For Immediate Release
January 21, 2021
January 21, 2021
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
SEARAC Welcomes President Biden and Vice President Harris
Urges Follow Through on Racial Equity and Progressive Change
Washington, DC – Yesterday, the inauguration of President Joe Biden and the first Black, first Asian American, and first woman Vice President Kamala Harris took place in our nation’s capital. Despite threats of violence, the ceremony was uninterrupted by protests or insurrectionists, and the country saw a peaceful transition of power. Throughout the last four years, President Trump has inflicted numerous harms on our communities, from revoking healthcare and equitable education opportunities for our communities to criminalizing and deporting Southeast Asian refugees at an unprecedented rate. While on the campaign trail, President Biden committed to centering racial equity, healthcare access, and COVID-19 relief, along with undoing many of the policies put in place by Trump.
“SEARAC is hopeful that President Biden and Vice President Harris will act swiftly to assist our communities and change the direction of this country,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of SEARAC. “However, it is necessary for President Biden to move beyond just undoing the wrongs committed by Trump. This administration must reflect the will of the American people and the organizers that flipped longtime Republican strongholds by addressing the fundamental, systemic, racist injustice inherent in our institutions. We must re-envision our immigration system and dismantle our enforcement system that continues to criminalize and deport immigrants and refugees; fundamentally rethink how we fund our schools and teach our students; and reshape our healthcare system to increase access for all US residents and guarantee culturally and linguistically competent care. We look forward to working closely with President Biden, Vice President Harris, their teams, and our elected officials in the 117th Congress to create the change that our communities deserve.”
Summary of President Biden’s day one actions:
100-day moratorium on deportations and interim priority enforcement
The Biden administration announced that it would pause the deportation of immigrants living in the US since Nov. 1, 2020, but did not direct the Department of Homeland Security to release individuals currently detained in immigration detention facilities. The memo also establishes interim priority enforcement criterias that do not necessarily prevent the deportation of certain people charged with an “aggravated felony” — a category which is vast, vague, and arbitrary. Though we appreciate the steps taken by the Biden-Harris Administration to temporarily halt deportations and to curtail mass enforcement against immigrants and refugees, more must be done to stop the criminalization of our communities. We urge the Administration to fully adopt the priorities laid out in the letter on ending Southeast Asian deportations SEARAC and partners sent earlier this month. To further punish our community members who have already suffered in a criminal system based in racism simply does not reflect our country’s values. Other immigration-related executive actions include rescinding the Muslim and African Bans, reinstating the DACA program, repealing the previous administration’s interior enforcement executive order, and an extension of protections for Liberians.
Extension of student loan assistance
President Biden also signed an Executive Order extending the current pause on student loan payments and interest through September 30, 2021. This pause, first instituted by Congress through the CARES Act in March, has helped the millions of people who owe student debt weather the economic hardships that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, especially low-income borrowers and borrowers of color. However, because student debt disproportionately affects borrowers of color, especially Black and Latinx borrowers, we urge President Biden to immediately take further action to provide relief by canceling student debt.
COVID-19 and day one immigration legislation
Though the legislative text of President Biden’s COVID-19 and immigration bills have yet to be released, the White House has released details outlying priorities for both bills. The outline of his COVID-19 legislation indicates an intent to contain the virus, create a vaccination program, and safely reopen schools through various means, including providing paid sick leave. The bill would also deliver $1,400 per-person checks to households across America, providing direct housing and nutrition assistance, expanding access to safe and reliable childcare and affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, and extending unemployment insurance.
President Biden’s immigration bill would provide a path to citizenship for over eleven million undocumented immigrants and includes the Reuniting Families Act to modernize our family immigration system. Biden’s day one bill is a welcome departure from the racism and xenophobia of the Trump era, but more must be done for our communities. SEARAC looks forward to the legislative text of the immigration bill and is cautiously optimistic that it will provide much needed relief for immigrants and refugees without further criminalizing our communities.
SEARAC’s national policy team continues to analyze the executive orders and actions taken in the first days of President Biden’s term and will provide additional updates in future statements and newsletters. You can view the list of current executive actions taken here.