Cautious Optimism as Immigrant Rights Groups Embrace Possibilities in Biden Immigration Plan

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2021
Contact: Jose Servin,, 714-728-2520

Nationwide – On the first week of office, the Biden administration released a memo placing a limited moratorium on deportations for 100 days. This, accompanied by a list of immigration related executive orders aimed at rolling back destructive Trump-era policies, comes as much-needed relief for immigrant communities that have been resisting xenophobic attacks for the last several years. We believe these initial actions, along with Biden’s US Citizenship Act of 2021 proposed immigration bill, are a template for strong policy. We recognize, however, that federal policy change will likely be challenged by Republican provocateurs serving a white nationalist base, and we urge California leaders to use their authority to take complementary and decisive action to care for immigrants in the state. We call on California Governor Gavin Newsom and the incoming Attorney General to build on President Biden’s commitments by enacting a moratorium on all state transfers to ICE to conduct a thorough inspections of ICE detention facilities in California, and to call for the release of community members from ICE detention, where they remain at extremely high risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Biden Administration’s policy changes are a step towards addressing the needs of immigrant communities, but there remains significant work to do. There are still community members who are targeted by a racist criminal legal system and are now in ICE detention who are thus far left out of President Biden’s relief efforts. We continue to demand justice and liberty for everyone who is currently detained by ICE, so that they may fight their legal cases with dignity, alongside their families and communities.

“There can be no exclusion to humane treatment because all life is sacred and we must face the tensions of inequality to find justice for all. You can save lives by expediting the release of all individuals from cages. Incarceration feeds on the fear of the public’s ignorance in the name of protection. I ask elected leaders to please end transfers from prisons and jails to ICE cages. We must end the cruel and excessive punishment the immigrant population has been facing.”

—Charles Joseph, a community organizer and liberated leader formerly detained at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California.

These concrete steps seek to advance racial justice and redress the anti-Black pipeline of criminalization that funnels oppressed communities from the criminal legal system into immigration proceedings. In the coming weeks, we expect the Biden administration to more fully address this issue and to root out the systems of trauma and persecution that torment immigrant communities. We embrace the administration’s early action as initial steps and encourage bolder action that will dismantle all immigrant prisons and end the criminalization of migrant communities.

The Dignity not Detention Coalition includes California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ), Interfaith for Human Integrity (IM4HI), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), Freedom for Immigrant (FFI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Pangea Legal Services, Centro Legal De La Raza, SIREN, Detention Watch Network (DWN), Human Impact Partners (HIP), ACLU – SoCal, AFSC – San Diego, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC), California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), Orange County Rapid Response Network (OCRNN), and others.