As many of you know, El Paso was unfortunately ground zero for many of the Trump’s administration’s most horrific and abhorrent anti-immigrant policies,” said Congresswoman Esobar, citing mass expulsions and family separation.

In 2019, El Paso was one of the first cities in the U.S. to experience Trump’s policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico. In 2017, El Paso was also the first city to face a “pilot program” for family separation. 

Esbobar said that the cruelty in U.S. immigration policy did not begin four years ago but dates back decades to when border cities and towns began to see their communities militarized. 

“The roadmap to freedom invests in border policy that protects the rights of border communities like my own and it ends wasteful spending — billions upon billions of dollars that have been used to militarize safe, beautiful, vibrant communities,” Escobar said. 

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said that the U.S. is overdue for a policy that realizes the full potential of everyone living in America. 

“So often we hear rhetoric about how we are a nation that embodies, embraces, values and treasures the contributions of immigrants,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And needless to say over the last four years but frankly for much longer than that, we have not lived up to that rhetoric.”

Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Judy Chu (CA-27), and Yvette Clarke (NY-09) are also backing the resolution.  More than 75 civil rights and immigrant rights groups have endorsed the resolution too, including the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, RAICES, and United We Dream. 

The progressive roadmap comes a week after President Joe Biden revealed his immigration plan to Congress during the first days of his administration. 

One of only 14 naturalized citizens in Congress and previously the director of a Seattle-based immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica before being elected, Jayapal praised the Biden administration for revealing an immigration plan during its first week — a move in contrast with the Obama administration that received criticism from immigrant groups for not introducing immigration reform while Democrats still held majorities in Congress in 2008 and 2009.

Jayapal said she looked forward to reviewing and strengthening the sweeping immigration bill revealed by Biden.

Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would allow undocumented individuals to apply for tempoary legal status and then apply for a green card five years later after passing background checks and paying taxes. The bill also limits presidential authority to issue discriminatory immigration bans, deploys more technology for border security, and increases federal powers to prosecute smuggling and trafficking networks.

Photos: U.S. House Office of Photography/ Wikimedia Commons

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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