Immigration Bill Signals Hope for Millions of Families

The following is a statement from Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Washington, D.C., February 18, 2021 – CLASP embraces the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). In truth, this measure is long overdue. In addition to creating a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans, the bill would take steps toward a more equitable and just immigration system. 

Passing this bill would be a game-changer for five million children whose parents are undocumented, as well as the half a million children whose parents have Temporary Protected Status or are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Right now, children are growing up under a cloak of anxiety and fear, worried that their parents could be deported any day. They watch their parents work hard and make sacrifices, only to be blocked from citizenship in the country they call home.

The failures of our nation’s pandemic response have only added to children’s stress. Immigrant parents may be working on the frontlines, but their families are left hungry and behind in the government’s response. The cost to children’s health and wellbeing is one we should never be willing to pay. 

This bill would not only help families heal after four years of harmful and reckless policies, but also start the process of building a more inclusive and welcoming immigration system. This includes keeping families together by improving the family-based immigration system and allowing some people who were deported to return to their families in the United States. The bill also upholds the best interests of children with long overdue protections for young migrants seeking safety at our borders.

While the bill corrects some errors of the past, we are disappointed to see that most individuals on the path to citizenship would be forced to wait at least a decade to access critical benefits, including health care. As an antipoverty organization, we believe every person deserves the dignity to meet their basic needs and provide for their families. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure that any bill that moves forward includes full access to the supports immigrants and their children need to thrive. 

Americans are eager for bold, structural changes that move us closer to racial, economic, and social equity. And five million children, their parents, and our communities cannot wait any longer.