First 100 Days – Bimonthly Policy Recap (March 9)

As we near the halfway mark of the Biden-Harris Administration’s First 100 Days, we bring you the latest issue of SEARAC’s bimonthly e-newsletter. Read on to get informed on policy updates and alerts regarding actions of the new Administration that impact Southeast Asian Americans. If you have questions or want to learn more about any of the policies that SEARAC is tracking, contact National Policy Director Kham Moua at

Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill, Returns to House for Another Vote

Over the weekend, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan Act, moving the bill over the House of Representatives for a final vote before President Biden can sign the bill into law. The bill also includes extended unemployment coverage, provides additional financial support for federal programs, and invests heavily in COVID-19 containment and vaccine rollout efforts. Also allocated is $130 billion to help reopen schools safely and with a focus on learning loss, and another $40 billion is included for higher education, with at least half required to go directly to students as financial assistance.

Although the current version of the bill provides relief for households with mixed immigration status, the bill continues to leave out undocumented families from financial support. While SEARAC appreciates the leadership of Congressional leaders and President Biden in moving this bill forward, our organization remains extremely concerned that immigrants continue to be left out of financial relief.

The House of Representatives is expected to take a vote on this bill tomorrow.

President Biden to Accelerate Availability of J&J COVID-19 Vaccines

Last week, President Biden announced a partnership between pharmaceutical companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) that would enable 100 million J&J COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered by the end of May, a month earlier than previously announced. The accelerated timeline comes in part through the President invoking his authority from the Defense Production Act to expedite materials in vaccine production. SEARAC continues to encourage community members eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to schedule an appointment through their local Department of Health or other entities that have the vaccine available. While COVID-19 cases have been decreasing, SEARAC urges members of the Southeast Asian American community to remain vigilant, practice social distancing and proper hygiene, and continue wearing masks until the virus is contained.

Check out our COVID-19 Community Hub here.

USCIS Reverts to 2008 Version of Citizenship Test

Last month, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a memo announcing they will revert to the 2008 version of the civics test that applicants must pass when filing their naturalization application. On Dec. 1, 2020, USCIS implemented a revised naturalization civics test (2020 civics test) that increased the number and difficulty of questions. After USCIS received roughly 2,500 comments from the public, USCIS reverted to the 2008 test. USCIS will provide applicants the choice to either take the 2008 civics test or the 2020 civics test in cases where applicants filed their naturalization application on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, and where the initial interview is scheduled to occur before April 19. SEARAC applauds this policy change and will continue to work towards decreasing barriers to naturalization for our communities.


House Reintroduces the Dream and Promise Act

On March 3, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-07), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-09) reintroduced the Dream and Promise Act to provide a path to citizenship for more than three million undocumented youth and for people with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure. Unfortunately, despite the inclusion of some waivers, the act continues to include exemptions that would leave significant segments of immigrant communities vulnerable to deportation. SEARAC continues to work with Congress to strengthen the bill. Read our full statement here.


ICE Case Review Process Opens Relief Avenue

On March 5, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) announced the ICE Case Review (ICR) process for individuals who believe their case does not align with ICE’s enforcement, detention, and removal priorities. The ICR process offers another channel through which noncitizens and their representatives can request that ICE exercise its prosecutorial discretion on a particular noncitizen’s behalf and to resolve questions and concerns. Individuals requesting a detention case review should contact their local ERO field office for initial consideration. SEARAC urges the Biden Administration to review the cases of thousands of people who remain in immigration detention use their power to release all immigrants possible from detention.


Help Release Two Community Members in ICE Custody and Stop Their Removals to Vietnam

Bring Hieu Huynh Home #GroundThePlane

Hieu Huynh, a 49-year-old refugee from Vietnam, has been detained in ICE custody since May 2020, for a conviction from over 30 years ago for which he’s already served time. Over the past nine months in detention, Hieu has faced the dangers of COVID-19, isolated and separated from his elderly father and community. Now, he faces the threat of being permanently separated from his family during this global pandemic.

You can:

Free Tien Pham #FreeTien
After being found suitable for parole, Vietnamese refugee Tien Pham has been transferred across multiple states and left in limbo as he faces imminent deportation. Tien had to undergo a rigorous process to earn his freedom, with both the Board of Parole Hearings and California Governor Gavin Newsom affirming that he should be released early. ICE is attempting to once again separate Tien from his family and send him back to Vietnam in a continuing cycle of violence aimed at refugees and immigrants.
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