Author Archives: Juan Gastelum

Community Members Wrongfully Denied Visas from Trump’s Muslim Ban Win Major Agreement to Repair Far-Reaching Harms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2024

CONTACT
National Immigration Law Center, [email protected]
Asian Law Caucus, [email protected]
Muslim Advocates, [email protected]
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), [email protected]

Community Members Wrongfully Denied Visas from Trump’s Muslim Ban Win Major Agreement to Repair Far-Reaching Harms  

SAN FRANCISCO, C.A. — In an unwavering assertion of people’s rights to find safety and a better life, a federal judge has approved a major agreement that provides a clear visa reconsideration process, including waived application fees, to nearly 25,000 community members from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen who were harmed by the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban.

As a result of former President Trump’s Muslim Ban, the policy denied thousands of people a fair chance at obtaining a visa and subsequently deprived them of opportunities for family reunification, jobs, and education. In 2018, community members who were unjustly denied their visas and immigration services groups like Pars Equality Center filed lawsuits to ensure the U.S. government created a fair, efficient visa reconsideration process. Since then, the U.S. government has dragged its feet, despite consistent rulings from the court confirming the State Department’s responsibility. Last year, the federal judge went so far as to call the government’s handling of the lawsuits a “theater of the absurd.” In March, the judge consolidated the two cases, Emami v. Nielsen and Pars Equality Center v. Blinken, and granted them class-action status—calling out the government for being “careless and obstructive” and “wholly unjust,” and for “hobbl[ing] the fair administration of justice.”

“My family should have had its visas considered more than six years ago, but we’re living in limbo because the State Department refused to make things right,” said Maral Tabrizi. “My child turned six in February and has never met her grandparents because of these unfair denials. Starting from scratch in the application process would wipe out our savings. President Biden ended the Muslim Ban on his first day in office, and still former President Trump is threatening to bring it back. With this federal court ruling, we’re making it unmistakable that the harms remain, and that there’s a clear, simple solution that lives up to the best of U.S. values: an efficient, transparent process that gives us the fair chance we were cruelly denied because of who we are.”

The agreement requires notice to all eligible class members on how to reapply for a visa and obtain a fee waiver for new nonimmigrant or immigrant visa applications. Class members can also request prioritization for consular interviews, and the U.S. government must provide periodic reports to the court on the resolution of class member disputes, the number of fee waivers claimed, and, ultimately, the total number of visas issued and refused under this agreement.

“Despite ending the Ban in 2021, tens of thousands have remained trapped in a black hole, missing out on more and more life events happening in their families across the world for the past seven years,” said Shabnam Lotfi, Lotfi Legal LLC.

“It is a testament to our plaintiffs, community, and coalition who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment in the face of years of adversity and heartache, to repair those unconscionable harms and pursue lasting justice in this hard-fought case,” said Babak Yousefzadeh, Iranian American Bar Association.

“For too long, families have been unjustly separated because of discriminatory immigration policies. Despite the rescission of the Muslim Ban, the lingering effects continue to haunt countless individuals who have been trapped in this situation for far too long,” said Paris Etemadi Scott, Pars Equality Center. “This agreement offers a glimmer of hope, providing a clear pathway for visa reconsideration and offering much-needed relief.”

“Our class action victory was achieved through the relentless and fearless advocacy of community members harmed by the Muslim Ban,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area and co-chair of the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition. “As we move forward to ensure every eligible community member gets their fair chance at travel and family unity, a powerful movement of people in the U.S. and around the world are working to make sure this never happens again.”

The Emami plaintiffs are represented by Muslim Advocates, Lotfi Legal LLC, and Perkins Coie LLP, and the Pars Equality Center plaintiffs are represented by the Iranian American Bar Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, CAIR California, the National Immigration Law Center, and Arnold & Porter. The No Muslim Ban Ever coalition is the largest grassroots campaign that worked to repeal the Trump administration’s Muslim and African Bans.

In the coming weeks, the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition and partner organizations will provide details on how eligible community members can get more information and apply for their visas. Read the Emami v. Nielsen agreement.

