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Immigrants' Rights Update | October 1, 2010



NILC Statements, NILC in the News

New and Updated NILC Resources

Other Important New Resources

New Reports Available on the Web


NILC Statements, NILC in the News

Sonali Kolhatkar of KPFK (Pacifica, 90.7 FM)’s morning drive-time radio show in Los Angeles will emcee NILC’s 4th annual awards dinner on Thur., Oct. 21, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.  Our theme this year: “Honoring Courageous Luminaries.”  Honorees will include Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, and Josefina Lopez, award-winning playwright and co-screenwriter of the hit movie “Real Women Have Curves.”  Please consider supporting our work by either buying tickets and attending or by making a donation.

In Smoke and Mirrors: FOIA Reveals ICE Deception in Secure Communities Program, a contribution to the Immigration Impact blog, NILC’s Loyola Public Interest Law Fellow Melissa Keaney makes the case that government documents NILC obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request show that the government’s public statements about the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program do not accurately reflect what goes on behind closed doors.

And in Detention Reform: Change We Want to Believe In, a contribution to the Daily Kos blog, Managing Attorney Karen Tumlin argues that changes to the immigrant detention system promised by the Obama administration have been too slow and tinker only at the edges of the system’s tangle of serious problems.  (More about both detention and “Secure Communities” can be found below.)

Both of the above blog articles can be accessed from our NILC in the News webpage.  To read NILC statements and news releases about the latest major immigrants’ rights-related developments, visit our News Releases & Statements webpage.

NILC joined more than 500 organizations that focus on immigrants’ rights and criminal justice in drafting and signing a letter to President Obama demanding that he end the ongoing and increasingly troubling merger of immigration enforcement with criminal justice.  The letter, which was delivered the the president on Sept. 29,  presents proof that the Obama administration’s increased reliance on local law enforcement to arrest, detain, and deport immigrants has exacerbated existing problems in the criminal justice system.

New and Updated NILC Resources

Since the last newsletter was published, we’ve posted these new or updated resources on our website:

Immigrants’ access to public benefits.  The latest edition of our Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs article is dated April 2010 but was posted earlier this month; the immediately previous edition of this periodically updated monograph was published in October 2009.  The Medical Assistance Programs for Immigrants in Various States table that’s available from our Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs update page also has been revised with new information. 

Thanks to translation help from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and the California Immigrant Policy Center, we now have available a Q & A pamphlet in Spanish, Inmigrantes y la clasificación de “carga pública” (“Immigrants and Public Charge”), about how receiving public benefits may affect non-U.S. citizens’ immigration status or their ability to reenter the U.S. if they travel abroad.

Since low-income noncitizens who want to immigrate to the U.S. or adjust to permanent resident status generally must have a sponsor whose income is at least 125 percent of the official federal poverty guideline, every year we update our 125 Percent of Poverty Line table.  This year the federal guidelines weren’t published until August 3 -- and you probably already know that they are exactly the same as last year’s.

Health care.  The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 provides states a new opportunity to make affordable health coverage available to many immigrant children and pregnant women through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Facts About Federal Funding for States to Provide Health Coverage to Immigrant Children and Pregnant Women includes information that was provided in the July 1, 2010, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidance on “lawfully residing” for this option.

Workers’ rights.  Sometimes employer abuse of workers rises to the level of being criminal.  Depending on the crime committed and other factors, victim workers may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa, which provides important relief to those who fear losing their existing lawful immigration status through employer retaliation or who are targeted for abuse because they lack lawful status.  The U Visa and How It Can Protect Workers provides more information about this issue in a Q & A format.

Because the government databases upon which the federal government’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program relies contain errors that may affect workers and many employers do not follow program rules, it is important that workers know what your rights are.  Hence our recently posted Conozca sus derechos acerca de E-Verify (“Know Your Rights About E-Verify”), which is available from our Employment Eligibility Verification and Antidiscrimination Protections webpage.  

