Author Archives: Richard Irwin

National Immigration Law Center Responds to Texas Federal Court Ruling on DACA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2021

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149

National Immigration Law Center Responds to Texas Federal Court Ruling on DACA

WASHINGTON – A U.S. district court in Texas today agreed with a group of states, led by Texas, that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unlawful.

The court ruled that DACA is unlawful and blocked the federal government from granting any new first-time DACA applications. However, the court will continue to allow DACA renewals. People with DACA will not lose their protections. For the time being, pending renewal applications will be adjudicated and current DACA recipients can continue to submit renewal applications.

Avideh Moussavian, director of federal advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Today’s federal court ruling again upends the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth whose home is here; it will harm all our communities. It is a stark reminder of the urgency for Congress to act swiftly to pass a long overdue pathway to U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth and all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

“While immigrant youth who currently have DACA will keep their protections for now, this court decision underscores the need for swift action that provides relief and stability to immigrant youth once and for all. Congress must use every opportunity available to pass the strongest and most inclusive bill possible, as soon as possible. The House of Representatives already passed the bipartisan Dream and Promise Act in March, and just this week Senate leadership included a pathway to citizenship as part of its budget resolution.

“DACA is a hugely successful and transformative policy with overwhelming public support. But we have always known that a permanent solution is necessary. Immigrant youth have lived through years of uncertainty as a result of politically motivated attacks on DACA that put them at risk of being separated from their loved ones and being deported. No one should have to plan their lives in two-year increments or from one administration to the next.

“We know that today and the road ahead are difficult for many members of our communities. It is as important now as ever that we stand in our power and remind ourselves of our collective resilience. DACA is and will continue to be a testament to the strength and political power our communities have built up over years of organizing for justice. We have fought back politically motivated attempts to end it before and prevailed. We cannot and will not let up in our fight now.”

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NILC and IJF Call for Elimination of the Filibuster

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2021

CONTACT
Madison Allman, [email protected], 213-328-7082

NILC and IJF Call for Elimination of the Filibuster

WASHINGTON — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) today announced the organizations’ support for eliminating the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of NILC and IJF, issued the following statement:

“We are at a critical and determinative moment in our country’s history. We are facing multiple crises, from climate change, to COVID, to attempts to subvert our nation’s democracy. Our elected leaders need to act boldly to address our country’s most pressing issues and set us on the path to a more equitable and inclusive society where we all have the freedom to thrive. Ending the Senate filibuster is a necessary step.

“The filibuster gives extraordinary power to any single senator to thwart critical legislation, even when the majority supports it. This is a tool of obstruction that has long been wielded by right-wing politicians to block efforts to advance civil rights and racial justice in the law.

“Historically, it has been used to limit the political power of communities of color, including immigrants. Today, it remains a major impediment to urgently needed reforms critical to the progressive movement, including a sustainable economy that responsibly works for all of us, health care for all, common sense gun policies, protecting our right to vote, and creating a 21st century immigration system. All while antidemocratic forces turn to increasingly aggressive tactics to codify restrictions meant to further dilute the votes of the majority and dismantle the very democracy upon which our nation was founded.

“In 2020, more than 80 million Americans voted for a bold vision put forward by now President Biden. The filibuster stands in the way of legislation that brings us closer to realizing that vision, jeopardizes broad reforms to advance racial, economic, and gender justice, and threatens our democracy.

“The current Senate is dysfunctional and has not been able to resolve some of the most pressing issues impacting us all. By 2040, 30 percent of Americans will elect 70 of the 100 senators, which will impact Black and brown communities, in particular, and which in no way will represent the diversity of the nation.

“Eliminating the filibuster would enable us to move ahead with the will of the majority of Americans. It’s time to end the filibuster once and for all for the future of our communities and our democracy.”

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Emergency COVID Grants Are Now Available to Immigrant Students (The Torch)

Emergency COVID Grants Are Now Available to Immigrant Students

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Sarah Kim Pak
MAY 27, 2021

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently finalized new federal regulations and accompanying frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) guidance that remove the Trump administration’s unfair and unlawful restrictions denying undocumented and other immigrant students access to COVID-19–related emergency financial assistance grants under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Under the new rule, previously excluded students are now eligible for these emergency grants, which are provided to help students remain in school and cover unexpected “cost of attendance” expenses and other related costs imposed by the pandemic.

