Over the years, those of us who fight for immigrant rights have heard our calls for a just immigration system rebuked by most politicians at the federal level. Instead, we have been met with an increasingly harsh mass deportation regime leading to the permanent exile of record numbers of our friends, family, clients, and community members.
During the build up to the election, we saw some attempts to use immigration issues for political gain by preying on people’s fears of an unstable economy and crime, scapegoating immigrants, and appealing to nativist sentiments. As the dust settles, the flaws in this strategy and the importance to both parties of winning over voters who care about just immigration policies has only become more apparent. Around the country, immigrants and advocates are saying that the time to fix our broken immigration system is now. And there are reasons to be optimistic that this will be a priority during the administration’s second term.
However, the question of how this system will get “fixed” weighs heavily on us. We at IDP believe in fundamental fairness for all immigrants, including those accused or convicted of crimes. We see on a daily basis how the deportation system compounds the injustices and racial disparities of the criminal justice system. While we all make mistakes and should be held accountable for them, we are a country that believes in second chances and that the penalty for most mistakes shouldn’t be to ruin our lives and the lives of everyone around us. We need one system of justice for all, not second punishments for some.
That is why IDP, along with our allies, has been fighting for immigration policies that align with our values of fairness and justice. We need immigration laws that don’t punish people without fair hearings or deprive them of their constitutional rights; that encourage mercy and give people a chance to seek it.
Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform have often included provisions that undermine some of these values. Compromises are offered that demonize some immigrants and make their lives even more difficult. That is, in part, why our policy and public education team has spent the last several years working with others to create models of resistance at the state and local levels that can and have been used across the country. In addition, we have worked with more mainstream immigrant rights groups to help shape and define their anti-deportation campaigns in ways that we hope will impact their policy asks and decisions in the coming years. Finally, we have been building support and power amongst groups who could be aligned with our values but not always part of the larger immigration discussion, such as those fighting for criminal justice reform, LGBT rights, and freedom from violence. As always, we remain devoted to keeping you informed and providing legal analyses of how proposed laws will impact immigrants, their advocates, and defenders.
In the upcoming fights for immigrant rights, we are committed to continuing on this path and hope you will join us.