Immigration enforcement.  S-COMM: A Toolkit for Advocates was prepared for a July 8, 2010, California statewide teach-in cosponsored by California civil and immigrants’ rights groups, including NILC.  It is designed to help California advocates fight to prevent continued expansion of the federal Secure Communities (S-COMM) program in California and, ultimately, to push for statewide disenrollment from the program.

Racial profiling and the use of suspect classifications by law enforcement are historic problems, but recently enacted state laws -- such as Arizona’s SB 1070 -- that, in effect, mandate racial profiling by law enforcement officers create new and ominous consequences.  In late June, for a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, we submitted a detailed statement on this issue.

Immigrant student adjustment / DREAM Act.  As we threw our energy and efforts into preparation for the Sept. 21 Senate vote that could have moved the DREAM Act forward toward enactment, we updated our DREAM Act: Basic Information and DREAM Act: Summary pieces -- and added The DREAM Act: A Return to States’ Rights to clarify that the DREAM Act would not require states to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students, but rather would let states decide whether it was in their interests to do so.

You’ll find more information about DREAM below and on our Immigrant Student Adjustment / DREAM Act webpage -- including links to inspiring PSA-style videos and archived editions of our DREAM Weekly Update.

Other Important New Resources

Here are other newly available resources, as well as news or reminders we’d like to call to your attention:

Letters and Statements from DREAM Act Supporters: Institutions of Higher Education.  We’ve scanned and compiled into one large (in terms of bytes) PDF file dozens of letters of support for the DREAM Act written by university presidents and other post-secondary educators.  And on Sept. 21, Marielena Hincapié, our executive director, hosted a telephonic news conference (MP3) in which U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, Arizona State Univ. President Michael Crow, Georgetown Univ. President John J. DeGioia, and Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor and Chair-elect of the American Assoc. of Community Colleges Myrtle Dorsey argued inspiringly for passage of the DREAM Act.

Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Instructions from the U.S. State Dept.  “The online registration for DV-2012 DV Lottery begins noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT -4), Tuesday, October 5, 2010, and ends noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT -4), Wednesday, November 3, 2010,” according to instructions posted on the State Dept.’s website.

New Fee Schedule Published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The new fee schedule was published in the Federal Register as a final rule on Sept. 24.

“Employers Should Know” and “Workers Should Know” Fact Sheets: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).  If you are an immigrant worker with TPS or DED status or you advocate on behalf of workers, these fact sheets from the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices are a great resource for educating yourself, fellow workers, and employers about workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities.

Letters from Asst. Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich and DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano Describing the Process for Opting Out of the Secure Communities Program.  Deportation Nation obtained a copy of a letter (dated Sept. 7) from Sec. Napolitano to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) confirming that local jurisdictions may opt out of participation in the federal government’s Secure Communities immigration enforcement program and describing how they can do so.  We’ve posted copies of that letter and one dated Sept. 8 sent to Rep. Lofgren by the assistant attorney general.

Briefing Guide to “Secure Communities”: New Statistics and Information Reveal Disturbing Trends and Leave Crucial Questions Unanswered.  This briefing guide was prepared by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection Field Manual.  The manual (76 MB, 1,400-plus pp.) was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by attorney Stephen Yale-Loehr of Miller Mayer, LLP, and the Cornell Law School.

Performance Based National Detention Standards 2010.  A little over a year ago we published A Broken System: Confidential Reports Reveal Failures in U.S. Immigrant Detention Centers, a report based on information that previously had not been available to the public that revealed substantial and pervasive violations of the government’s own minimum standards for conditions at facilities holding detained immigrants.  Recently, a draft of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new PBNDS 2010 was leaked to the Houston Chronicle, and now it is available for download, along with a 60-page summary of how the PBNDS 2010 differ from the National Detention Standards, which our report referenced at length.  

