'Roadmap to Freedom': Jayapal and AOC Lead Progressive Dems With Visionary Immigration Reform Bill

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Roadmap to Freedom': Jayapal and AOC Lead Progressive Dems With Visionary Immigration Reform Bill

"I know that we must do far more than simply reverse the harmful, xenophobic policies of the Trump administration."

A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday they framed as a "visionary north star for immigration reform."

"We must reckon with our nation's darkest chapter of separating families and forcing immigrants into the shadows, and instead return to our roots as a country that embraces immigrants," Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

Entitled "Roadmap to Freedom" and endorsed by over 75 social justice organizations, the resolution (pdf) "lays out a clear vision for a more fair and humane immigration system," said Garcia. "Every person--regardless of status, race, or country of origin--deserves compassion, and a chance to make a better life for themselves."

"Our resolution lays out the path to do exactly that and restore justice and dignity for all," he said.

The proposal was drafted alongside immigrant justice network FIRM Action, and, according to a joint statement from the lawmakers, would provide a sorely needed overhaul of the nation's immigration system by:

  • Ensuring a fair immigration process that establishes a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million people while centering family unity and promoting and preserves diversity;
  • Welcoming immigrants by supporting integration efforts and ensuring access to critical public services;
  • Creating a just, humane way to uphold immigration laws, including by investing in humane, community-based alternatives to detention and creating scalable consequences for enforcement. This is possible by modernizing the system, ensuring judges have the ability to exercise discretion, and having reasonable, more humane options on the table;
  • Investing in border policy that protects the rights of communities in the borderlands and ends the mass militarization of the region; and
  • Understanding that we must uphold the rights of all workers and that increasing protections for immigrant workers will lift up all workers--immigrant and American-born alike.

Twenty-nine members of Congress have already joined Garcia and fellow resolution co-leads Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) in co-sponsoring the legislation. FIRM Action is asking people to contact other members of the House to urge their support as well.

The new White House and Democrat-controlled Congress have faced calls to undo many of the immigration policies under the Trump administration, and President Joe Biden has already taken action including by ending the so-called Muslim ban and putting a 100-day halt on deportations--though a federal judge swiftly put a block on that effort. Other immgration-related actions are expected from Biden in the coming days.

But as advocates for a humane immigration system, including Jayapal, say, merely returning to the pre-Trump administration status quo would be insufficient.

Referring to her own background as an immigrant rights organizer and one of 14 naturalized citizens currently serving in Congress today, the Washington Democrat said: "I know that we must do far more than simply reverse the harmful, xenophobic policies of the Trump administration. Our immigration system has been broken for decades, and with a new president in office, we must finally reform it in a humane way that focuses on respect, dignity, family unity, and real opportunity for all immigrants."

"Now that we have a Democratic White House and a Democratic Senate," said Jayapal, "I'm proud to work alongside my colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to introduce the Roadmap to Freedom as a north star for immigration reform that is fair, equitable, centers family unity and humanitarian protections, combats systemic injustices, and works for everyone."

Clarke concurred.

"Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough," she said. "We must re-imagine the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and fair."

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