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BAJI’s Reaction to Biden’s 2024 State of the Union

Biden’s use of “illegal” speaks to his immigration policy and anti-Black legacy

March 11th, 2024Unshockingly, President Joe Biden managed to spew his anti-immigrant rhetoric and displays evidence of his continued apathy toward the legacy of slavery during the immigration-focused portion of his State of the Union (SOTU) address this past Thursday. 

During his remarks, President Biden was heckled by Republicans over the killing of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant. In response, the President referred to the undocumented immigrant as “an illegal,” a dehumanizing word that advocates have worked years to erase. It is appalling that Biden and other politicians are exploiting the tragic death of Ms. Riley. 

Biden and Democrats’ push to placate Republican demands around immigration is political chess. On March 7th, the House passed by a 251 to 170 vote,  H.R. 7511, also known as the Laken Riley Act.  The bill is a draconian, anti-Black piece of legislation that prioritizes and glorifies the cruel and discriminatory criminalization of migrants that does not address the interpersonal harms and traumas we experience in our communities. It is impossible to arrest the problem away, but we know that Biden has a history of thinking that criminalizing Black and brown folks is a viable solution. 

Over the past thirty years, Black people have told then Senator, Vice President, presidential candidate, and now President Biden that policies that replicate the harms and racial disparities of the 1994 Crime Bill and the 1996 IIRIRA Bill – bills that he helped pass – will fail to provide public safety. Policies that increase police powers and expand mass incarceration do not keep people safe. These bills are legacies of the enslavement of Black people who didn’t “come in chains” chasing freedom, as the President suggested in his speech, but were kidnapped, chained, tortured, and exploited to build this country so others could be free. Their descendants are still waiting for this President to create a White House commission on reparations. 

The criminalizing bills being pushed by the President and Congress threaten the integrity and well-being of all Black people by separating and destroying Black families and communities. They instead must take on the necessary and challenging work of focusing on modern community-led transformative solutions that improve our lives and communities.