Online Detainee Locator System.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched its new Online Detainee Locator System on July 23.  It is available in English and Spanish and can be used to locate a person detained by ICE “who is currently in ICE custody or who was released from ICE custody for any reason within the last 60 days.”

What to Do If You’re Stopped by Police, Immigration Agents, or the FBI.  In the Know-Your-Rights Alerts & Information section of our Community Education Materials webpage, we’ve posted a link to this downloadable know-your-rights card created by the ACLU.

Guidance Regarding the Handling of Removal Proceedings of Aliens with Pending or Approved Applications or Petitions.  The policy laid out in this sensible Aug. 20 memo from the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS Asst. Secretary John Morton -- which has been attacked by demagoging immigration restrictionists -- “outlines a framework for ICE to request expedited adjudication of an application or petition for an alien in removal proceedings that is pending before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services . . . if the approval of such an application or petition would provide an immediate basis for relief for the alien.  This policy will allow ICE and [the Executive Office for Immigration Review] to address a major inefficiency in present practice and thereby avoid unnecessary delay and expenditure of resources.”

ICE Statement of Priorities as Hurricane Alex Approached South Texas (June 29, 2010).   We posted this statement in order to make it readily available and so that advocates can help hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to these priorities when disasters strike in the future.  ICE issued the statement on June 29, 2010, asking nonprofit agencies for assistance in distributing it.  Most of the statement is identical to one issued late in the 2008 hurricane season in response to concerns expressed by advocates and grassroots groups.  However, this new statement offers additional clarification regarding the protection and transfer of immigrants already in detention.  It’s available from our Resources for Disaster Survivors webpage.

Hotline to Report Human Trafficking.  To report suspicious activity to law enforcement: 866-347-2423.  To reach a nongovernmental organization: National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 888-3737-888.  More information is available on DHS’s Human Trafficking webpage.

Lawsuits Against Arizona’s Immigration Enforcement Law, SB 1070.  Pleadings from and information about two of the lawsuits challenging Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 -- United States v. Arizona and Friendly House et al. v. Whiting et al. -- are available from our Local Law Enforcement Issues webpage.  And for a succinct explanation of the effect of the federal district court’s July 28 ruling in U.S. v. Arizona, see the ACLU’s Frequently Asked Questions - Update on Legal Challenges to Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law (SB 1070).

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Finds Hazleton, Penn., Immigration Enforcement Law Unconstitutional.  Links to an ACLU news release and the Third Circuit’s decision are available from our Local Law Enforcement Issues webpage.

Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in Challenge to the Legal Arizona Workers Act.  Links to the petition to the Supreme Court (filed Sept. 1) and to the amicus brief submitted by the United States in support of the challenge are available from the Immigrants & Employment section of our website.  U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting is the first challenge to a recent state or local anti-immigrant law to reach the Supreme Court.  The issue before the Court is whether the Legal Arizona Workers Act, enacted in 2007, is preempted by federal immigration law, which since 1986 has included a national employer sanctions and employment eligibility verification system.  The Court will hear oral argument on the case in December.

New York State Education Dept. Tells School Districts to Drop Illegal Barriers for Immigrant Children.  “In response to an analysis conducted by the New York Civil Liberties Union which found that at least 20 percent of public school districts across New York State may be unlawfully barring or discouraging the enrollment of immigrant students, the New York State Education Department . . . issued guidance to all school districts making clear that they may not ask for information that would reveal a parent or child’s immigration status as a prerequisite for school enrollment.”

Guidance on Language Access in State Courts.  On August 16, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice sent a letter to each state’s chief justice or state court administrator, providing guidance on language access in state courts.  The letter’s final paragraph provides contact information for individuals who have language access issues in state or local courts.

Guidance from DHS on Providing Language Access.  The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security finally has published proposed guidance for recipients of DHS financial assistance -- e.g., agencies that receive DHS grants.  Its purpose is to help those who carry out DHS-supported activities to understand and implement their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide meaningful access for people with limited English proficiency.  

