WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers congratulates Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) for introducing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. We are equally appreciative of the Biden-Harris administration for sending proposed immigration legislation - which President Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office – that serves as the foundation for this important legislation.
The Act, I passed, will provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The bill also includes provisions to “fast track” a path to citizenship for agricultural workers, those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, people with temporary protected status (TPS), and others who are classified as deferred enforced departure (DED).
One of the fundamental aims of the legislation is to begin to find remedies to address the root causes of immigration - especially for asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean. Other goals of the bill include ensuring civil and human rights protections for all immigrant workers regardless of their citizenship status; removing impediments to orderly and humane processes for administering family-based immigration; and returning to a humanitarian approached in receiving and processing asylum seeking individuals and families.
NASW supports these goals, and we especially commend the legislation’s call to replace the dehumanizing term “alien” with the more appropriate term - “noncitizen”- in all federal documents, written immigration-related policies, and regulatory language.
This urgently needed bill demonstrates that Congress and the White House are prepared to take significant steps to reassure the world that the United States will reclaim its role as a champion of human rights and a welcoming country for refugees, asylum-seekers and those looking for a better life. The leadership of Senator Menendez, Representative Sanchez, Biden White House, and Congressional leaders should be rewarded with bipartisan support and an expeditious approval process.
Despite its many strengths, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 has shortcomings. NASW is disappointed that it does not address the need for ensuring that immigrants have access by to healthcare and other vital services. This omission is important given that the nation is collectively experiencing a public health and economic crisis stemming the COVID-19 pandemic. many in the immigrant community continue to be barred from access to health care and other vital services.
President Biden has articulated a desire to transform the country’s immigration system into one that conforms with the needs and values in the 21st century — especially one that advances racial and economic equity and justice. To achieve that essential goal, the White House and Congress must recognize that the health and well-being of all those who reside in America is paramount. Therefore, it is essential that the final version of the legislation include explicit language that protects the health and welfare of the many millions of people who are on the path to citizenship.