Author Archives: keith

North Carolina Anti-Immigrant Bill Becomes Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2015

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 202-384-1275, delatorre@nilc.org

Despite Recommendations from Law Enforcement Leaders, North Carolina Anti-Immigrant Bill Becomes Law

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Despite vocal opposition from local law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and community advocates, Gov. Pat McCrory today signed HB 318 into law. The bill, which attacks attempts to improve trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities and restricts an immigrants’ ability to identify him or herself, could have major unintended consequences for many North Carolinians, according to recent news reports. The bill also limits access to SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) for certain childless adults. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“At a time when communities’ trust in law enforcement severely strained, it is troubling that North Carolina has enacted a law that will further undermine North Carolinians’ trust. Though the legislature may claim otherwise, this bill is a direct attack on immigrant communities and on those struggling to make ends meet, at great cost to all North Carolinians. Community and law enforcement leaders from Charlotte to Guilford County have pointed out that this measure could hurt public safety and threaten civil rights, but their warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

“These sorts of attacks are nothing new, and opposition — especially from those charged with protecting our public safety — is unequivocal: A recent federal attempt to stop community trust policies drew fire from police chiefs, mayors, and many others who know that we’re all safer if immigrants and their families feel safe to work with police to prevent and solve crime. Furthermore, limiting ways in which a person can identify her or himself could effectively bar immigrants from accessing essential services, including obtaining a marriage license or child’s birth certificate, utilities, and potentially even school enrollment.

“North Carolina, much like the rest of our nation, is at a crossroads: We can continue to ostracize and criminalize vital members of our communities, or we can work together to come up with inclusive policies that make us all safer, healthier, and better able to use essential services when needed. We – along with those elected to represent us – must move past the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric that spurs legally questionable legislation and instead get to work on solutions that move our communities forward together.”

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Vote on Anti-Immigrant Bill Fast-Tracked

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2015

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

Senate Fast-Tracks Vote on Extreme, Anti-Immigrant Bill Opposed by Law Enforcement, Mayors, Anti–Domestic Violence Advocates

WASHINGTON — After skipping committee debate on a controversial bill, the full Senate is scheduled to vote today on legislation that gambles away community safety and sound policy for the sake of replaying the anti-immigrant political card. The bill, S. 2146, authored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), targets local law enforcement agencies that have instituted successful “community trust” programs that improve relationships with immigrants. It would punish them by stripping away federal grants used by cities and states to house seniors and provide services to low-income communities, as well as Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding that funds law enforcement personnel and other costs.

With more than 350 cities and local jurisdictions potentially being impacted by the legislation, a broad coalition has come together to oppose this extreme measure. The following is a statement by National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié:

“Cities across the country should do whatever they can to restore or maintain trust between residents and local law enforcement, and congressional conservatives shouldn’t get in their way. This legislation would devastate community safety by making immigrants even more fearful of reporting crimes or serving as witnesses to help police solve crimes.

“Under the proposal by Sen. Vitter, communities would be forced to choose between building trust with immigrants or maintaining grants for programs that help low- and moderate-income families and seniors.

“The faith community, advocates of survivors of domestic violence, law enforcement leaders, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and theCommunity Development Block Grant Coalition all oppose this extreme measure for good reason.

“Before they vote, senators should remember it is wrong to play with the lives of real people, that they should not be used as chips in the political game of anti-immigrant politics.

“We urge the Senate to reject S. 2146.”

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Senate Rejects Misguided Anti-Immigrant Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2015

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

Senate Rejects Misguided Anti-Immigrant Bill Opposed by Broad Coalition of Mayors, Police Chiefs, and Crime-Victim Advocates

WASHINGTON — The Senate today rejected a punitive bill that would have stripped law enforcement funding and grants for low-income housing from jurisdictions— over 350 of them—that have “community trust” programs aimed at making immigrants and other residents feel safe coming forward to report and help investigate crimes. The final vote was 45-54.

The bill, S. 2145, by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), threatened to cut off federal grants used by cities and states to fund community services and housing for seniors and low-income residents. It also would have denied Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding to certain law enforcement agencies.

