Jan 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Mayors press Biden to adopt progressive immigration agenda

Illustration of the American flag with a stripe as a red carpet with a portable rope barrier beside it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A coalition of nearly 200 mayors and county executives is challenging Joe Biden and the incoming Congress to adopt a progressive immigration agenda that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship.

Why it matters: The group's goals, set out in a white paper released today, seem to fall slightly to the left of what the president-elect plans to propose on Inauguration Day — though not far — and come at a time of intense national polarization over immigration.

Driving the news: Cities for Action, a pro-immigrant advocacy group that includes the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other major cities, has released a priority list for the Biden administration called "A Vision for Immigration Action." Provided first to Axios, the document calls for:

  • A moratorium on immigration enforcement "while the pandemic continues to threaten public health."
  • A pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, including those who fall under DACA.
  • The establishment of a White House Office of New Americans.
  • An end to federal funding being contingent on local cooperation with ICE.
  • National funding for immigration legal services.
  • Broad recognition that immigrants enrich their local communities.
  • A commitment to keeping families together and out of detention.

Where it stands: Biden has promised bold action on immigration from the start, vowing to undo by executive action or legislation some of the strong restrictions of the Trump administration. Among his immediate goals:

  • To unveil a big immigration bill on Day One of his administration, one that includes "an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status," the AP reported Monday night.
  • To begin reuniting families separated at the border.
  • To rescind Trump's ban on travel from certain majority-Muslim nations.

The forthcoming bill "will include increased foreign aid to ravaged Central American economies" and "safe opportunities for immigration for those fleeing violence," per the New York Times.

  • But AP says that it "fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt."

Context: Illegal border crossings have surged in recent months — as have the numbers of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • A 7,000-strong migrant caravan from Honduras is now traveling north through Central America.

The bottom line: Cities for Action, formed in late 2014, met with the Biden team in December and expects a sympathetic ear for its "policy platform that prioritizes the needs of immigrant families and communities across America."

  • "We do not turn our backs on people who are seeking refuge," Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, tells Axios.
  • That doesn't mean open borders, she said. "We have rule of law, we want to see that implemented in a humane and dignified way, and we’re not going to continue to fall into this trap of fear-mongering through racist and xenophobic language."
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