Biden asks Congress to help the undocumented in Immigrant Heritage Month proclamation


The president pushed Congress to pass sweeping immigration legislation that would benefit millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

President Joe Biden on June 1 proclaimed National Immigrant Heritage Month, underscoring the need to pass the comprehensive U.S. Citizenship Act, which would pave the way for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.

"America is, always has been, and always will be a Nation of immigrants," Biden said in a White House proclamation. "During National Immigrant Heritage Month, we reaffirm and draw strength from that enduring identity and celebrate the history and achievements of immigrant communities across our Nation."

He stressed how the broad immigration bill would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for the nation's noncitizens.

"Despite the progress our Nation has made since our founding, there is more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to all our people," the president wrote. "Nearly 11 million people in this country are undocumented — and it is time that the Congress acts by passing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the immigration reform plan that I introduced on day one of my Presidency."

The U.S. Citizenship Act would allow temporary protection status holders, immigrant farm workers, and dreamers, or those who were brought to the country as children, to immediately apply for green cards, which would grant legal permanent residency. Then, after three years and upon meeting certain requirements, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship. The bill would also allow undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status, and then after five years, enable them to apply for green cards.

Although some pieces of the broader immigration bill have passed the House, the U.S. Citizenship Act itself has not yet been voted on in either the House or the Senate.

Biden pointed out his own administration's emphasis on employing immigrants, saying, "From day one, I promised that my Administration would reflect the full diversity of our Nation — and today, nearly one-third of my Administration's 1,500 political appointees are naturalized U.S. citizens or children of immigrants."

"I am honored to serve alongside Vice President Harris, the first daughter of immigrants to hold the Office of the Vice President, and to work with so many dedicated public servants who are immigrants — and who carry with them every day the legacies of their families' sacrifice and resilience," he added.

The Biden administration's position on immigrants stands in stark contrast to that of the Trump administration, which implemented a number of draconian and even inhumane immigration policies.

In 2018, the Trump administration announced a zero tolerance policy that tore families apart and separated thousands of children from their parents. A federal judge had officially halted the policy in June 2018.

The ACLU, which has been working to reunite the families, has not yet located the parents of 445 children, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the organization's Immigrants’ Rights Project, over the phone on April 7.

Biden on Feb. 2 issued an executive order to form a family reunification task force.

During his term, Trump implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, which forced immigrants to await their asylum cases in Mexico across the border.

Reports detailed asylum-seekers living in tent camps without basic necessities, enduring below-freezing temperatures in squalid conditions.

At the start of Biden's term, 65,000 asylum-seekers were waiting in Mexico. In February, he announced that his administration will begin processing 25,000 of them, and on June 1, Biden formally ended the Remain in Mexico program after suspending it on Jan. 20.

Moreover, Trump, along with his white nationalist adviser Stephen Miller, suppressed the refugee admissions cap to a record low of 15,000 and simultaneously decimated the refugee admissions and resettlement program.

Biden has since announced he will lift Trump's cap to 62,500 for fiscal year 2021, following through with an initial promise after momentarily walking it back and facing fierce pushback. Then for fiscal year 2022, Biden is set to raise the refugee admissions limit to 125,000, the highest in 30 years.

Former President Barack Obama also recognized Immigrant Heritage Month  In a weekly address on June 6, 2015, Obama urged Congress to pass his version of an immigration bill, which stalled in the Republican-controlled House at the time.

"I think of growing up in Hawaii, a place enriched by people of different backgrounds – native Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and just about everything else. Growing up in that vibrant mix helped shape who I am today," the former president said. "Of course, we can't just celebrate this heritage, we have to defend it – by fixing our broken immigration system."

Donald Trump did not acknowledge National Immigrant Heritage Month with proclamations during his time in office.