WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, legislation backed by the Biden administration, that would create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently residing in and contributing to the U.S., among other provisions.
Below is a statement from Fernando García, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR), on the introduction of the new legislation:
“BNHR welcomes the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and applauds the leaders in Congress and the Biden administration for championing this broad and holistic proposal to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in our country, without any harmful enforcement trade-offs. We also welcome the proposed legislation’s expansion of legal immigration and the increased investment in addressing the root causes driving so many Central Americans to flee their homes in pursuit of safety and security at our borders. Additionally, we are happy to see our elected officials push back against the anti-immigrant rhetoric that was allowed to proliferate under the Trump administration by including a provision to eliminate the use of the term ‘alien’ in all U.S. immigration law and replace it with ‘noncitizen.’ In situations like these, where immigrant communities have been the victims of vitriolic attacks fueled by white supremacist ideology and rhetoric, language matters.
As the legislation moves through Congress and discussions of breaking it down into piecemeal bills have already begun, immigrant advocates remain steadfast in our demand for inclusive reform that ensures all immigrants, including the undocumented, have access to citizenship. Anything short of this outcome is not acceptable, and we will continue to fight until we achieve our goal.
We urge our representatives in Washington to reject any enforcement trade-offs that anti-immigrant lawmakers will offer in exchange for their votes. As representatives and members of border communities, we have experienced the catastrophic outcomes of the cruel and draconian border enforcement policies first-hand.Immigration-related investment in the border region must focus on building infrastructure to process asylum claims and creating welcoming centers where new immigrants can receive assistance with housing, travel to reunite with their families, and health care – including COVID-19 testing and vaccination. The further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border cannot be used as a bargaining chip in this new round of negotiations. Rather, we must prioritize the demilitarization of the border and bring more accountability and oversight to border enforcement.
Together, we can build a just and inclusive immigration system that reflects the realities of the U.S. workforce and communities, and is rooted in the values we strive for as a nation.”