The following is a statement by National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié:

“Once again, conservatives in Congress today tried to score cheap political points by scapegoating immigrants. This latest effort aimed to bully hundreds of cities and counties into choosing between either dropping community trust policies or losing funding for their low-income residents and seniors.

“The bill did not attempt to fix our immigration system. It simply would have penalized the very jurisdictions that have recognized immigrants as vital components of their communities and treated them as such.

“This was cynical politics at their worst. The Senate was right to stop this bill.”

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States Take Steps to Improve Life for All Residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2015

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

GOLDEN STATE LEADS THE WAY
As Washington is Mired in Partisan Bickering, California and Other States Take Steps toward Policies to Improve Life for All Residents

LOS ANGELES — California Governor Jerry Brown marked the end of the 2015 legislative session by approving a series of bills designed to create a more inclusive health care system, improve our criminal justice system, make the workplace fairer, and protect civil rights for all Californians. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the Los Angeles–based National Immigration Law Center:

“One need only look at the California legislature to be reminded that policy, especially when it affects the lives of working families, matters. Immigrant youth in the Golden State will soon have access to crucial health coverage, regardless of their immigration status. All workers—regardless of their status or the color of their skin—will enjoy new protections against wage theft. And all Californians will be better protected from the harmful effects of racial profiling.

“These are just a few of the commonsense policies that will have a profound impact on our workplaces and make our communities healthier. There is, however, much left to be done. While California’s children may no longer be denied health coverage unjustly, immigrant parents continue to live one accident or illness away from total financial devastation.

“Californians have long advocated for an inclusive state that values the contributions of all its residents. This year’s legislative session took us several steps closer to the fulfilment of this important vision. We look forward to continuing to work with advocates and policymakers across the country to enact state and local policies that improve the lives of our community members on a daily basis.”

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More information about California’s expansion of access to health care is available atwww.nilc.org/document.html?id=1257.

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Battle Against SB 1070 Continues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2015

CONTACT
Elizabeth Beresford, NILC, nilc@fitzgibbonmedia.com, 917-648-0189
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, skilar@acluaz.org, 602-492-8540
Larry Gonzales, MALDEF, lgonzalez@rabengroup.com, 202-309-2182

Civil Rights Coalition Continues Battle Against Arizona’s Nativist Law, SB 1070

PHOENIX — Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070,Valle del Sol v. Whiting, announced Monday that they will appeal part of the trial court’s summary judgment decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“While many aspects of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law have been dismantled over the course of a 5-year legal battle, the most recent district court ruling left some of the law’s most shameful and discriminatory provisions intact,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), plaintiffs’ counsel in the suit. “We are confident that ruling will be overturned on appeal and will work alongside our courageous plaintiffs to move Arizona towards policies that are inclusive and humane—not fueled by hatred and racial animus.”

“Through this litigation, we have eliminated all the criminal provisions of SB 1070. As a result, Arizona is a safer place for people of color than it was when this law passed five years ago,” said Jorge Castillo, staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which also represents the plaintiffs. “The appeal we file today will help to finish the job against a law that was a mistake from its inception.”

“All Arizonans, regardless of what they look like or language they speak, should be treated equally under the law,” said Salvador Reza, a representative of organizational plaintiff Tonatierra Community Development Institute. “No law based on discrimination and racial profiling should stand.”

“All communities—Asian, Latino, African-American—must unite to bring down this hateful law once and for all,” said plaintiff Jim Shee. “This appeal is another important step for people across the state to show that they will not stand for intolerance and hate.”

“SB 1070 was modeled on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s divisive, race-motivated policies,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, which also represents the plaintiffs. “Sheriff Arpaio’s practice of profiling Latinos was ruled unconstitutional years ago and Arizona’s ‘show me your papers’ law is no different. SB 1070 inevitably leads to unconstitutional racial profiling and unreasonable seizures by police. Despite Gov. Ducey’s overtures to re-brand the state as an inclusive place, his continued defense of SB 1070 serves as a constant reminder that Arizona sanctions race-based policing.”

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued an order permanently blocking SB 1070’s punitive and unconstitutional provisions that aimed to suppress the free speech rights of the day laborers who live and work in Arizona. Judge Bolton, however, let stand two of the laws most harmful provisions, Section 2(B), which requires police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain or arrest if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person … is unlawfully present in the United States,” and Section 2(D), which authorizes police to transfer people to the custody of federal immigration officials.

