Immigration Policy in the Biden Administration


The First 100 Days and Beyond

Welcome to the new Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. With respected immigrants’ rights scholars Ahilan Arulanantham and Hiroshi Motomura at the helm, the Center will serve as a hub for innovative thinking in immigration law and policy, bringing together academics, organizers, advocates, and government officials to envision the world we want to see and work together to bring it into existence.

Our first event: Immigration Policy in the Biden Administration: The First 100 Days and Beyond, was a virtual conference convened over the course of three (non-consecutive) days: April 23, April 30, and May 7, 2021.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly signaled his interest in adopting an immigration policy very different from that of the prior administration. After winning the election, several leaders from the immigrants’ rights movement joined the new administration, suggesting that fundamental change was imminent. As we approach one hundred days into this new era, it has become clear that the Biden Administration will reset U.S. immigration policies. But reset to what?

This conference brought together important stakeholders to address three central questions: First, what should federal immigration policy look like, both in the Biden Administration and beyond? Second, have the first 100 days put the country on a path toward achieving those goals, or is the reality mixed? Third, what should immigrants’ rights advocates do to achieve the world they want, in terms of both substantive demands and tactics to achieve them?

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Daily Schedules

  • Day One: Activism; Litigation; and Detention (April 23)

    Panelist Biographies


    Introductory Remarks from Faculty Co-Directors Ahilan Arulanantham & Hiroshi Motomura

    Day 1, Session 1: Lessons from The Infiltrators

    Nearly ten years ago, the Obama administration adopted an immigration policy purporting to focus on people with serious criminal histories. In this extraordinary panel, we will hear from some of the people behind the award-winning documentary The Infiltrators, which tells the story of a small group of undocumented youth who set out to show this was false by getting themselves detained and -- from the inside -- identifying people without criminal histories. What happened next offers important lessons for how advocates should think about immigrants’ rights work in the years to come.

    In this extraordinary panel, we will hear from:

    • Luis Nolasco is a Senior Organizer at the ACLU of Southern California. He was one of the original “infiltrators,” and has spent the last decade working as an immigrants’ rights organizer in the Inland Empire region of Southern California.
    • Alina Das is a clinical professor at New York University School of Law and perhaps the leading attorney defending movement activists against retaliation by ICE.
    • Claudio Rojas is one of the stars of “The Infiltrators,” who was deported to Argentina in 2019 as the movie profiling his bravery was about to premiere.
    • Moderator: Sejal Zota is the Legal Director and Co-Founder of Just Futures Law and an experienced immigrants’ rights movement litigator.

    Day 1, Session 2: Immigrants’ Rights Litigation in the Biden Administration:
    A Conversation with Cecillia Wang

    Cecillia Wang, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy will discuss her experience leading national immigrants’ rights litigation over the past few administrations and her perspective on pro-immigrant litigation strategy in the Biden administration. Her notable cases include Nielsen v Preap, a challenge to a statute mandating detention without even the possibility of bond for many immigrants, which she argued in the Supreme Court; IRAP v Trump, a challenge to former President Trump’s Muslim Ban, which she successfully argued before the en banc Fourth Circuit; and Melendres v. Arpaio, a challenge to the racially discriminatory practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which she won at trial and then successfully defended on appeal before the en banc Ninth Circuit. Cecillia will speak with Ingrid Eagly, Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a nationally recognized expert on immigration enforcement.

    Day 1, Session 3: Should Immigration Detention Be Abolished?

    The Biden administration has signaled that it believes there should be fewer people in immigration detention, but it has also made clear that it does see a role for some incarceration as part of the immigration enforcement system. Many advocates are pushing for the total abolition of immigration detention. What is the way forward?

