Rep Espaillat Urges Biden Administration To Keep Promise To 11 Million Immigrants

Today, Harlem Re. Adriano Espaillat released the following statement and list of his recent immigration legislation to urge the incoming Biden administration.

The legislation is to keep its promise to prioritize immigration during its first 100 days and create a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in America.

“This week’s inauguration of the incoming Biden-Harris administration will be historic for a number of reasons. While Democrats have assumed the majority in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate, we will yet again have a Democratic White House and can effectively put into place policy solutions for the betterment of the American people and those seeking the American dream,” said Rep. Espaillat.

“There is a real opportunity to set back our nation on a course that helps communities build back better, but also allows us to reverse the targeted attacks we have witnessed the last four years directed at immigrant communities around the nation. Promoting new policies that will improve our immigration system and protect immigrants from further harm will be critical to our future success, and I urge the incoming Biden adminstration to keep its promise to those who are seeking the dream of becoming American citizens, a dream that I hold dear, know too well, and cherish greatly,” he continued.

“As President-elect Biden prepares to roll out numerous executive actions and major policies to address the challenges facing our nation, I urge him and the incoming adminstration to keep its promise to create a viable pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, and to include some of the proposals that my Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) colleagues and I have introduced that will improve our immigration system and protect immigrants from abusive enforcement actions. As a nation, we simply cannot afford greater delay,” he concluded.

The following legislation has been introduced by Rep. Espaillat and will be reintroduced during the 117th Congress to encourage collaboration with the Biden administration.

Protecting Sensitive Locations Act – H.R. 1011

Rep. Espaillat led five of of his Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to limit immigration enforcement actions at “sensitive locations,” and to expand these safe zones to also include community health centers, school bus stops, courthouses, child care centers, and locations where emergency services providers offer shelter or food.

The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act would prohibit immigration enforcement, including arrests, interviews, searches, and surveillance in the following “sensitive locations”:

  • Any medical treatment or health care facility, including any hospital, doctor’s office, accredited health clinic, or emergent or urgent care facility, or community health center
  • Public and private schools (including pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities, and other institutions of learning such as vocational or trade schools)
  • Any scholastic or education-related activity or event, including field trips and interscholastic events
  • Any school bus or school bus stop during periods when school children are present
  • Locations where emergency services providers provide shelter or food
  • Any organization that assists children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with significant mental or physical disabilities; or provides disaster or emergency social services and assistance, including, but not limited to, food banks and homeless shelters
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship
  • Sites of funerals, weddings, or other public religious ceremonies
  • Sites during the occurrence of a public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade
  • Any Federal, State, or local courthouse, including the office of an individual’s legal counsel or representative, and a probation office
  • Congressional district offices
  • Public assistance offices, Social Security offices, and employment training centers
  • Locations where removal and asylum proceedings involving minors are taking place
  • Childcare centers

Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act – H.R. 1012

Rep. Espaillat‘s bill would require DHS and HHS to publish guidance describing how they will reunify families and it would direct the Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish an Office for Locating and Reuniting Children with Parents to expedite and facilitate the reunification of children and parents separated after entering the United States.

The bill would also require the agencies to determine how to ensure sustained, no-cost contact between parents and children, access to children by legal counsel and other advocates, and unannounced inspections by child welfare organizations.

Additionally, the bill would also require daily-updated information about the location of their children and all scheduled immigration proceedings for their children, as well as the opportunity for parents to speak with their children – free of cost – not fewer than 3 times per week, including at least once by video.

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It would require agencies to use other techniques commonly utilized by United States courts for determining family relationships, including official documents, representations from a witness, parent, relative, or child, and observations of interactions between the adult and the child, but it would prohibit DHS from using any of the information obtained for immigration enforcement purposes.

Finally, the bill redirects $50 million from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) to enforcement of this Act, including providing legal counsel to children, and ensuring that children do not appear before a judge by themselves.

ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act – H.R. 1013

The ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act would ensure that agents and officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) wear body cameras when such officers are engaged in official operations. There have been numerous concerning reports that agents have used coercive methods to extract information from immigrants, including DACA beneficiaries, and in some cases, have fabricated the testimonies they received.

The ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability would require:
• ICE and CBP officers to wear body cameras as soon as they are on duty.
• The Director of ICE and the Commissioner of CBP establish policies, procedures, and best practices for the use of body cameras by agents and officers of ICE and CBP, including training relating to the use of such cameras.
• That body cameras be turned on when the ICE officer or CBP agent begins their shift.
• An agent or officer of ICE or CBP whose body camera does not record footage because of a violation be subject to furlough, reduction in pay or grade, or a suspension of up to 30 days.
• Footage be made available to each party to any administrative proceeding, civil action, or criminal prosecution to which such footage pertains.

Rep. Espaillat led a bipartisan effort to secure the funds required to finally equip all CBP border agents with body cameras, and was able to get a directive approved that would require ICE to report to Congress on the status of its body camera pilot, so we can equip their officers with cameras in short order.

Family Reunification Act – H.R. 3312

In 1994, Congress authorized a new, temporary program that allowed undocumented immigrants who were otherwise eligible for visas through family relationships or job skills to become legal permanent residents without having to return to their country of origin. The program, known as “Section 245(i)” for its location in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), provided an important path to legalization for those with ties to the United States who could pass a criminal background check. This path to legal status became even more important after Congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, implementing three- and 10-year bars on return for those who were unlawfully present in the United States, by allowing eligible applicants to circumvent those onerous bars.

Section 245(i) enjoyed bipartisan support and its application deadline was extended numerous times throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s on bipartisan votes in both chambers. However, Congress has failed to extend this program since it closed in 2002.

This left millions of eligible applicants without a path to legal status that would not separate them from their families. Some estimates put the number of current potential beneficiaries of the program at approximately 4 million.

Rep. Espaillat introduced the Family Reunification Act to reopen this critical path to legal status, shielding immigrants from the overly punitive three- and 10-year bars, by eliminating the application deadline originally enacted.

The Espaillat bill would also shield from removal proceedings any individual who has an immigrant-visa application pending or is waiting in a long line for a visa to be issued. This measure will finally provide certainty to countless law-abiding immigrant families.

Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the north-west Bronx.

First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress.

Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.

He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.

Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.


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