Immigration advocates, Clarke praise Biden’s move to aid long-standing undocumented immigrants

Murad Awawdeh, NYIC’s executive director.
Photo courtesy NYIC

Immigration advocates in New York and Caribbean-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke on Tuesday welcomed what they describe as President Joe Biden’s “commonsense actions” to support long-standing undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants.

On Tuesday, Biden announced new actions that would support the ability of undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants to work and remain in the United States with their families without fear of deportation, while they pursue a pathway to legal status.

“We commend President Biden and Vice President Harris for taking welcome action to address the needs of immigrant communities and keep families together,” Murad Awawdeh, president and chief executive officer of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, told Caribbean Life.

“Common sense use of existing law to provide solutions is the sort of positive leadership we need to reform our immigration system,” he added. “Increasing access to work authorization and legal status is a smart investment in creating a stronger America and a robust workforce.

“It’s also the right thing to do to keep families united and equip people to support themselves and thrive with dignity,” Awawdeh continued. “A balanced approach to fixing our immigration system ensures a fair, humane and orderly system for managing the border and access to safe and lawful pathways for immigration – as well as citizenship for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) recipients, Dreamers and long-settled immigrant families who have long called America home.”

He said Biden’s actions are “a step in the right direction to building a future that unites us all,” calling, at the same time, on the Biden administration to “build on this historic announcement in the coming weeks.”

Building off existing authorities, Awawdeh said a process for “Parole in Place” will apply to undocumented spouses of United States citizens. who have resided in the US for at least 10 years and meet other eligibility.

He said this new process could benefit up to 500,000 immigrants, and 50,000 of their children under the age of 21.

Additionally, Awawdeh noted that the updated policy for the immigration waiver will help remove barriers to employment authorization for DACA recipients and Dreamers who hold a degree from a US university and have a job offer from a US employer related to their degree.

Natalia Aristizabal, deputy director of Make the Road New York, another immigration advocacy organization, also said Biden’s action is “a step in the right direction for the nearly half a million people living in the United States, who may benefit from today’s announcement.”

“For years, we have been calling on the president to pass immigration reform,” she told Caribbean Life. “In the absence of congressional action on a comprehensive and humane bill, we are glad to see Biden announce this today.

“This victory comes after years of pushing the administration to provide solutions for the immigrant community,” Aristizabal added. “While immigrants in the United States have been under tremendous threat from extremists, we have shown that we will not back down and will continue to hold leaders accountable for delivering for our families.”

She said the potential impact of Tuesday’s action on families will be “far-reaching.”

“For many parents who have worried about not seeing their children grow up, or spouses who have feared being taken away from their loved ones, ‘Parole in Place’ will provide welcome relief,” Aristizabal said.

At the same time, she also called on Biden to implement “more commonsense immigration measures that will make a real impact in our communities.”

“While extremists in the Republican Party continue to push xenophobic policies, it is more important than ever for President Biden to use his executive power—not to cave to anti-immigrant sentiment, like he has done in limiting asylum—but to push forward policies that will truly benefit all Americans, like humane immigration reform, expediting work permits, and expanding Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure,” Aristizabal said.

“We deserve more, and we won’t stop fighting for it,” she stressed.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, noted that, as America, over the weekend, “commemorated 12 years of being uplifted and bettered by DACA, we were each reminded of the vast contributions undocumented individuals continue to bring to our communities through their determination, talents and devotion to an often-ungrateful nation.

“Undocumented Americans have come to represent an irreplaceable element of our social and economic fabric,” said the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “Yet, far too many have remained plagued by uncertainty surrounding their status. Thankfully, through the Biden-Harris administration’s historic action today, we are on the humanitarian path forward.”

Clarke said this policy change “stands among the most significant steps to protect immigrants and their families since President Obama first announced DACA.

“For undocumented spouses of US citizens. whose future in our nation is now secured, the many children living in mixed-status households who were at risk of losing a parent to deportation, and the countless other Americans who are proud to hold an undocumented person close to their hearts, the immediate and meaningful impact of this moment cannot be overstated,” the congresswoman emphasized to Caribbean Life.

“President Biden’s announcement is an essential step in our fight to provide undocumented Americans the lives they deserve, and the stability we are each entitled to,” she added. “Moreover, it upholds the truth that our first priority is, and must always be, to keep families together.

“But make no mistake, despite today’s landmark announcement, we must not lose sight of the road ahead,” Clarke warned. “Securing a pathway to citizenship is as necessary now as ever before.

“With this administration’s dedication to supporting immigrant families of every background and within every community, I am optimistic that we will reach the progress undocumented individuals have long awaited,” she, however, continued.

In making the announcement on Tuesday, Biden said this new process will help certain noncitizen spouses and children apply for lawful permanent residence – “status that they are already eligible for – without leaving the country.”

“These actions will promote family unity and strengthen our economy, providing a significant benefit to the country and helping US citizens and their noncitizen family members stay together,” he said.

In order to be eligible, Biden said noncitizens must – as of June.17, 2024 – have resided in the United States for 10 or more years and be legally married to a US citizen, while satisfying all applicable legal requirements.

On average, he said those who are eligible for this process have resided in the US for 23 years.

The president said those who are approved after Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) case-by-case assessment of their application will be afforded a three-year period to apply for permanent residency.

“They will be allowed to remain with their families in the United States and be eligible for work authorization for up to three years,” Biden said. “This will apply to all married couples who are eligible.”

He said this action will protect about half a million spouses of US citizens, and about 50,000 noncitizen children under the age of 21 whose parent is married to a US citizen.

Biden said the new policy will allow immigrants, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers, young people who were brought to America as children, who have earned a degree at an accredited US institution of higher education, and who have received an offer of employment from a US employer in a field related to their degree, to more quickly receive work visas.

“Recognizing that it is in our national interest to ensure that individuals who are educated in the US are able to use their skills and education to benefit our country, the administration is taking action to facilitate the employment visa process for those who have graduated from college and have a high-skilled job offer, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers,” he said.

Biden noted that, 12 years ago, he, as vice president, and President Barack Obama announced the DACA program “to allow our young people to live and work in the only country they’ve called home.”