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NILC Statement on Biden Admin Asylum Change  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2024

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Adrian Escárate, 202-609-9976

NILC Statement on Biden Admin Asylum Change  

WASHINGTON — Raha Wala, VP of strategic partnerships and advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s new proposed regulation to change the asylum process:

“These counterproductive changes to asylum would make an already painful and arduous process harder for migrant families seeking safety and a better life. They represent another step in the wrong direction by President Biden, when he should instead be focused on immigration actions that move the country forward.

“Just last week, the Biden administration gave DACA recipients and the immigrant rights movement a long, hard fought victory by opening access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. We urge the President to continue to push for actions and legislation that will welcome immigrants, not policies that will further exacerbate the situation at our southern border.”

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NILC Celebrates Announcement of Final Rule Allowing DACA Recipients to Access Affordable Care Act Coverage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2024

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Adrian Escárate, 202-609-9976

NILC Celebrates Announcement of Final Rule Allowing DACA Recipients to Access Affordable Care Act Coverage

WASHINGTON — Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s move to lift Affordable Care Act restrictions for DACA recipients:

“We are thrilled that DACA recipients will finally be able to access health care through the Affordable Care Act. We commend the Biden administration for taking this important step for health equity and immigrant justice.

“Even as we celebrate this victory, we must also remember that politically motivated attacks on DACA continue, DACA recipients remain in limbo, and the health and wellbeing of our communities has suffered as a result. We continue to urge Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth who call this country home, so they can enjoy the same peace and stability that we all need to thrive.”

For more information on DACA recipients and access to health care, view our most recent data report: Tracking DACA Recipients’ Access to Health Care

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NILC Statement on 2024 State of the Union

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2024

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

NILC Statement on 2024 State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund, issued the following statement in response to the 2024 State of the Union:

“Tonight, President Biden missed an opportunity to truly distinguish himself from his predecessor on immigration. Rather than embracing the policies he articulated on his first day in office, the President instead doubled down on the Senate’s failed border bill and parroted dehumanizing Republican rhetoric about immigrants. We urge the President to do better.”

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Immigrant Rights Groups Demand Accountability for ‘Gross Violations of Human Rights’ at Open-Air Detention Sites at U.S.-Mexico Border

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2023

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, NILC, [email protected]
Melissa Flores, AOL, [email protected]
Layne Mullett, AFSC, [email protected]
Jacqueline Arellano, Border Kindness, [email protected]
Brianna Krong, CGRS, [email protected]
Spencer Tilger, IRAP, [email protected]
Mallory Adamski, SBCC, [email protected]

Immigrant Rights Groups Demand Accountability for ‘Gross Violations of Human Rights’ at Open-Air Detention Sites at U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal Complaint Details Dangerous Conditions for Asylum Seekers Forcefully Held Outdoors Without Adequate Food, Water, or Medical Care for Several Hours to Days

JACUMBA, Calif. — Seven immigrant rights organizations lodged an urgent federal complaint this week against the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and its Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for violating their own custody standards for asylum seekers being held in several open-air detention sites along the U.S.-Mexico border in California. For several months, Border Patrol officers have forced asylum seekers to wait outdoors for several hours or days between sections of the San Diego border walls and other open-air sites in the Jacumba desert where they aren’t allowed to leave and don’t have adequate access to water, food, sanitation, medical care, or protection from the elements.

The 88-page complaint was filed by the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), and National Immigration Law Center (NILC) on behalf of Al Otro LadoAmerican Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Border Kindness, and Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC). This is a second federal complaint filed against the CRCL for violations of human rights for its practices at the open-air detention sites, following a complaint filed by SBCC on May 13, 2023, shortly after the violations were first documented. However, the inhumane conditions at the open-air detention sites have not changed and are spreading to other sites along the southern border.

In the subsequent months, at least one person has tragically died while trapped in an open-air detention site, and conditions are expected to deteriorate as winter weather intensifies, further endangering those exposed to the elements.

“It is galling that the Department of Homeland Security claims that their ‘lack of resources’ compels them to hold vulnerable refugees in open-air prisons without food, water, shelter, adequate sanitation facilities, or medical care,” said Erika Pinheiro, Executive Director of Al Otro Lado. “DHS’ 2023 budget is almost $170 billion, yet it forces overstretched nonprofits, mutual aid groups, and dedicated volunteers to provide the basics that migrants need to survive in its open-air detention sites. Holding refugees in these inhumane conditions is a deliberate choice that contradicts the United States’ self-proclaimed position as a bastion of freedom and human rights.”