    We bring together three distinguished panelists, each with unique perspectives on the issue:

    • Ny Nourn is a Community Advocate for Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus and a former child refugee. She was sentenced to life in prison for her role in a murder, won parole after 16 years, was then sent to ICE detention, and pardoned in 2017.
    • Munmeeth Soni is Director of Litigation and Advocacy at Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Munmeeth has represented numerous detained immigrants against deportation and also participated in systemic litigation on various detention issues.
    • Margo Schlanger is a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. Margo has many years of experience representing prisoners in civil rights suits, represented a class of several hundred Iraqis who challenged the Trump administration’s attempt to execute their removal orders in Hamama v. Adducci, and worked in the Obama administration as part of an attempt to reform the immigration detention system.
    • Moderator: Nina Rabin is Director of the Immigrant Family Legal Clinic at the UCLA School of Law. Her research has focused on documenting the impact of immigration enforcement on women and families.
  • Day Two: Movement Lawyering; the Department of Homeland Security; and Asylum (April 30)

    Panelist Biographies


    Introductory Remarks from Faculty Co-Directors Ahilan Arulanantham & Hiroshi Motomura

    Day 2, Session 1: Movement Lawyering During the Biden Administration

    The success of movement-driven litigation has proven critical to protecting large groups of immigrants, including DACA recipients, TPS holders, and many others. But such collaborations can also lead to conflict. This panel will bring together top litigators, community lawyers, and movement leaders to discuss how lawyers and community-based advocates can work together to make lasting change.

    This panel features the following distinguished speakers:

    • Muneer Ahmad is the Deputy Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School. For decades, Muneer has represented immigrants who are active in social justice movements, including most recently in defense of the DACA program in Batalla Vidal v. Wolf.
    • Amaha Kassa is the Founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together. He is a lawyer with deep experience in organizing immigrant communities for social justice, and was heavily involved in organizing Sudanese immigrants to protect TPS.
    • Jacinta Gonzalez is Field Director of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building and organizing. She is an experienced organizer who has worked on many campaigns, including most recently, the “Eyes on ICE” Truth and Accountability forums shedding light on current DHS practices.
    • Moderator: Sameer Ashar is a Professor of Law of the University of California, Irvine, Law School. Sameer has practiced and studied movement lawyering for more than twenty years.

    Day 2, Session 2: The Biden Administration’s First 100 Days in Immigration: A Conversation with Secretary Mayorkas

    The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and first immigrant to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Mayorkas and his family have been through the refugee experience – first from Nazi Germany, and a generation later from Cuba to the United States. He has spent his career largely in law enforcement, including as a federal prosecutor. In this session, Secretary Mayorkas will speak with Ahilan Arulanantham, Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy, about the most pressing immigration law and policy issues of our time, including the agency’s new “enforcement priorities,” its on-going use of Title 42 authority to expel adults seeking asylum, and the Secretary’s goals for reform of the immigration detention system.

    Day 2, Session 3: Asylum and Other Humanitarian Protections - The Short and Long Term

    No issue has received more attention than the Biden administration’s policy toward people seeking asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection, particularly at the Southern border. This panel will bring academics and leading immigrant and border rights advocates together to discuss the Biden administration’s actions so far, what a just and humane asylum system would look like, and what needs to change to create it.

    We will discuss these questions with these critical players in the field:

    • Guerline Jozef is the President of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a coalition of Haitian organizations and activists. She has played a critical role in calling attention to the fate of displaced people from Haiti – both individuals living in the U.S. and those caught in limbo south of the border - and demanding fair and humanitarian treatment.
    • Jaya Ramji-Nogales is a law professor at Temple University Law School, where she founded the Temple Law Asylum Project to create a country conditions research service for asylum seekers and their attorneys. Her ground-breaking study “Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication and Proposals for Reform” was the first empirical study of decision-making at all levels of the asylum adjudication process. Her latest book is titled “The End of Asylum,” and continues her pioneering work in the field of global migration law.
    • Erika Pinheiro is the Litigation and Policy Director of Al Otro Lado, an innovative legal organization that provides representation to migrants on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Erika has worked for years to reunify dozens of separated families and challenged conditions in immigration detention. She continues to deliver critical legal services to people on the border.
    • Moderator: E. Tendayi Achiume is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and former Faculty Director of the UCLA Law Promise Institute for Human Rights. She is the fifth United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The current focus of her work is the global governance of racism and xenophobia; and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration.
  • Day Three: Inside vs. Outside Strategies; Congress vs. the Executive Branch (May 7)

    Panelist Biographies


    Introductory Remarks from Faculty Co-Directors Ahilan Arulanantham & Hiroshi Motomura

    Day 3, Session 1: Building Power During the Biden Administration -- Inside vs. Outside Advocacy

    During the Obama administration, many immigrants' rights advocates regularly engaged with executive branch officials to advance change, while others publicly pushed back against those same officials. Those inside/outside tactics largely disappeared during the Trump administration, where there were far fewer opportunities for immigrants' rights activists to engage in productive dialogue with the administration. With so many movement leaders now taking roles in the Biden administration, how are advocates looking at inside/outside strategies to advance pro-immigrant policies?