In addition to Tonatierra and Shee, plaintiffs in the case include labor unions, community organizations, chambers of commerce and individuals.

In addition to the ACLU of Arizona, MALDEF, and NILC, plaintiffs’ counsel team includes the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Ortega Law Firm P.C., Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP.

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Civil Rights Groups Announce Dismissal of FOIA Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 31, 2011

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, NILC, delatorre@nilc.org, 213-674-2832
Sandra Hernandez, ACLU of Southern California, shernandez@ACLU-SC.ORG, 213-977-5247
Liz Valsamis, Gibson Dunn, LValsamis@gibsondunn.com, 213-229-7115

Civil Rights Groups Announce Dismissal of FOIA Lawsuit Against Government

LOS ANGELES — A coalition of civil rights groups has agreed to dismiss its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against federal immigration officials, after securing the release of more than 2,500 pages of documents relating to the federal government’s unlawful treatment of workers detained during a huge workplace raid in Los Angeles in 2008.

On Monday, January 31, 2011, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU of Southern California, and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles dismissed their federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security. When the civil rights groups filed the lawsuit in October 2008, the agencies had failed to release a single document in response to the FOIA request. It was only through the federal litigation that the groups were able to negotiate the release of documents originally withheld by the agencies.

The documents released pertain to a federal immigration raid that took place on February 7, 2008, at a Micro Solutions Enterprises manufacturing plant in Van Nuys. Agents interrogated and detained well over 130 employees, though they only had arrest warrants for eight, raising concerns that workers were subject to interrogation without any legal basis.

The documents released by the government following the filing of the lawsuit shed light on agents’ conduct during the raid. Specifically, the documents established that although government officials had warrants to arrest only a few individuals, they actively planned to arrest up to 200 workers in their raid dragnet. Furthermore, ICE officials admitted that they engaged in the raid as a result of an anonymous tip. The released documents were an important part of establishing that the workers arrested in the raid should have their immigration proceedings terminated because the arresting agents violated the workers’ rights.

“These documents have allowed the dozens of men and women who were unlawfully swept up by this raid to fight their cases and stay here in the United States with their families and children,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Without the litigation, the government may never have come clean about its illegal actions during the Micro Solutions raid, and the families and communities of those affected by the raid might be suffering a much worse fate today.”

“We were pleased to represent NILC in this litigation, and we are delighted by the result. Not only were we able to uncover some of the ongoing failures of the government in conducting immigration raids and obtain important evidence for use by the Micro Solutions employees in their individual immigration cases, we were able to hold the government accountable to its policy of transparency to the public, which is, of course, the underlying purpose of the FOIA statute,” said Katherine Smith, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which served as pro bono counsel for NILC in the lawsuit.

“At a time when some in Congress are calling for a return to worksite enforcement, the documents obtained through this lawsuit show what a tragically misguided effort that would be. The Micro Solutions raid traumatized dozens of people, both citizens and noncitizens, resulted in a massive expenditure of judicial resources, but as of now has resulted in virtually no deportations,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants’ rights and national security at the ACLU of Southern California. “It is hard to imagine more conclusive proof that raids damage our communities while doing nothing to make us safer.”

The lawsuit, National Immigration Law Center v. Department of Homeland Security, named as defendants both the Department of Homeland Security and its sub-agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducted the February 7, 2008, raid in Van Nuys, California. NILC was represented by Maurice M. Suh and Katherine Smith of Gibson Dunn. The National Immigration Law Center’s in-house counsel also participated as counsel in the case, and their team included Linton Joaquin, Karen Tumlin, and Nora Preciado. Ahilan Arulanantham and Jennie Pasquarella from the ACLU of Southern California represented ACLU-SC and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.

MORE INFORMATION:
Exhibits: Respondent’s June 2, 2009, Supplement to Motion to Terminate and Suppress (PDF)
(Contains 2 exhibits: (B) Pre-operation memorandum for “Operation Micro Solutions,” dated Feb. 4, 2008; and (C) Post-operation memorandum for “Operation ‘Inkblot,’” dated Feb. 11, 2008.)