More information about language access to federal agencies is available from the U.S. Justice Dept.’s Federal Agency LEP Guidance & Language Access Plans webpage.

Civil Rights Division Bulletins.  The Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Dept. of Justice offers e-mail updates on a variety of topics, including (this is a partial list) education, employment, hate crimes, human trafficking, international/human rights, law enforcement misconduct, limited English proficiency, post 9/11 backlash, religious discrimination, Title VI, and immigrant rights and national origin discrimination.  To subscribe, go to their Web homepage and click on “Sign Up for Email Updates,” in the left margin.

New Reports Available on the Web

Here’s a selection of the many immigrants’ rights-related reports that have caught your editor’s eye since June.  

“We’re Not Feeling Any Safer” (California Immigrant Policy Center) summarizes survey results showing that “community groups, churches and service providers are all very concerned about the growing involvement of local police in immigration enforcement in California because they say it is eroding trust.  The results raise serious questions about the public safety impact of these programs as well as concerns about discriminatory treatment suggesting racial profiling.”

Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande (Grassroots Leadership) analyzes the impact of the federal government’s Operation Streamline,  which mandates the criminal prosecution of apprehended border-crossers in certain areas, on two Texas border districts.

Human Rights Watch recently published two reports on the condition of immigrants in detentionDetained and at Risk: Sexual Abuse and Harassment in United States Immigration Detention and Deportation by Default: Mental Disability, Unfair Hearings, and Indefinite Detention in the U.S. Immigration System.

And Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center has published the results of a survey in Isolated in Detention: New National Immigrant Justice Center Report Details Widespread Lack of Legal Counsel for Detained Immigrants.  It finds that detainees lack legal counsel because detention centers often are located in remote places, nongovernmental organizations can’t meet the heavy demand for help, and detention authorities restrict detainees from contacting attorneys by phone, among other reasons.

According to Removing Refugees: U.S. Deportation Policy and the Cambodian American Community (Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School), “the experience of the Cambodian-American community highlights how the current U.S. system violates basic principles of equity and reasonableness.  It may also infringe upon internationally recognized human rights principles, including proportionality, the protection of refugees, the right to health, and the right to family.”

Immigration Enforcement and Its Impact on Latino Children in the State of Georgia (Sapelo Foundation) provides first-hand accounts and interviews with parents and children negatively impacted by Georgia law enforcement authorities’ participation in the federal government’s 287(g) program, through which local police officers may be authorized to enforce immigration law.

Using Texas as a case study, Undocumented and Abused: A Texas Case Study of Children in the Child Protective Services System (Center for Public Policy Priorities) discusses characteristics of undocumented children and “why a blanket policy to send them home will not work.”  It also “explains how federal immigration and child welfare law should be aligned to ensure [that] our country acts responsibly and that the federal government provides the necessary financial support to the states to care for this vulnerable population.”

Separation, Deportation, Termination, by Marcia Anne Yablon-Zug of the Univ. of South Carolina School of Law, makes the alarming case that, “In the context of undocumented immigrant families, fitness is no longer an obstacle to the termination of parental rights.  Increasingly, when courts and agencies believe that termination is in a child’s best interest, they will find that a parent’s undocumented status alone is sufficient to demonstrate unfitness.  Then, having essentially eliminated the fitness requirement, courts and agencies are able to base termination of parental rights solely upon a best interest of the child analysis.”

In Reforming America’s Immigration Laws: A Woman’s Struggle (Immigration Policy Center), immigration attorney Kavitha Sreeharsha details economic and social disparities that immigrant women face, and she discusses legal barriers under current immigration law that keep them from full access to justice as well as the many dangers they are forced to endure.

And finally, Apply the Brakes: A Report on Anti-immigrant Co-optation and the Environmental Movement (Center for New Community) “explore[s] how anti-immigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment, and . . . examine[s] the anti-immigrant environmentalist network that has influenced the environmental movement for the last 14 years.”