“It is unconscionable that Border Patrol agents force asylum seeking migrants to wait for hours and days in dangerous conditions,” said Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s US-Mexico Border Program. “In San Diego, one person in a medically vulnerable state has already died at an open-air detention site. Community members and human rights organizations have been left to provide basic care, including food and water, to thousands seeking shelter and asylum in the United States.”

“For months, some of the world’s most vulnerable people have arrived to the border in search of safety, and have instead been detained outdoors in life threatening conditions,” said Jacqueline Arellano, Director of USA Programs for Border Kindness. “Border Patrol is reacting with deliberate negligence, and in their refusal to provide for the basic needs of those in their detention, have risked thousands of lives by misdirecting their responsibilities to the community. The practice of Open Air Detention must be acknowledged and discontinued immediately to end this mass suffering and before there is further loss of life.”

“CBP’s open-air detention sites endanger vulnerable families, children, and adults seeking safety,” said Edith Sangüeza, CGRS Staff Attorney. “No one should be forced to endure such deplorable conditions as a consequence of exercising their rights. The government must act swiftly to protect lives. And it can. Much suffering could be alleviated if the government stopped illegally turning away asylum seekers without a CBP One appointment at ports of entry, leaving them no option but to take a dangerous path through the desert.”

“There is simply no excuse for this shocking and inhumane treatment of people seeking safety,” said Linda Evarts, IRAP Senior Supervising Attorney. “Border Patrol is blatantly violating its own detention standards and endangering the lives of people in need. We demand that CBP treat people with the dignity and care they deserve.”

“This is another example of CBP’s egregious mistreatment of people seeking safety. And it must be corrected immediately,” said Sarah Kim Pak, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “At NILC, we’ve taken CBP to court before for holding people in deplorable, unconstitutional conditions. We demand that the agency abide by its own standards and its obligations under law to provide people with basic necessities.”

“Once again, Customs and Border Protection is sidestepping accountability for not abiding by their own custody standards for asylum seekers, which not only undermines trust in the agency but the entire U.S. immigration system,” said Lilian Serrano, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. ”CBP has a responsibility to protect human rights and dignity for all, yet their practice of forcing asylum seekers to remain outdoors in remote open-air detention sites says otherwise. Exposing migrants to the elements in the middle of winter with no food or water for days is beyond inhumane – it’s appalling, and CBP must end this now.”

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Additional Materials

  • Read the federal CRCL complaint: HERE
  • Read SBCC’s May 2023 CRCL complaint: HERE
  • Take action with Al Otro Lado and #WelcomeWithDignity’s social media toolkit: HERE

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NILC Statement Condemning Anti-Immigrant Texas Bill SB 4

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

NILC Statement Condemning Anti-Immigrant Texas Bill SB 4

AUSTIN, Texas — Lisa Graybill, vice president of law and policy at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to the passage of Texas Senate Bill 4:

“SB 4 is the latest attempt by Texas legislators to take federal immigration law into their own hands for personal political gain through hatemongering and intimidation. Both the politics and the law behind this bill are dead wrong. Texas law enforcement officers should focus on protecting the health, welfare, and safety of all community members instead of trying to become the immigration police. This bill will have real human consequences that all Texas residents will feel. It is an extreme bill that will endanger communities and lead to racial profiling of both immigrants and U.S.-born residents.

“Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently held that the federal government has the sole authority to regulate immigration policy. The Texas Legislature is wrong to have passed it, and Governor Abbott will be wrong if he signs it. We call on Texas to abandon this cruel, illegal scheme and recognize that immigrants make Texas and our nation stronger.”

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NILC Statement on Reports that Biden Admin is Negotiating Changes to Asylum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

NILC Statement on Reports that Biden Admin is Negotiating Changes to Asylum

WASHINGTON — Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to reports that the Biden administration is considering sweeping changes to the U.S. asylum system in negotiations with Congress around aid to Israel and Ukraine:

“The appalling proposals the White House is reportedly considering would decimate critical asylum protections precisely when they’re most needed. Together with other abhorrent actions happening at our borders on his watch, these sweeping changes would further betray President Biden’s previously articulated commitment to bring humanity and order to our systems to welcome people seeking safety. The United States’ commitment to help those facing crises around the world must also extend to those seeking safety at our doorstep. We urge the administration to reject linking the decimation of our legal asylum system with providing aid to Ukraine and Israel.”

