Dec 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Facing GOP challenge, immigration groups merge

Ngoc Nguyen of Vietnam takes the Oath of Allegiance as her cousin, Buu-Van A.J. Rashi, translates for her during a U.S. naturalization ceremony

A U.S. naturalization ceremony. Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Two leading immigration groups — the New American Economy and the American Immigration Council — are merging, in part, to prepare for a potential Republican takeover of Congress, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Immigration has increasingly become a central U.S. political issue. Pro-immigrant groups have gained influence in recent years through their advocacy and litigation — especially during the Trump era. A possible return to legislative power by the GOP would require more clout, the two groups say.

  • “It’s rare that nonprofits merge, but it shouldn't be," said Jeremy Robbins, who served as executive director of New American Economy and will retain that title in the new group.
  • NAE is an immigration think tank founded over a decade ago by Michael Bloomberg.
  • “I believe our field needs to evolve, and that it’s time to reimagine our work in a way that helps us best serve newcomers while rebuilding a bipartisan and constructive case for what immigration means for America.”

The new group will be named the American Immigration Council. The council was founded by the sister group American Immigration Lawyers Association — the only U.S. legal association for immigration attorneys.

  • The merger comes after an outcry among immigrant advocates, including the Council, over the Biden administration reinstating the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy, under federal court order.
  • It also comes as groups rethink the best way to push pro-immigrant policies in anticipation of Republicans taking back the House next year. This includes an emphasis on state and local policies, particularly in places like Texas, Ohio and Colorado with new immigrant communities.
  • Former President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created policies to make it more difficult for migrants to gain asylum and imposed a new wealth and health "public charge" test for green card applicants.

The big picture: NAE's work has focused on economic research and building state and local advocacy networks, now in more than 100 communities.

  • Those efforts will now continue alongside the council's legal might, national ad campaigns and federal advocacy.
  • Members hope the combined resources help the teams "better expand and protect the rights of immigrants, more fully ensure immigrants’ ability to succeed economically, and help make the communities they settle in more welcoming," according to a news release first provided to Axios.
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