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NIJC joined more than 160 groups calling on President Biden to uphold past commitments to end mass prosecutions for migration-related offenses that deny individuals their right to a fair hearing and due process. The letter also calls for a halt to all prosecutions for unauthorized entry reentry violations, and to de-prioritize the use of criminal prosecutions for migration violations going forward. 

The laws that criminalized unauthorized migration are rooted in xenophobia and white supremacist ideology, and should not form the basis for any legitimate government policy today. The letter comes during a moment of reckoning for past abuses and high expectations for a new era of immigration policies grounded in racial equity and compassion. The undersigned organizations emphasize the importance of the January 26 Executive Order on the phase out of private prison contracts, and welcome the Attorney General’s memo issued the same day ending the Trump administration’s Zero-Tolerance directive. However, the EO and memo fall seriously short of past commitments and our expectations for a new era of immigration policies rooted in justice and dignity. It is critical that the phase out of private prisons extend to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to include immigration detention. Moreover, the rescission of the Zero-Tolerance directive does not end mass prosecutions under Operation Streamline and preserves the de facto prosecutorial practice of prioritizing entry and reentry prosecutions.

The undersigned organizations call on President Biden to urgently enact the following policy changes within the first 100 days of his administration:

  • End mass prosecutions: Immediately end Operation Streamline and any other programs that facilitate large-scale prosecutions and therefore undercut due process rights and other constitutional protections.
  • Suspend unauthorized entry and reentry prosecutions: Halt unauthorized entry and reentry prosecutions under 8 U.S.C. §§ 1325 and 1326 recognizing that immigrants already are subject to a harsh civil immigration system and work with Congress to repeal these statutes.
  • Rescind existing prosecutorial guidance and de-prioritize prosecutions: Revoke the April 2017 Attorney General memorandum on criminal immigration enforcement and issue new prosecutorial guidance de-prioritizing such prosecutions.   
  • Terminate DHS contracts with private prisons: Issue guidance to extend the January 26 order on private prisons covers private facilities run by DHS.

The laws used to prosecute entry and reentry violations were first enacted with a white supremacist animus nearly a century ago, and continue to have a discriminatory impact on Black and Latinx communities. Ending assembly-line programs and de-prioritizing such prosecutions is an essential step toward ending systemic injustices, reducing mass incarceration, and protecting fundamental human rights.

Read a copy of the letter here.