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The Advocates Welcomes Introduction of the New Way Forward Bill

March 29, 2023

Minneapolis, MN -

The Advocates for Human Rights welcomes today's introduction in Congress of the New Way Forward Act, which would unwind the harms of the ever increasing criminalization of migration.

U.S. immigration policy must meet international human rights standards by doing justice, operating fairly, being free from discrimination, and supporting human dignity. Violations of migrants' human rights result from entrenched failures of U.S. immigration laws: lack of meaningful defenses to deportation or avenues for people who are not in status to move into lawful immigration status, the excessive and coercive power given by Congress to ICE to detain people without any individualized custody determination, and a failure to engage in creating a safe global migration environment. These failures are rooted in the immigration system's legacy of white supremacy.

At the same time, we know access to representation directly impacts case outcomes and lack of access to representation contributes to a nearly unstoppable machinery of deportation. "The Advocates for Human Rights sees firsthand the devastating impact that lack of access to counsel has on individuals, children, families, and our community," says Robin Phillips, executive director of The Advocates for Human Rights. "We know that legal representation matters. Immigration justice should not depend on whether a person can afford a lawyer." The Advocates' Immigration Court Observation Project recently documented significantly better outcomes for people seeking bond when they were represented than when they appeared on their own. We found that people with representation were four times more likely to have their bond request granted by a judge than people who spoke for themselves. 

The New Way Forward Act would:

  • End mandatory detention. Reduce mass incarceration by ending mandatory detention and banning for-profit immigration jails.
  • Restore judicial discretion and end summary deportations. Allow immigration judges to consider a person's individual circumstances during deportation proceedings, allowing more people to remain with their families and move forward with their lives without fear that an old offense could lead to deportation.
  • Limit the criminal legal system to deportation pipeline. Allow independent federal judges to review certain decisions of immigration judges that the 1996 laws unfairly tried to remove from judicial oversight.
  • Decriminalize migration. End federal prison sentences and criminal prosecutions for people who cross the border seeking freedom, safety, opportunity, or to reunite with their families.
  • Implement a five year statute of limitations for removal. Advance racial justice and address obstacles to equal justice in the criminal legal system by limiting deportation for drug convictions and other offenses that result from enforcement that disproportionately targets communities of color.
  • End entanglement between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement. Protect communities and local resources by ending the harmful practice of local police acting as deportation agents or carrying out mass deportations with ICE.
  • Create an opportunity to come home for people previously deported. Allow people previously ordered deported to apply for the opportunity to come home.