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As a bipartisan group of senators has committed to creating a roadmap to citizenship for the approximately 11 million aspiring Americans living in our country without papers, Congress must use this momentum to build an immigration system that protects human rights and due process, and that keeps families and communities intact.

“The Obama administration and Congress have the opportunity to create immigration legislation that relieves the severe pressure our justice system and communities have felt in recent years,” said NIJC Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “The need for action is particularly critical as the government has already poured so many resources into border security and deportation programs, tearing families apart and undermining fundamental principles of justice.”

As an advocacy organization that has provided legal counsel to low-income immigrants for nearly 30 years, NIJC knows first-hand the urgent need to create an immigration system that upholds American justice. Specifically, any immigration reform must:  

  1. Keep families, including LGBT families, together.
  2. Include people who have already been living in and contributing to our society for years and not penalize them for minor offenses.
  3. Allow individuals in immigration proceedings to understand their rights and have a meaningful day in court.
  4. Give judges discretion in determining the outcome of cases in immigration proceedings.
  5. Discontinue the use of arbitrary or indefinite detention.

NIJC detailed these principles in a letter earlier this month to the White House and “Gang of Eight” senators.

“Real immigration reform can only happen when the process of coming to the United States is more efficient, humane and reflects basic American values of justice, diversity, and family unity,” McCarthy said. “We are a nation of immigrants. We must respect the legacy of the many immigrants who helped build this country by welcoming today’s immigrants, who seek to build on that tradition as they create a better life for themselves and their families.”