Photo by heylagostechie on Unsplash

Whom do the new rules impact? Under the new rule and FAQ, undocumented students, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or temporary protected status (TPS), international students, and other immigrant students who were previously excluded from eligibility now may receive the emergency grants. This change does not affect the eligibility of those who previously qualified (such as lawful permanent residents, refugees, or asylees).

Specifically, the ED has redefined which students qualify for HEERF emergency grants under the regulations (34 C.F.R. sec. 677.3) as any individual who is or was enrolled at an eligible institution on or after March 13, 2020, the day President Trump declared that COVID-19 is a national emergency. In short, the only requirement to receive the HEERF grants is enrollment, as of or after March 13, 2020, at a qualifying institution of higher education as defined under 34 C.F.R. secs. 600.2 and 677.3 — i.e., colleges, universities, proprietary higher education institutions, and postsecondary vocational institutions.

What, exactly, are HEERF emergency grants? In March 2020, Congress created HEERF through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to help both educational institutions and students “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” The subsequent Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA) and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) allocated additional funding for HEERF.

Despite Congress’s clear intent to provide broad emergency relief to students, the Trump administration’s Department of Education, under Secretary Betsy DeVos, published regulations and corresponding agency guidance that improperly excluded many immigrant students from receiving the HEERF emergency grants. In all four court cases that swiftly challenged the regulations and guidance, the courts agreed that DeVos had unlawfully superimposed immigration status requirements onto the HEERF program.

The ED’s new rule and FAQ guidance restore the emergency financial relief that Congress originally intended to provide to students experiencing hardship and other impacts during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

How are the HEERF emergency grants distributed? Under the various pandemic-related legislative packages, Congress authorized the ED to distribute HEERF funds to higher education institutions, which in turn provide the emergency grants directly to students. Institutions must ensure that they prioritize students who have exceptional need and must not distribute the grants in a way that discriminates on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, or sex (FAQ question 10).

How can HEERF emergency grants be used? Students may use the grants to cover unexpected “cost of attendance” expenses or other emergency costs resulting from the pandemic, such as food, housing, technology, course materials, tuition, health care (including mental health care), or child care (FAQ question 13). Institutions may not direct or further limit what students use their grants for; compel students to use their grants to satisfy existing fees, debts, or balances; nor impose any conditions to receive the grants (such as any academic or other performance criteria or “good standing” requirements) (FAQ questions 12 and 14).

What are other considerations to keep in mind? First, HEERF emergency grants are not taxable income (FAQ question 15). As explained by the Internal Revenue Service, HEERF emergency grants, like other emergency educational assistance measures, are not included in a student’s gross income and, therefore, are not taxable. Also, HEERF emergency grants are not financial aid (FAQ question 17). To receive the grants, students do not have to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or be eligible for “federal financial aid” under Title IV. As stated above, the only requirement to receive the HEERF grants is enrollment at a qualifying institution as of or after March 13, 2020. Consequently, institutions may not incorporate the HEERF emergency grant into a student’s overall financial aid award package (FAQ question 17).

Finally, receipt of a HEERF grant is not considered in determining whether a person is likely to become a “public charge.” Under the 1999 Field Guidance for immigration officials and relevant Foreign Affairs Manual instructions (for U.S. State Department officials), neither emergency disaster relief nor educational assistance is considered in a public charge determination.

What comes next? If you are a student newly eligible for a HEERF grant, be on the lookout for more information from your school on disbursement and other next steps. As mentioned above, educational institutions are tasked with dispensing the HEERF grants directly to students, and, therefore, this process and the timeline for disbursement will look different at every school. If your school or college/university system has an immigrant student support “Dream” center or equivalent, check with it to obtain more guidance. For example, the University of California system has a list of resources and contacts, as does the California State University system.

Questions? Feedback? Email us at [email protected].


Sarah Kim Pak is a NILC staff attorney.

NILC Statement on the Redesignation of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2021

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Madison Allman, 214-415-4396
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149

NILC Statement on the Redesignation of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Saturday announced the redesignation of Haiti for temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months.