    This panel will bring together leaders from across the country to discuss power dynamics and strategies to enact positive immigration change:

    • Erika Andiola is the Chief Advocacy Officer for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and one of the most powerful voices shaping the national conversation around immigrants' rights. She has made immigrants' rights advocacy her life's work. Erika co-founded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, was a member of the National Coordinating Committee for United We Dream, and worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.
    • Angelica Salas has served as the Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) since 1999. Over the last 20 years, she has transformed the organization into a mass membership immigrant-led organization that has worked to advance immigrants' rights at all levels of government.
    • Stephanie Valencia is co-founder and president of EquisLabs, and a national leader at the nexus of politics, technology, and leadership development. She recently served as Political Director at Investing In.Us, a political venture capital fund focused on disruptive platforms and initiatives to enhance civic participation. She is among a small group of advisers who served President Barack Obama in senior roles through his presidential campaign and both terms in office.
    • Moderator: Nana Gyamfi is the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the largest Black-led social justice organization representing the nearly 10 million Black immigrants, refugees, and families living in the United States. Nana has been a movement attorney for the past 25 years. She is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law.

    Day 3, Session 2: A Conversation with U.S. Senator Alex Padilla

    Senator Alex Padilla is a U.S. Senator for the State of California, and the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety. He is the proud son of immigrants from Mexico – a short-order cook and a housekeeper – and a graduate of both Los Angeles public schools and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Senator Padilla has already proven to be a powerful national voice on immigration issues.

    Senator Padilla will speak with Professor Hiroshi Motomura, Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy, about a range of immigration issues, and what role he can play as Senator from the state with the nation's largest immigrant population.

    Day 3, Session 3: Congress, the Courts, and the President: Who Should Do What, and When, to Protect Immigrants' Rights?

    DACA is now a household name, but it is not the largest administrative relief program authored by the Obama administration. Over 3 million people could have applied for Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), if it had taken effect. But Texas and other states sued to stop DAPA, and a court stepped in to block it. At the start of the Biden administration, some advocates believe the President should adopt another large-scale relief program. But his administration is instead championing legislation that, at least as of now, lacks sufficient support to become law. Meanwhile, Texas again challenged the new administration's 100-day moratorium on deportations, and the policy was also blocked. Given this state of affairs, how should advocates think about achieving meaningful protection from deportation and lawful status for a majority of the nation's undocumented population, and otherwise advancing immigrants' rights? What exactly should they seek from each branch of government, and when? In this panel, we invite three experienced advocates to share their thoughts:

    • Lorella Praeli is President of Community Change Action and one of the most influential immigrants' rights advocates in the country. As a former DACA-recipient and veteran of United We Dream, the ACLU, and the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, Lorella brings a wealth of experience to our discussion.
    • Sirine Shebaya is Executive Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She is a longtime immigrant rights advocate who focuses on combining litigation and public campaign strategies to defend and advance the rights of immigrant communities of color. Sirene has litigated several high-profile cases alongside and on behalf of communities impacted by family separation, discriminatory police practices, immigration detention and enforcement, and the Muslim Ban.
    • Anil Kalhan is a Professor of Law at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Professor Kalhan's scholarly and teaching interests lie in the areas of immigration law, U.S. and comparative constitutional law, international human rights law, privacy and surveillance, criminal law, and law and South Asian studies.

    Moderator: Chris Newman is the Legal Director & General Counsel for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). He has worked with day laborers since 2002, and was hired as NDLON's first attorney in 2004. Before working at NDLON, he was the founding coordinator of the Wage Clinic and Legal Program at El Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores, a day laborer worker center in Denver, CO.

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