Statement from Vera Vice President Kica Matos on the U.S. Citizenship Act

This week, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA 38) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a bicameral piece of legislation that reflects the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed immigration reform policies. The Act creates pathways for citizenship for many people who have been in need of immigration relief for decades and addresses long-term issues in family-based immigration and the backlogged immigration court system.

“Thanks to the tireless organizing efforts of Black, brown, and immigrant communities, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 lays a path to provide immigration relief to people who are part of the fabric of our communities and are seeking refuge and opportunity in the United States. Through Senator Menendez’s leadership, this bill begins to address some of the most dehumanizing aspects of the immigration system, including a court process that is stacked against immigrants in deportation hearings, where the government is always represented by a skilled prosecutor seeking their deportations but frequently immigrants are not able to afford effective legal defense. This bill lays the groundwork for providing expanded access to counsel,” said Kica Matos, Vice President, Vera Institute of Justice. “We hope this is only the beginning of a push toward transforming our immigration adjudicatory system, and that policy makers will seize the opportunity to realize a right to zealous, person-centered representation in order to ensure equitable access to rights and benefits under our laws. Vera likewise looks forward to further opportunities to address the pernicious and punitive mass incarceration system that prevents so many immigrants subjected to “civil” detention from achieving a successful outcome in their cases. Vera notes that racial justice demands a thorough examination of the manner in which bars to eligibility may disproportionately impact Black and brown immigrant communities drawn into the criminal legal system due to over-policing.”

About the Vera Institute of Justice:
The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

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