Big Tech Backs Biden Immigration Moves

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Immigration rights protest, Washington DC 2016. Photo by Susan Melkisethian via Flickr.

Hours after taking his oath of office on Wednesday, President Joe Biden fulfilled his promise to begin a major overhaul of U.S. immigration, including reversing the hardline “zero tolerance” policies of the previous administration.

Biden signed two executive orders Wednesday that extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for another four years and overturn the Trump administration’s travel bans on largely Muslim-majority countries—and received an enthusiastic vote of support from the nation’s tech giants, reports  The Verge.

It’s just the start of the Biden administration’s immigration reform efforts.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo hours after President Biden’s inaugural Wednesday setting strict limits for arresting and deporting immigrants while the department reviews its policies and practices and imposed an “immediate” 100-day pause on the deportations of certain noncitizens, to take effect no later than Friday, reports The Washington Post.

The memo is the first step in a broader plan to find a different solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, many of whom have lived here for years and have U.S.-citizen children. Many are essential workers — delivery workers, caregivers, even physicians — but Congress has not passed a major citizenship bill since 1986.

The administration also plans legislation that would provide 11 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship and an eight-year waiting period before they can become permanent residents, according to Politico.

The early moves were welcomed by America’s tech giants.

“We welcome President Biden’s commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American values of justice, fairness and dignity,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement Wednesday.

“This effort will strengthen American communities and the pathways to opportunity this country has long fostered. In the weeks and months to come, business leaders look forward to working with the Administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, to achieve bipartisan, practical and comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system, including a permanent solution for Dreamers that includes a path to citizenship.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai  and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also put out statements in support.

TechNet, a technology trade group, signed onto a National Immigration Forum letter to Congress Wednesday encouraging members to quickly approve the Biden administration’s immigration plans. Dozens of TechNet’s members also signed onto the letter, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

“We can create a modern, humane, and effective immigration system that upholds the best of America’s promise: to be a nation where people can come from around the world to work, contribute, and build a better life for themselves, their families, and our society as a whole,” the TechNet letter said.

“As we recover from COVID-19, the essential contributions of immigrants here today, and those to come tomorrow, will be critical to the health and well-being of American workers and their families.”

But the administration was also warned that its early efforts were unlikely to be enough to de-criminalize the immigration system.

To create a truly just immigration system, the Biden administration must disentangle the criminal legal apparatus from immigration and resist a return to a pre-Trump consensus that leaves intact the machinery of racist enforcement and detention, said The Appeal in a policy editorial,

The promised repeal of Trump’s interior enforcement executive order is a start, but “as next steps, the Biden administration can and should exercise executive authority to cancel all 287(g) agreements, dismantle the discriminatory Secure Communities and Criminal Alien programs, cancel immigration detention contracts, and release people from immigration custody,” The Appeal said.

Taking bold executive action to end these programs not only protects immigrants who would otherwise be targeted, but also helps to stabilize families and communities in a country where at least 16.7 million people live in a mixed-status family.

Support for bold executive action is evident in successful local and state fights to end involvement in immigration detention and adopt “sanctuary” policies that limit detainers and other forms of collaboration with ICE, noted Appeal writer Alina Das.

“These efforts are not limited to more liberal states and localities,” she wrote.

“Thanks to local organizing, pro-287(g) sheriffs in conservative counties within Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia have lost re-election.”

 According to a Pew Research poll conducted last summer, three-quarters of U.S. adults, including 89 percent of Democrats, support a pathway to status for all undocumented immigrants.

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