Haitian nationals in the United States have been eligible since 2010 for temporary protection that has allowed them to live and work here, after an earthquake devastated the country. Haiti continues to experience political and humanitarian crises exacerbated most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100,000 Haitian nationals who were in the U.S. as of May 21, 2021, qualify for protection under the new redesignation.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the long overdue decision by the administration to redesignate Haiti for TPS and commend President Biden for heeding the repeated calls to follow through on his campaign promise to protect Haitian communities with longstanding ties here who have built their lives in the U.S. This announcement is welcome relief for more than 100,000 Haitians who have been living with great uncertainty. It is a testament to countless hours of organizing and advocacy by Black immigrant leaders and their communities, who have led this fight, and an administration that is listening to the needs and dreams of diverse immigrant communities.

“While we celebrate this important victory, there is still a lot of work to do to address policies that disproportionately harm Black immigrants. Many Black-majority countries — such as Mauritania, Cameroon, St. Vincent, and the Bahamas — continue to await a decision on TPS designation, and thousands of people continue to be expelled and denied due process and the legal right to claim asylum under the administration’s ongoing use of Title 42. This includes approximately 2,000 Haitians who were wrongfully sent back to the same deadly conditions that warranted the redesignation of TPS for Haiti.

“We urge President Biden and Congress to address longstanding inequities in our immigration system and commit to permanent solutions. Congress must move quickly to pass a pathway to U.S. citizenship for people with TPS, immigrant youth, essential workers, and ultimately all immigrants who call the U.S. home.”

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NILC Statement on the Essential Role of Immigrant Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2021

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

NILC Statement on the Essential Role of Immigrant Workers

WASHINGTON — Immigrant workers, experts, and advocates testified at a hearing before a key U.S. Senate subcommittee today highlighting the experiences of immigrant essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and pending legislation to provide them a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety — chaired by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) — featured Rose Tilus, a Haitian nurse in Rhode Island with temporary protected status, who spoke about her experience caring for COVID-19 patients and contracting the virus. Witnesses also highlighted the contributions of farmworkers and other essential workers in industries heavily staffed by immigrants.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Immigrants are essential to our communities, economy, and our nation. Nearly three quarters of all immigrants in the U.S. workforce — including more than 5 million who are undocumented — are working in essential roles and helping us get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whether caring for our most vulnerable, teaching our kids, rebuilding after climate disasters, or keeping us fed, millions of immigrants are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk for all of us. We have applauded these courageous workers for keeping our country running in the midst of a global public health and economic crisis, but that’s not enough. We must recognize immigrant essential workers under the law and put them on a pathway to U.S. citizenship as part of our relief and recovery efforts.

“Courageous workers like Rose should have the certainty that they will not be separated from their loved ones and the communities and country they call home because of their immigration status. We thank Senator Padilla for shining a light on their experiences and contributions, and for his leadership on the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which provides a permanent solution.

“Today’s hearing is an important step forward, as we continue to urge Congress to seize this critical moment and provide a long overdue pathway to citizenship for essential workers, immigrant youth, people with temporary protected status, and, eventually, all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. As we move into a recovery from COVID and build back our nation, we must recognize that there is no recovery without immigrants.”

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National Immigration Law Center Statement on President Biden’s First Joint Session Speech to Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2021

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

National Immigration Law Center Statement on President Biden’s First Joint Session Speech to Congress

WASHINGTON — President Biden today delivered his first speech before a joint session of Congress. In his speech, Biden renewed his call to Congress to pass legislation this year to reform the U.S. immigration system.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“In his first 100 days in office, President Biden has sent a clear signal that our country is ready to chart a new course on immigration. We were heartened to hear the president reiterate that commitment tonight before both chambers of Congress and millions of Americans watching at home, and we urge Congress to meet President Biden’s words of encouragement with courageous, bold action.

“Immigrants are essential to our nation. President Biden’s ability to follow through on the vision he put forth for immigrants will determine whether he will make history not only by undoing the harms of the previous administration but by creating a transformational immigration system that will impact millions of immigrants, their families and loved ones, their communities, and our country as a whole.

“We expect President Biden and Democrats who currently wield the levers of power to deliver on his promises to enact a 21st century immigration system that reflects the values we aspire to as a nation and our role as a global leader. We cannot  let the tired Republican playbook get in the way of long-overdue action on immigration.

“These times call for moral imagination and courageous leadership. Immigration is one of the defining issues of our time, yet politicians have spent more than 30 years talking and not taking action on much-needed reforms. President Biden must lean into this moment when there is broad public support for bold solutions for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who call the U.S. home and who urgently need a pathway to U.S. citizenship. That includes immigrant youth who grew up here, long-time residents with temporary protections, and millions of essential workers helping us get through the pandemic.

