From our personal experiences, we know firsthand the challenges that immigrants face upon arriving in the United States, such as learning a new language and assimilating into a new community and culture. Additionally, we can attest to the fact that the process of navigating the immigration system is excruciating.
That is why The Next100 is proud to endorse the New Deal for New Americans Act, a new piece of legislation that lays out a proactive and visionary roadmap to help immigrants and refugees navigate their new homeland and become an integral part of our shared social, economic, and civic life. The New Deal for New Americans Act was developed by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a coalition of thirty-seven of the largest regional immigrant and refugee rights organizations in the country, hailing, all told, from thirty-one different states. NPNA’s mission is to welcome and integrate newcomers into the fabric of our nation, and to uphold equality and opportunity as fundamental American values. It was introduced as federal legislation by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) on October 30, 2019.
Specifically, the legislation seeks to better support immigrants in these ways:
- It mandates the creation of a National Office on New Americans at the federal level, to develop and coordinate a national strategy on immigrant inclusion and integration.
- It removes barriers and obstacles to U.S. citizenship and voting rights, such as making the naturalization process more accessible and affordable for all immigrants, and instating automatic voter registration following the oath ceremony of newly naturalized citizens.
- It creates federally funded programs for English-language acquisition and workforce development for immigrants and refugees.
- It raises the nation’s refugee admissions cap to 110,000, from the current cap of 18,000.
- It increases immigrant and refugee knowledge of their own legal rights through improved access to attorneys and community navigators.
These are the particulars of its policy; but just as importantly, the New Deal for New American Act expands how we think about immigration policy, and immigrants themselves, in the United States. In response to the ongoing crisis of pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, resources are pouring in from many quarters towards countering the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrants and refugees. These are necessary efforts; however, focusing on them limits our capacity to support immigrant and refugee integration. In order to imagine immigration policy beyond the current and harsh limitations of the United States immigration system, we must ask ourselves, “Who is still missing, and what do we need to do to bring those individuals into the fold?”
In order to imagine immigration policy beyond the current and harsh limitations of the United States immigration system, we must ask ourselves, “Who is still missing, and what do we need to do to bring those individuals into the fold?”
Another crucial boon that this legislation offers is its sensitivity to the particular struggles of poor immigrants and refugees, and its dedication to including them in its reforms. Our current system frequently imposes severe penalties on the poor, who have the least access of all to help in negotiating the process. The New Deal for New Americans Act brings this especially vulnerable population under its wing by amplifying policy solutions that help immigrants fully integrate into their new homeland regardless of their socioeconomic status, and by fostering support systems for them in navigating the legal system.
Finally, the New Deal for New Americans Act is powerful in its approach to dismantling the “second wall” of legal barriers to citizenship at the federal level. Even when immigrants are eligible to adjust their status, they may not know it; and when they do, the process they then confront is long, confusing, and expensive, making it inaccessible for so many people. It’s about time that policy seeks to change that.
Our respective journeys as immigrants are different in many ways, from our countries of origin—Mexico and Iraq—to how we entered the immigration system, and more. However, those journeys have many things in common, too, not least our shared struggles of navigating the U.S. immigration system. That is why we believe this legislation is an important step towards investing in our nation’s future and building our shared prosperity.