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Court Rejects Attempt to Restrict Access to Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 15, 2010

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-674-2832, delatorre@nilc.org

Court Issues Ruling in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, California’s AB 540 Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.  — This morning, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California. The ruling rejected a challenge to AB 540, a California law that allows students who have attended California high schools for three years and received their diploma or GED to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in California. Analysis of AB 540 has found that 70 percent of the students covered by this law in the UC system are U.S. citizens or documented immigrants.

“As Californians, we know that it is in our interest to ensure that all of our youth, regardless of status, who attend and graduate from California high schools have access to affordable higher education,” said Tanya Broder, an attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “Recognizing the fundamental importance of post-secondary education and the valuable resource to the state that these students represent, the California Supreme Court today properly rejected an attempt to deny this opportunity to thousands of current and future talented students.  This decision should remind us that Californians are better served by rewarding, not punishing, our youth who work hard and succeed academically.”

Added Adey Fisseha, a NILC policy attorney, “Today’s decision also highlights a gap in federal immigration law: For thousands of undocumented young people who have grown up in the United States, there is no pathway to legal status to allow them to contribute fully to our society.  The DREAM Act, bipartisan legislation under consideration in Washington, would provide such a path to these bright young students.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle support a vote on the DREAM Act.  Democratic and Republican leadership should heed those calls and make this common-sense legislation a top priority this year.”

View the amicus brief in support of the Regents of the University of California filed by the National Immigration Law Center and the ACLU.

To speak with an expert about today’s decision or other issues affecting immigrant youth access to higher education, please call Adela de la Torre at 213-674-2832.

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Immigration Enforcement Measures Passed by Senate Hurt Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2009 (revised July 14, 2009)

Media Contact:
Adela de la Torre; (213) 674-2832

Symbolic Immigration Enforcement Measures Passed by the Senate Would Hurt All Workers

In debating a U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill, the U.S. Senate proposed to add yet another level of expense and job uncertainty for all workers by approving a provision that would mandate that federal contractors use the flawed E-Verify program and by attempting to thwart DHS’s decision to rescind a flawed Bush administration rule regarding Social Security Administration (SSA) “no-match letters.” These programs simply have unacceptable database error rates, and mandating their use would unnecessarily place countless thousands of American workers at risk for job termination.

“Some policymakers fail to understand that E-Verify and SSA no-match letters will have a devastating effect on all American workers,” said Tyler Moran, employment policy director for the National Immigration Law Center. “Instead of offering practical solutions for our immigration system, the Senate is playing politics as usual by mandating costly and ineffective enforcement measures.”

Actions in the Senate this week, paired with the recent announcements by the Council of Foreign Relations, underscore the urgency both parties feel for Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform. By mandating flawed verification programs, we risk American jobs as well as the country’s financial livelihood in a time of economic uncertainty.

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DHS Issues ‘New’ Worksite Enforcement Guidelines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2009

CONTACT
Nora Preciado, NILC, 213-674-2823

DHS Issues “New” Worksite Enforcement Guidelines That Are Simply More of the Same

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is disappointed at the so-called new directive on worksite enforcement issued by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today and announced via a DHS press release.  The directive itself has not been made public at this time.

The press release announces a new emphasis on criminal prosecutions of employers and expanding coverage of humanitarian guidelines.  But at the same time, DHS reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will continue to detain undocumented workers in workplace raids.

“Americans had been awaiting meaningful change under the Obama administration, but all we’ve gotten seems to be more of the same type of ineffective and costly immigration enforcement that we saw with the mass ICE raids under the Bush administration,” stated Marielena Hincapié, executive director of NILC.  “We have seen the terrorizing effect ICE raids have had on families who have been ripped apart, children who have been abandoned, workers who have courageously come forward to report labor violations only to be detained, and on local economies which have been severely impacted.  It is simply unacceptable that these ‘new’ guidelines are the administration’s response to the millions of people demanding rational and humane immigration policies,” said Hincapié.

