The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Inaugurating A New Era of Human Rights Advocacy
Associate Director of Strategic Communications
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
At noon on January 20, 2021, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris were officially sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States, completing the transfer of power to the 46th U.S. presidential administration. On their first day in office, Biden and Harris announced a sweeping set of executive actions, ranging from additional forms of pandemic relief to reversing several of the outgoing administration’s anti-immigrant and environmentally destructive policies.
UUSC’s President and CEO Rev. Mary Katherine Morn issued the following statement in response:
“Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the promise of this moment. Kamala Harris has already made history as the first woman and the second person of color to take the oath of office as Vice President. We are grateful not only for the chance at a new beginning this day affords, but still more for the efforts of innumerable grassroots activists and leaders of color who made this moment possible.
The Biden/Harris team’s Day One actions move us in the right direction. By ending Trump’s racist Muslim and African bans, while restoring Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians—one of a host of humanitarian protections Trump dismantled—the new administration has begun the work of repudiating the former president’s legacy of anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry.
We also applaud the new administration’s decision to propose legislation that would finally create a path to citizenship for undocumented U.S. residents. Learning from the mistakes of the past—and following the lead of activists of color who helped write the bill—this new legislation would avoid the trap of previous attempts at comprehensive immigration reform, many of which sought to further militarize the border in exchange for protecting undocumented immigrants.
These harmful and short-sighted approaches to legislative reform must be fully abandoned. A path to citizenship for undocumented people must come alongside fairness and due process for asylum-seekers at our borders, protections for frontline workers, and racial justice for all people within our society, for many of whom the promise of citizenship has been denied in practice, even if recognized on paper, by centuries of colonization and structural white supremacy.
These actions mark a hopeful beginning—and only a beginning. Congress must work with the executive to enact a legislative solution for all undocumented immigrants. The executive branch must seize the momentum with which they have begun to undo all forms of anti-asylum, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and anti-environmental policies the Trump administration left behind—including Title 42 expulsions and other dangerous measures that the newly-inaugurated president still has not committed to overturn. They must also make good on President Biden’s Inauguration Day promise to lead by ‘the power of example’—embodying human rights principles in both foreign and domestic policy.”
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization advancing human rights together with an international community of grassroots partners and advocates.