The United States is home to many immigrants, refugees, and undocumented residents. In Massachusetts, 1 in 6 residents are foreign-born and 29.3% of children in this state have at least one immigrant parent. In total, immigrants contribute $8.4 billion in federal taxes and $3.5 billion in state and local taxes each year. Immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts alone employ over 134,000 employees and generate $1.9 billion in business income. To the United States and especially the state of Massachusetts, immigrants are vital community members, business leaders, and parental figures.

On July 13th, we invited Nancy Kelly and John Wilshire Carrera of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services for a discussion about the recent efforts under the prior administration to remove and deport immigrants. As our guests explained, these immigration policies and laws that target immigrants of specific ethnic backgrounds and legal status are detrimental to our communities and economies. With a backlog of over 1.3 million immigration court cases and 386,000 pending asylum cases, the current Biden administration inherited a dysfunctional immigration system that is in desperate need of reform.

Watch our discussion with Nancy and John here:

To mitigate the impact of harmful immigration legislation enacted by the prior administration, the Biden administration and other immigration advocates have proposed policies that will drastically change the enforcement of immigration laws. Many of the proposals will simply allow many immigrants to continue with their lives. The first proposal includes variations of the Dream Act, which will provide a pathway to permanent residency through higher education, military service, or work. Current proposals, such as the Dream Act of 2021 (S. 264) and the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6), expand upon prior versions by increasing the arrival age of eligibility from sixteen to seventeen and eighteen years of age respectively. This increase in the age of arrival eligibility would allow more children and young adults to pursue higher education, military service, and other forms of employment.

In addition to supporting undocumented residents, the Biden administration has extended and re-designated the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for numerous countries. The re-classifications of TPS will allow residents fleeing persecution in their country of origin to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship. The extension will also increase the protective status of the TPS designation to include more residents who arrived more recently. This updated re-designation recognizes that it is still unsafe for many refugees to return to their country of origin.

Most importantly, these legislation and policy changes will provide a general path for these immigrants and refugees to become Legal Permanent Residents or naturalized U.S. citizens. The formal acceptance and legal ability to stay are significant for many of these immigrants. These policies will not radically change our population or significantly increase the number of immigrants in our communities, but would simply allow many to stay in the place where they have lived and established their entire lives.