The directive purportedly shifts the focus toward employers engaged in criminal activity.  The press release does not even mention access to legal protections for workers who are victims of employer misconduct, such as access to visas for victims of human trafficking or other crimes, or as material witnesses to crimes.  “We support an enforcement scheme that goes after employers who are flaunting the nation’s immigration and criminal laws as well as undercutting businesses that do play by the rules. But the directive does not address the root causes of why employers recruit, hire, and exploit undocumented workers to begin with,” said Nora Preciado, employment policy attorney with NILC.  “This is a missed opportunity by the administration to focus on employers engaged in egregious labor violations and to see workers as essential to these prosecutions.  Instead immigrant workers across the nation will be pushed deeper into the shadows of our economy,” added Preciado.

The DHS press release states the agency plans to expand the existing humanitarian guidelines to worksite raids involving more than 25 undocumented workers.  While this reflects a change from the previous threshold of 150, NILC’s experience in supporting local groups in response to ICE raids has shown us that the humanitarian guidelines are fraught with more serious problems that should have been addressed.  The humanitarian guidelines need to be improved so they are uniformly followed by local ICE agents and guarantee that workers are not detained when alternatives to detention are available, obtain prompt access to counsel, and limit the transfer of detained immigrants away from their homes and families.

“This new guidance sends a strong message to the millions of Latinos who voted for change when they elected President Obama that this administration is not serious about change and protecting the rights of workers.  The stakes are even greater now for a broad and just immigration reform that will allow immigrant workers to come out of the shadows to continue contributing to the nation’s economy and participating fully in their communities,” concluded Hincapié.

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DHS anuncia “nueva” directiva sobre redadas en lugares de trabajo que son simplemente más de lo mismo

LOS ANGELES — El Centro Nacional de Leyes de Inmigración (NILC) se encuentra decepcionado por la supuesta nueva directiva sobre las redadas migratorias en lugares de trabajo que la Secretaria Janet Napolitano otorgó hoy y anunciado por el Departamento de Seguridad de la Nación (DHS) por medio de un comunicado de prensa.  La directiva en si no se ha publicado.

El comunicado de prensa del DHS anuncia un nuevo énfasis en procesos penales en contra de empresarios y busca ampliar la cobertura del protocolo humanitario. Sin embargo al mismo tiempo establece que el Departamento de Migración y Aduanas (ICE) seguirá deteniendo a trabajadores indocumentados en lugares de trabajo por medio de redadas.

“Los estadounidenses han estado esperando un cambio significativo por parte de la administración de Obama pero parece ser que todo lo que hemos conseguido es más del mismo tipo de cumplimiento ineficaz y costoso de las leyes de migración que hemos visto durante las redadas masivas bajo la administración de Bush”, dijo Marielena Hincapié, directora ejecutiva de NILC. “Hemos sido testigos del efecto aterrorizante que las redadas de ICE han tenido en las familias que han sido desgarradas, niños que han sido abandonados, trabajadores que valientemente se han quejado de violaciones de derechos sólo para ser detenidos, y economías locales que se han visto afectadas de manera grave. Es simplemente inaceptable que estas “nuevas” directivas sean la respuesta que la administración le da a las millones de personas que estan exigiendo políticas migratorias racionales y humanas,” acertó Hincapié.

La directiva supuestamente cambia el enfoque de la ley hacia los empresarios envueltos en actividades criminales . El comunicado de prensa ni siquiera menciona el acceso a la protección jurídica de los trabajadores que son víctimas de mala conducta del empleador, tales como acceso a visas para las víctimas del tráfico de seres humanos u otros crímenes, o para testigos importantes de delitos. “Estamos a favor de un régimen que castiga a los empleadores que abiertamente están violando las leyes migratorias y penales, así como aprovechándose de su competencia que sí cumplen con la ley. Sin embargo la directiva no enfrenta las verdaderas causas del por qué los empleadores reclutan, contratan y explotan a trabajadores indocumentados,” dijo Nora Preciado, abogada de NILC. “El gobierno ha desperdiciado una oportunidad para enfocarse en los empresarios que participan en graves violaciones de derechos de los trabajadores y para reconocer que los trabajadores son esenciales en cualquier proceso penal contra los empleadores. En cambio los trabajadores inmigrantes en toda la nación serán empujados aún más a las penumbras de nuestra economía,” agregó Preciado.