“We must take every opportunity available to provide them all a pathway to citizenship as part of our efforts to set our country on a path to a just recovery that lifts us all. There is no recovery without immigrants.”

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NILC and Immigrant Justice Fund Name New Chief Communications Officer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2021

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

National Immigration Law Center and Immigrant Justice Fund Name New Chief Communications Officer

LOS ANGELES — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) today announced the promotion of Victoria Ballesteros to serve as chief communications officer for the organizations. In this role, Ballesteros joins NILC and IJF’s executive leadership teams and will develop innovative communication and narrative strategy approaches in furtherance of NILC and IJF’s respective missions, while articulating the vision and impact of the two organizations.

“NILC and IJF’s strategic decision to create this new role signals a recognition of the importance of communication as a strategic driver of our work,” stated Ballesteros. “As the daughter of immigrants, I am humbled and honored to step into this role and shift the public narrative around the role of immigrants in our country, to advocate for a society where we all have the freedom to thrive, and to build visibility of immigrants as an important political constituency.”

“Victoria’s breadth of experience in communications and executive leadership make her the right person to guide our work advocating and amplifying immigrant voices,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of NILC and IJF. “Her leadership as director of communications over the past year has taken our communications efforts to new heights, and we’re thrilled to continue our work together in this new leadership role.”

Ballesteros joined NILC and IJF in 2020 as director of communications. In that role, she led NILC’s narrative and strategic communications work, as well as IJF’s political communications efforts during the 2020 election cycle. A search is currently underway for a new director of communications for NILC and IJF.

Ballesteros has more than 20 years of communications and prior executive leadership experience, including leading communication research and advocacy campaigns primarily in the nonprofit and public sectors. She has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, California’s Senate Majority Leader, and for The SCAN Foundation.

Ballesteros has a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the California State University, Fullerton, with a minor in Chicano studies. She is fluent in Spanish and resides in Los Angeles.

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NILC Statement on the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Murder Trial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2021

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

National Immigration Law Center Statement on the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Murder Trial

WASHINGTON — Upon the announcement that a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The jury voted to convict Derek Chauvin on all counts. Though the verdict is just, this is not justice. Justice will not be served until we dismantle the sanctioned white supremacy plaguing Black communities and communities of color and invest in all communities so that everyone has the freedom to thrive. We demand more.

“George Floyd was murdered. No verdict can give back the life that was taken from him. No single verdict can fix a system founded on violence and dehumanization. No single verdict can ease the fear wrought by an unbroken history of white supremacy and police violence against people of color.

“The march toward justice began long ago, and yet there is a long road ahead. Today gives hope for the work to which we have committed ourselves, but today remains a day we mourn as we keep George Floyd, his loved ones, and all the people who have been killed or impacted by police violence in our hearts.”

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Answers to Common Questions about Immigrants’ Access to the COVID-19 Vaccines (The Torch)

Answers to Common Questions about Immigrants’ Access to the COVID-19 Vaccines

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ben D’Avanzo, Katherine Lundie, and Gabrielle Lessard
APRIL 12, 2021

People in immigrant communities and advocates have expressed concern about barriers that many people face when attempting to access COVID-19 vaccines. These barriers frequently are related to the concerns immigrants generally have when trying to access health care — concerns about documentation requirements, data privacy, eligibility, cost, and whether resources are available in their native language. This article provides answers to common questions regarding such concerns.

Are there any immigration status restrictions on who can get vaccinated?

No, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that vaccines are available to anyone, including undocumented immigrants, regardless of their immigration status.

Are vaccinations free?

Yes — getting vaccinated should not cost you any amount of money. Individuals may be asked for their insurance information, and their insurer will be billed for the cost of vaccination, but out-of-pocket costs like cost-sharing and deductibles are prohibited. Medicaid will pay for vaccinations for anyone enrolled in Medicaid, including people who have restricted-scope Medicaid (for example, for emergencies or pregnancy).

For the administrative cost of vaccinating people who are uninsured, providers can bill the federal government through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) Provider Relief Fund. Providers can be reimbursed for vaccinating anyone who doesn’t have insurance that covers the vaccine, regardless of their immigration status.

