Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.
President Biden has fulfilled very little of his immigration agenda one year in. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.

Biden makes no mention of ICE abuses during first State of the Union address

The president also has a long wish list of immigration reforms. He repeated them on Tuesday night despite making no progress in his first year.


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In President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 1, he addressed multiple pressing topics, including actions taken in solidarity with Ukraine, the state of COVID-19, the success of the American Rescue Plan, and immigration.

From the start of his presidential campaign, Biden has championed immigration reform, particularly through healing the damage done by the Trump administration, providing a pathway to citizenship, and ensuring that ICE is held accountable for inhumane treatment.

On Tuesday night, Biden repeated his wish list, which includes providing a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers.

Biden also claimed it is possible to both secure the border and fix the immigration system.

“We’ve set up joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers. We’re putting in place dedicated immigration judges so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases heard faster,” Biden said.

However, Biden stopped short of mentioning ICE detention facilities, which is a major cause of concern for immigration advocates. These centers are still rampant with abuse, medical neglect, nutritional deprivation and more.

Just last month, a Pennsylvania facility reopened after being closed due to years of community pushback. Instead of families, the center now detains immigrant women, at a center with documented cases of sexual assault.

Immigration advocates are urging Biden to fulfill his campaign promises.

Lorella Praeli, Co-President of Community Change Action, a national organization that works to build the power and capacity of low-income people, acknowledged that Biden has made progress over the past year economically, but said there is a lot more work to be done in terms of immigration.

“Through executive action, President Biden can close detention centers and cut detention levels, end police-ICE agreements, restore asylum at the border, and designate TPS for those fleeing violence and dangerous conditions. He has the authority to take action and deliver on his campaign promises,” Praeli said. 

Millions of undocumented immigrants remain at risk of deportation, including those working on the frontlines of the pandemic response. 

The We Are Home campaign, a multi-racial and multi-generational coalition urging Biden and Congress to protect immigrants, responded similarly to Biden’s remarks. 

In a press release, a DACA recipient and nursing student in Milwaukee, Yareli Suarez, called on Biden to use his executive power to end all contracts with for profit private detention centers and end all collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE. 

“My family and loved ones need and deserve the relief of knowing that I can work and live without fear of deportation in the country we all call home. President Biden, if Congress won’t act, then it’s time for you to take action,” Suarez wrote. 

Immigration advocates started off Biden’s term with hope, but now many are left with frustration and disappointment at the lack of true and lasting change to a deplorable system they’ve been fighting against for decades. 

“With many promises left unfulfilled, he and his administration remain responsible for the continued implementation of Trump’s border rules and the over 2 millions people deported and expelled since the start of his term. Nevertheless, we are undeterred to continue to deliver tangiblee victories for our communities,” said Gresia Martínez Rosas, Executive Director of United We Dream.


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