El comunicado de prensa del DHS también anuncia planes de ampliar el protocolo humanitario aplicable durante redadas que afectan a más de 25 trabajadores indocumentados. Si bien esto refleja un cambio al anterior mínimo de 150 trabajadores, las experiencias de NILC al apoyar a grupos locales respondiendo a las redadas nos ha demostrado que el protocolo humanitario se encuentra lleno de problemas más graves que deberían haber sido corregidos. El protocolo humanitario debe mejorarse para que sea obedecido de manera uniforme por todos los agentes del ICE y para garantizar que los trabajadores no sean detenidos cuando alternativas a la detención estén disponibles, para asegurar el rápido acceso a un abogado, y para disminuir la frecuencia con que inmigrantes detenidos son llevados a lugares lejos de sus hogares y familias.

“Esta nueva directiva envía un fuerte mensaje a los millones de Latinos que votaron por el cambio cuando eligieron al Presidente Obama de que este gobierno no está tomando en serio el cambio y la protección de los derechos de los trabajadores. Lo que se encuentra en juego es aún mayor en cuanto a la necesidad de una reforma migratoria amplia y justa que permita a los trabajadores inmigrantes salir de las sombras para seguir contribuyendo a la economía de la nación y a participar plenamente en sus comunidades,” concluyó Hincapié.

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Groups Sue for Release of Government Documents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2008

Groups Sue for Release of Government Documents Related to Local Immigration Raid

LOS ANGELES — A coalition of civil rights lawyers is suing federal immigration officials who have illegally failed to release information about reported racial profiling, intimidation and denial of access to counsel by workers detained during a huge workplace raid in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles filed a federal lawsuit asserting that the government’s lack of response violates the Freedom of Information Act.  The three groups first requested basic information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security nearly seven months ago.  The government has failed to release a single document.

“The government has squandered an opportunity to allay community concerns about the manner in which it is conducting immigration raids.  If the government truly believes that it is conducting these raids in a humane and lawful manner, it should release the documents this lawsuit seeks,” said NILC staff attorney Karen Tumlin.

On February 7, federal immigration agents raided a Micro Solutions Enterprises manufacturing plant in Van Nuys.  Agents interrogated and detained well over 200 employees, though they only had arrest warrants for eight, raising concerns that workers were presumed guilty under the immigration laws based solely or primarily on their race/ethnicity.  The documents the government has failed to produce would shed light on agents’ conduct during the raid, including whether they adhered to their own policies concerning the manner in which workplace raids should be conducted and whether appropriate screening was done to determine whether detained individuals should be released to care for minor children or other dependants.

“The public has a right to know whether the immigration agents followed the law when conducting this massive worksite raid.  The government’s refusal to provide the information speaks volumes about its own confidence that it is complying with federal law and the Constitution,” said ACLU-SC Director of Immigrants’ Rights and National Security, Ahilan Arulanantham.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been under scrutiny for its aggressive tactics in conducting increasingly frequent workplace raids over the last two years.  In some cases, federal agents have separated mothers from nursing infants.  Last month, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate to set guidelines that would ensure immigration raids are conducted in a humane manner that does not trample on individuals’ civil rights or presume guilt based on skin color.

“We are pleased to represent NILC in this case, which stands for the fundamental principle that those enforcing the law must abide by it,” said Ann Robinson, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which is serving as pro bono counsel for NILC in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, National Immigration Law Center v. Department of Homeland Security, sues both the Department of Homeland Security, and its subagency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducted the February 7, 2008, raid in Van Nuys.  The plaintiffs in lawsuit are:  the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Southern California, and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.  The National Immigration Law Center is representing itself along with the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is serving as pro bono counsel for NILC.  The ACLU of Southern California is representing itself and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.  In addition to Arulanantham, Robinson, and Tumlin, other counsel in the case include:  Linton Joaquin and Nora Preciado of NILC;  Maurice Suh and Katherine Smith of Gibson Dunn; and Jennifer Pasquarella of the ACLU of Southern California.

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MORE INFORMATION:
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Case No. CV08-07092 (C.D. Cal., filed Oct. 28, 2008).

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