In this Op Ed published in The Nation, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Carla Gomez, Hena Mansori of the Bronx Defenders, and Sophia Gurulé of Cook County Public Defenders penned these powerful critiques of President Biden’s “American Dream and Promise Act” otherwise known as HR 6. While the bill has many good measures, certain parts run the risk of repeating the errors of our past. All three co-authors are part of the Public Defenders’ Coalition for Immigration Justice, a national coalition which continues to speak out and urge the federal government to stop criminalizing immigrants.
“Fueling the jail-to-deportation pipeline with its criminalization bars, HR 6 places the power to withhold citizenship in the hands of the local police and prosecutors who dictate the arrest, charges, pleas, and sentences that the bill would enshrine—even as our nation struggles to reconcile that the application of these discretionary powers is deeply informed by ZIP code and skin color.”
“As with the criminal legal system, HR 6’s sweeping and punitive criminalization bars would disproportionately punish poor Black people and other communities of color. For example, the bill bars immigrants from obtaining lawful status, with very limited exception, if they have been convicted at any time in their lives of any three misdemeanors, which include offenses such as jaywalking, disorderly conduct, street vending without a license, shoplifting, and trespass.”
“We urge members of Congress and the Biden administration to reject the criminalization bars in HR 6, and to ensure that all proposed immigration reform, including the US Citizenship Act, does not exclude our country’s most policed and vulnerable communities.”