Stymied Immigration Advocates Ask Biden to ‘Build Something New’

  • Calls for executive action intensify amid Congress limbo
  • Groups seek expanded temporary protections, legal aid

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Immigrants’ rights and humanitarian groups are promoting a laundry list of executive actions they want President Joe Biden to embrace ahead of his State of the Union address next week.

The Immigration Hub, UndocuBlack Network, Save the Children, and other groups on Wednesday unveiled a 2022 blueprint for the White House and federal agencies charged with carrying out Biden’s past pledges to make the U.S. immigration system more orderly and humane.

The administration spent its first year in office rolling back many, but not all, Trump-era immigration restrictions and starting the time-consuming work of crafting new regulations. The ambitious immigration measures Democrats pursued in Congress last year have stalled, ratcheting up pressure for executive action.

“It’s really important for us to increase the scope of work and cooperation and advocacy with and toward the administration,” Immigration Hub Executive Director Sergio Gonzales said in an interview. “We know that the second year really is a marquee year.”

Biden Aide Plots Immigration Wins to Avoid Congress Gridlock

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
A relieved Venezuelan immigrant speaks with his wife on a video call after he passed through a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border wall on Dec. 10, 2021, in Yuma, Ariz.

The more than two dozen groups aren’t giving up on congressional action, but “the executive should use the power that it has, as well, to try to fix the broken immigration system,” deputy director Kerri Talbot said. Many of the groups were closely engaged on immigration provisions in Democrats’ Build Back Better bill last fall.

Lawmakers have also ramped up calls for the Biden administration to act. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a recent statement committed to using both legislative and executive tools “to keep families together, protect essential workers, and create a path to citizenship.”

Democrats Seek to Salvage Paths for Immigrants in Imperiled Bill

The advocacy groups’ new report credits the Biden administration for ending Trump-era travel restrictions and work-site raids by immigration enforcement officials, while moving to reunite families separated by the previous administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for people crossing the border without authorization.

“The report shows that although President Biden’s administration has advanced necessary reforms, much more remains to be done to reverse the cruel policies that were created with the sole intent of targeting and discriminating against Black and Brown migrants,” Haitian Bridge Alliance Executive Director Guerline Jozef said in a statement.

Action Items

The outline urges the administration to end the use of Title 42, a public health authority allowing the immediate expulsion of migrants at the border, ensure legal counsel at no cost to migrants without lawyers, and offer Temporary Protected Status to nationals of more countries, including Cameroon and Nicaragua.

The groups also want to see the Department of Homeland Security eliminate red tape that contributes to backlogs in the legal immigration system, review the current roster of immigration judges to ensure they are fair and qualified, end immigration enforcement cooperation deals with local law enforcement agencies, and reach a regional migration accord to address root causes and shared responsibility for migration patterns and response in the Americas.

“We really need the Biden-Harris administration to wrap its arms around its original vision to build something new,” Gonzales said.

The groups urge the Biden administration to make immigration policy changes a priority, rather than avoiding them amid intense political scrutiny. Republicans in Congress and state-level offices have used immigration and border security concerns as a go-to line of attack against the administration, an approach that’s intensifying in the lead-up to this fall’s midterm elections.

Immigration Blame-Shifting Persists as Overhaul Efforts Stall

Republican officials want the Biden administration to restart Trump-era policies, including border wall construction, aggressive immigration enforcement within the U.S., and broad use of the “Remain in Mexico” border policy that the Biden administration begrudgingly reinstated late last year in response to a court order.

Several Republican lawmakers and state attorneys general have called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, citing record levels of migrant encounters at the border.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at; Robin Meszoly at

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