This Wednesday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated, the new administration got to work immediately, sending Congress a legislative proposal on immigration on its first day called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. 

Immigrant rights have been central to CAA’s focus since our founding, and we are closely monitoring the Biden administration’s overhaul of the immigration system. Today, we wanted to share some highlights of our immigrant rights program in 2020 and what’s ahead for 2021.

Two children holding signs demanding justice for asylum seekers
Two children hold signs calling for justice for seekers of political asylum at a Families Belong Together rally in Irvine, California / Photo Credit: Samantha Sophia

2020 Immigrant Rights Highlights 

The Trump administration has relentlessly assaulted the rights of immigrants and other marginalized communities since its first day. 2020 was no exception, requiring vigilance on our part. In 2020, CAA:

1. Challenged the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants

We denounced the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies in the press and organized community members against the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)’s proposed fee increases. Through public comment, we also lodged our opposition to proposed changes by USCIS that would make the U.S. citizenship test harder for non-English native speaking immigrants.

2. Kept our community informed and well-resourced

We held monthly Chinese-language workshops online and produced videos on immigration policy changes that directly impacted our community on topics such as DACA and “public charge” rules that would make permanent residency more difficult to obtain for immigrants who accessed certain public benefits. This outreach helped keep our community members informed and connected to resources.

3. Helped immigrant families weather the COVID-19 pandemic
In response to the global pandemic and its impact on marginalized immigrant families, CAA partnered with the City of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency and Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs to distribute grocery gift cards to more than 700 low-income and undocumented API families impacted by COVID-19.

2021 Immigrant Rights Priorities

The Biden administration has initiated a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, including an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. CAA will keep a watchful eye on policies that directly impact our community. 

Last week, we joined other organizations in calling on the Biden administration to immediately put a moratorium on all deportations until Congress can pass robust immigration reform that would repeal sections of the 1996 immigration policies responsible for the United States’ current draconian immigration enforcement, which has deeply impacted Southeast Asian American communities and other refugee and immigrant communities of color.

CAA’s immigrant rights priorities for 2021 include:

  • Advocating for a comprehensive legalization program that ensures that family unification is the foundation of the U.S. immigration system. This means maintaining family immigration categories and the right to be reunited with family regardless of socio-economic status, as well as reducing visa backlogs for family-based immigration. 
  • Fully restoring and expanding the DACA program 
  • Creating a pathway for citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants
  • Eliminating the Trump administration’s additions to public charge rules that create barriers to permanent residence for immigrants who make use of certain public benefits
  • Undoing the Trump administration’s harmful changes to asylum and refugee programs, such as the removal of certain categories through which people can apply for asylum 
  • Ensuring that avenues for immigration relief are accessible to marginalized immigrants and restoring an affordable USCIS fee structure that includes accessible fee waivers and reverting the naturalization civics exam to its pre-Trump iteration. 

At CAA, we are heartened by the Biden administration’s prioritization of immigration issues. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, should it pass, will allow undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status and to later apply for green cards. The bill also creates a clear pathway for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements, to apply for green cards immediately. In addition, it addresses backlogs in the family immigration system, speeding up the process for people to reunite with their family members.

After four years of hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric, this is a welcome change. CAA will continue to prioritize the needs of low-income, limited-English proficient community members, ensuring access to trusted and free immigration legal services and resources. And as always, we will advocate for policies to protect the dignity and fair treatment of all immigrants.