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Bill marks significant progress, but continued reliance on criminal law undermines efforts toward racial justice

CHICAGO (February 18, 2021) - The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes today’s introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which creates a path to citizenship for millions of people in the United States.


NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy responded to the introduction with the following statement:

“This bill is a significant step toward rebuilding our country’s immigration system with a vision that offers hope and stability for millions of our community members who have waited for years for the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Importantly, it abandons the failed framework of past immigration reform efforts which only offered access to legalization for some people as a tradeoff for ramping up detention and deportations against others. This new approach makes important progress toward addressing the cruelty that permeates the U.S. immigration system. It has become all the more urgent as DHS continues to deport Black and Brown immigrants and turn away asylum seekers at the border.

“Unfortunately, this bill continues to place outsized reliance on the criminal legal system to steer decision making in our immigration system. The bill blocks some people from access to citizenship if they were convicted of a broad range of criminal offenses, fails to address harmful provisions of current law that deny immigrants access to judicial review of their detention, and fails to end harmful collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement that encourages racial profiling. Members of Congress need to understand that deportation and family separation will continue to cause harm to communities until we extract the immigration system from the criminal legal system.”