Washington, DC – In reaction to the announcement from President Biden of a policy making it easier for certain immigrants with U.S. citizen spouses to obtain green cards, NDLON Legal Director Chris Newman, made the following statement:

“Today’s exercise of immigration discretion from President Biden, while smaller in scope than we had hoped, could lead to material improvements in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American families. A realistic shot at green cards for undocumented spouses is excellent news for people who have spent years in limbo. But as we know all too well, even this modest step will enrage and inflame white nationalist forces on the MAGA right.

“Our network calls on the President to forcefully deliver and defend his new policy from the right-wing legal and media assault that is to come. As we know from President Obama’s botched rollout of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), demagogues will turn all their legal and political firepower against any government policy that offers anything at all to non-white immigrants, and hopes can be dashed quickly.

“For the last seven years, the terms of the immigration debate have been dictated by Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices on FOX NEWS, in Congress and states like Texas and Florida. The consequences have been catastrophic for immigrants and American democracy. If the White House wants this policy to succeed — and if Biden wants to be re-elected — then he must seize back control of the national discussion about immigration.

“Political, legal, and economic equality: this is all an entire generation of immigrants has asked for, for more than 20 years. But while President Biden has proclaimed his solidarity with immigrants, his actual policies have been inconsistent and incoherent, muddled by his politically motivated lurch to the right on border security. All voters, not just MAGA fascists, want a strong President.  Trump fills the leadership vacuum on immigration by promising to be a mighty dictator.  It’s time for Biden to counter the illusion of Trump’s strength by exercising the real power of his office. The president has considerable untapped legal authority and political space to help immigrants while resetting the terms of the debate. 

“Biden’s Homeland Security and Labor Departments have been quietly cooperating on an innovative but little-known labor-rights program, Deferred Action Law Enforcement (DALE), a smart policy to protect undocumented workers who expose labor abuses and exploitation. So far, an estimated 5,000 immigrant workers have stepped forward and received protection.  That number should be over 500,000.  The policy would be helped if President Biden mentioned it in the White House today. 

“As with DACA and DALE, the success of the policy announced today will depend on two key factors among others:  First, immigrants will need to courageously step forward and report themselves to the same law enforcement agencies that have been violating their rights for years. They will need to take a leap of faith.

“And their courage must be matched by President Biden himself. He needs to summon the strength we all hoped he would show when he first defeated Trump in 2020.  Our hope is that today marks a turning point, and that Biden learns the lesson from DACA:  Presidents do right by history, this country and themselves when they vigorously use every tool at their disposal to defend immigrants’ rights.”