Citizenship Act is a Welcome Start to True Immigration Reform

February 18, 2021

Washington, D.C.—Church World Service today welcomes the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, by Representative Sanchez (D-CA-38) and looks forward to its introduction in the Senate by Senator Menendez (D-NJ). The legislation, which proposes a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living in the United States, also prioritizes family reunification, restores certain protections for Central American families and children, establishes special immigrant visas for certain Syrians who supported the U.S. government in Syria, and strengthens refugee and immigrant integration. This bill marks an historic step as we continue to rebuild U.S. moral leadership as a beacon of hope for people around the world seeking a better life.

“This bill will allow many of our current neighbors, who have been our partners in community, to be our partners in citizenship. It will allow them the pride of officially being Americans, something that they have long been in terms of deed and commitment to our country. For the vulnerable still seeking safety within our borders, this legislation will provide a dreamed-of path to raising their children without the fears of persecution or marginalization,” said Rick Santos, President and CEO of Church World Service. “Ultimately, a fair and just immigration policy makes the United States better; it boosts our economy, improves our communities, and elevates our national character by adhering to our core values. Congress must now act and pass this bill.”

Today’s legislation would remove many barriers to family-based immigration, place limits on dangerously overbroad executive authority to issue bans on people entering the United States, allow refugees, asylees and certain special immigrants to access in-state tuition immediately upon being resettled, address barriers for workforce development, expand community-based alternatives to detention like the Family-based Case Management Program and increase the number of Refugee Corps officers who facilitate refugee processing. 

“As a faith-based organization, we believe in preserving the dignity of all our neighbors. Although we support this bill, we are concerned that this bill leaves out many immigrant and refugee families who deserve an equitable opportunity for relief and community services,” added Santos. “We urge the administration and Congress to continue building towards a more inclusive immigration system and refugee program that provide all with the freedom to thrive.” 

CWS urges Congress to expand the scope of this bill to fully restore asylum and refugee protections, strengthen access to permanent and meaningful relief from deportation and access to services for all of our immigrant neighbors, end the militarization of our border communities, put a stop to immigrant detention and provide a new path forward for immigration in America.

The new bill comes on the heels of a number of executive orders signed by President Biden to overturn harmful immigration and asylum policies, such as initiating an end to the prejudicial bans on refugee resettlement and asylum protections. CWS looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to continue to repair the harm caused by our current system and envision a humane system for all people to build safe and healthy lives in U.S. communities where they can thrive.

For more information contact Christopher Plummer at