Providers who participate in the Provider Relief Fund must attest to HRSA in their reimbursement requests that they asked for the following information:

  • a Social Security number (SSN),
  • a driver’s license or other state-issued ID, or
  • a state ID

However, requests for reimbursement may be submitted without this information, though such requests take longer to process. Therefore, though people who are uninsured may be asked for an SSN or ID, they are not required to provide them in order to get vaccinated.

Must I have a Social Security number in order to receive a vaccination?

Having an SSN is not a requirement for receiving a vaccination, but, as noted above, providers may ask you for one.

What types of documentation or verification documents are required to receive a vaccination?

The federal government has not imposed any documentation or verification requirements for individuals seeking to be vaccinated. However, some states and localities are requiring documentation of residency (living in the state or locality). Proof of residency varies by state. Individuals who cannot meet state or local documentation requirements may find that a community health center or other site has more flexible documentation requirements.

Will my personal information be shared with law or immigration enforcement?

The data use and sharing agreement (DUA) between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and jurisdictions administering COVID-19 vaccinations requires that data provided by individuals may be used only in furtherance of the COVID-19 public health response. Some states have elected to add additional privacy protections to the DUA. Information about vaccine recipients may not be used for any civil or criminal prosecution or immigration enforcement. Neither the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) nor the CDC will have access to or release identifiable patient information.

Will immigration officials conduct enforcement activity at vaccination sites or health centers?

No. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stated that it will not conduct immigration enforcement at vaccination sites and that it wants all immigrants, including people who are undocumented, to be vaccinated.

Will getting vaccinated affect an individual’s immigration status or immigration applications?

Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 will not affect the person’s or their family’s current or future immigration status or ability to naturalize to U.S. citizenship.

Is information about vaccination available in languages other than English?

Yes, the following websites provide information about COVID-19 vaccinations in multiple languages:

Your state’s public health website may also have additional resources in multiple languages. The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging has a webpage listing each state’s vaccination webpage, as well as information about assistance hotlines for speakers of several languages.

What can advocates to do improve immigrants’ access to COVID-19 vaccinations?

Despite the policies described above, many immigrants continue to face barriers to getting vaccinated. Advocates can work with their state and local health departments to undo burdensome documentation restrictions, or, at a national level, urge the CDC to issue nationwide standards prohibiting such requirements. They also can ensure that health departments and vaccine providers understand the existing policies, such as the fact that refusing to provide an SSN should not be grounds for denying vaccination.

Advocates can also push for greater investments in community-based organizations for outreach, education, and services, as well as investments in a higher quality and quantity of language access services and translated materials.

If advocates suspect federal policies are being violated, they can report them to the HHS Office of the Inspector General or file a civil rights complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.

This blog post will be updated as new developments occur — as vaccinations become more available, priority restrictions ease, policies change or are clarified, and vaccine “credentialing” systems (e.g., vaccine “passports”) and apps potentially become more common.


Ben D’Avanzo is a NILC senior health policy analyst; Katherine Lundie is a NILC state and local policy analyst; and Gabrielle Lessard is a NILC senior policy attorney.

National Immigration Law Center Celebrates House Passage of the Dream and Promise Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2021

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

National Immigration Law Center Celebrates House Passage of the Dream and Promise Act

WASHINGTON — In a 228-197 bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Dream and Promise Act. The bill, also known as H.R. 6, would provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship to an estimated 4.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including immigrant youth and longtime residents with temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED).

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“At the National Immigration Law Center, we are celebrating the passage of the Dream and Promise Act in the House, and we urge the Senate to meet this critical step with urgency and courageous action. We must enact the Dream and Promise Act quickly as we continue to work to provide a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., as part of our efforts to set our country on a path to a just recovery that lifts us all.

“The Dream and Promise Act would provide long-overdue relief and stability to millions of undocumented immigrant youth and longtime residents whose home is here. Its advancement today with bipartisan support is a testament to the strength and political power our communities have built over years of organizing for justice, including NILC’s own efforts over more than two decades to support and fight alongside immigrant youth so that all of us have the freedom to thrive.

“We are thrilled to see the Dream and Promise Act move forward, and, at the same time, we urge members of the Senate to remove harmful criminalizing provisions in the bill that would compound racial disparities in our legal system. This moment requires that lawmakers act quickly and courageously to address the racial injustices that have long marred our country. That requires that they make this the strongest, most inclusive bill possible and immediately send it to President Biden to sign into law.”

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