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Lawsuit Claims Indiana Law Discriminates Based on National Origin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2023

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, [email protected]
Ariella Sult, ACLU of Indiana, 317-759-6425, [email protected]

Lawsuit Claims Indiana Law Discriminates Based on National Origin

ACLU of Indiana and National Immigration Law Center File Lawsuit against H.E.A. 1050

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of five Haitian immigrants who want to obtain an Indiana driver’s license or identification card.

The federal government may temporarily admit a noncitizen to the United States “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” under “humanitarian parole.” In recent years the federal government has authorized the entry of noncitizens from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua due to humanitarian crises in those countries.

H.E.A. 1050 is a new Indiana law, passed during the 2023 legislative session, that creates a pathway for individuals on humanitarian parole to obtain Indiana driver’s licenses or identification cards, but only if they are from Ukraine.

People on humanitarian parole from other countries could also benefit from being allowed to drive or obtain state-issued identification. The plaintiffs in the case, for example, are authorized to work in the United States, all hold steady jobs, and have to rely on others for rides to work. According to the complaint, the ability to drive is of fundamental importance in American society, particularly in cities and towns in Indiana where services are frequently dispersed and where public transportation is not always accessible.

The lawsuit claims that by allowing individuals from Ukraine to obtain an I.D. but not permitting the same opportunity to Haitian refugees, H.E.A. 1050 represents national-origin discrimination.

The lawsuit claims that the new law is an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, that it is preempted by federal law as a result of the Supremacy Clause, and that it violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq.

“Our clients are being denied access to state issue IDs solely because they are Haitians and not Ukrainians,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana senior attorney. “Non-Ukrainians on humanitarian parole are left struggling to get to work, to keep medical appointments, to take children to school, and more, all because they cannot drive.”

“The federal government regulates immigration- not the states,” said Chiraayu Gosrani, an attorney with NILC. “The State of Indiana cannot create immigration classifications that conflict with federal law, and here they have done just that in an effort to unconstitutionally discriminate against people with humanitarian protections who are overwhelmingly immigrants of color.”

The complaint can be viewed at: https://www.aclu-in.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/dkt_1_-_complaint_no_exhs.pdf

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NILC Launches “Freedom to Thrive” Portrait Pop Ups Across the Country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

The National Immigration Law Center Launches “Freedom to Thrive” Portrait Pop Ups Across the Country

WASHINGTON — Today, The National Immigration Law Center launches their “Freedom to Thrive” portrait sessions starting in California, with Tennessee and Texas sessions planned later this year.

The Freedom to Thrive initiative is a narrative and cultural campaign to shift the hearts and minds of the American public and create lasting change that enables all of us to thrive. At the event, community members in Long Beach will share their stories and pose for their portraits as we explore what it means to thrive through storytelling. These portrait sessions will capture the vibrancy and resilience of immigrant communities and examples of what it means to have the Freedom to Thrive in the United States. These sessions aim to show the American public that we all deserve a society where we can pursue our dreams, engage in meaningful work, and live with joy, dignity, and love.

Victoria Ballesteros, Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications and Narrative at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The freedom to thrive belongs to us all. The portrait pop up in Long Beach, California, will be a celebration of the diversity and dignity of immigrant communities. Each of us has a story in our pursuit of joy, love, and the American dream. Yet, the reality of our present version of the American dream has prioritized individualism and the accumulation of wealth. Through this project we hope to infuse in the public consciousness a vision of freedom that is rooted in abundance and centers our interconnectedness and our human dignity, no matter how much money we have, what we look like, or where we were born.”

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NILC Statement on Court Order Blocking Biden Admin’s Asylum Restrictions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

NILC Statement on Court Order Blocking Biden Admin’s Asylum Restrictions

WASHINGTON — Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s order that is set to block President Biden’s asylum restrictions:

“The federal court’s decision validates what’s been evident for months – that the Biden administration’s attacks on the U.S. asylum system are unlawful and immoral. Seeking safety on U.S. soil is a legal and human right, and the Biden administration should never have imposed these cruel restrictions in the first place.

“The Biden administration must abandon its inhumane and illegal efforts to obstruct asylum access and instead reaffirm the President’s repeated promises to welcome people seeking safety with dignity.”

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