Author Archives: Richard Irwin

DACA Recipient Marco Villada Back Home in the U.S. after Six Months Stranded in Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2018

CONTACT
Email: media@nilc.org
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

DACA Recipient Marco Villada Back Home in the U.S. after Six Months Stranded in Mexico

LOS ANGELES — A married couple forcibly separated by a Trump administration misapplication of immigration law has been reunited after months of legal advocacy and community pressure. Marco Villada Garibay is back home with his husband, Israel Serrato, in California, following an emotional reunion at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday.

“I’m immensely grateful to all the people who have taken the time to learn about the situation my husband, Israel, and I were in and who supported us through this difficult time,” Villada said. “I’m very happy to be back home and to put this painful period behind us. We were in limbo for half a year. Now, we can finally start planning for our future.”

Villada, who was previously a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, had been stranded in Mexico since January, when U.S. consular officials in Ciudad Juarez unlawfully denied his application for a spousal immigrant visa and barred him from returning to the U.S. In April, Villada and Serrato — represented by the National Immigration Law Center, the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, and Mayer Brown LLP — challenged that decision in federal court.

After an outpouring of support from tens of thousands of Americans, including several members of Congress, the Human Rights Campaign, and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), consular officials called Villada back for a follow-up interview. The U.S. State Department later reversed its denial and issued Villada’s visa. The Washington Post broke the news of his return home.

“We’re glad that the federal government has reversed its unjust decision and that Marco will finally be able to return home to the U.S. where he belongs,” said Nora Preciado, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “This is a testament to the efforts of so many people who spoke out against the government’s unfair treatment of Marco and in support of bringing him back. But we also know this never should have happened and that it has caused irreversible harm.”

Villada, 35, arrived in the U.S. when he was six years old and has lived most of his life in Los Angeles. He and Serrato, a U.S. citizen, were married in 2014, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The couple has been working for years to adjust Villada’s status to lawful permanent residency.

“Sadly, we know that there are countless people with similar stories that won’t end up with the same good news,” said Stacy Tolchin, one of Villada’s attorneys. “So many people are living in excruciating uncertainty because of this administration’s attacks on immigrant communities, on families, and on due process and the rule of law. As we celebrate Marco’s return, we are also thinking of all the families who haven’t been so lucky.”

“Marco’s case is not at all unique — wrongful immigration decisions are far too common,” said Andrew Pincus, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP. “Our Constitution and laws require fair decision-making processes, with strong judicial oversight. And we need permanent protection for Dreamers.”

After Villada was barred from reentering the U.S., the couple was forced to leave their home and sell off many of their belongings in order to keep up with their financial obligations. Serrato moved in with a friend and Villada was taken in by family members in Mexico.

In the six months since Villada was unjustly barred from coming home, he missed out on celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with his parents. His brother, who is an active duty military service member, was deployed for a second tour in the Middle East. Villada wasn’t able to attend his only sister’s quinceañera, which the family had been planning and looking forward to for years. And Villada and Serrato spent their fourth wedding anniversary apart.

“This experience has been hugely disruptive for me and Israel, and for the people we love the most,” Villada says. “We have a lot of rebuilding to do, and we can’t take back time, but we’re hopeful and excited for what comes next.”

“I hope everyone experiencing uncertainty and fear right now, including DACA recipients, can hang on to hope,” Serrato says. “Even in the hardest times, there are people out there working to make the U.S. a better place for all of us. Reach out to people and organizations in your area doing this work. Get involved in and support these efforts, even if you’re not personally impacted.”

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Another Republican Anti-Immigrant Bill Fails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Another Republican Anti-Immigrant Bill Fails

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives today resoundingly rejected Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) bill proposing sweeping, harmful changes to our immigration system in exchange for woefully inadequate protections for Dreamers. Ryan’s bill fell nearly 100 votes short of those needed to move forward, garnering even less support than another White House–endorsed bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that was overwhelmingly defeated last week.

Diana Pliego, a policy associate at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“This is the third time the Republican-controlled Congress has rejected a White House­–sponsored immigration proposal. Republican leadership has failed yet again at solving the crisis Trump created when he ended the DACA program.

“For months, Republican congressional leaders have gone out of their way to stop any bipartisan proposals to resolve the uncertainty facing immigrant youth. Today’s vote sends a clear message that political games and extremist, anti-immigrant, partisan bills won’t get the job done. A real solution requires real compromise, which means working across the aisle.

“The need for Congress to pass a permanent solution for Dreamers has not gone away. People’s lives continue to hang in the balance as congressional leadership continues to use immigrant youth as political pawns.

“Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda has had its day on the floor. It has failed and failed and failed again. It’s past time for Congress to get serious and pass the Dream Act.”

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Statement on Justice Kennedy’s Retirement from the Supreme Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Statement on Justice Kennedy’s Retirement from the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today from the United States Supreme Court. Kennedy, who was appointed to the Court in 1987, authored several landmark decisions in his tenure as an associate justice.

Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Justice Kennedy’s announcement has sent shockwaves to the millions of us who read and dissected his opinions in law school and as litigators. Although some of us may not have always agreed with his opinions, it was clear that he both respected and understood his awesome responsibility to the American people.

“The events of the recent weeks underscore the pivotal moment our country is in. Ranging from the traumatic separations of families at the border to this week’s Supreme Court decisions on the Muslim ban, we are reminded that the soul of our nation is at stake. The president, the Senate, and the American people have a responsibility to ensure that Kennedy’s replacement is able to administer justice fairly to all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, where we were born, how much money we have, or what our faith is.

“The stakes could not be higher, both for the courts and for the nation. It is now up to the Senate to ensure it fulfills one of its most important duties and serves to check and balance this most important of upcoming judicial nominations. As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2016 after Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving a vacancy on the Court, the American people should have a say in determining who fills this important seat. We urge the Senate to take a similarly deliberative approach now. November is a few short months from now, and voters should remember that while those they elect to the Senate or the House will serve for terms of six or two years, a Supreme Court justice appointment lasts for life.”

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Supreme Court Decision Threatens Worker Rights for All

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Supreme Court Decision Threatens Worker Rights for All

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned more than four decades of case law by ruling that public-sector employees may no longer be required to pay fees to the unions whose advocacy helps advance their rights. The 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME could have a major impact on workplace rights, regardless of union membership. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“For far too long, the rules have been stacked against working people in favor of the millionaire and billionaire class. This ruling makes this divide even worse by threatening the ability of public sector unions to successfully represent their workers.

“The truth is that all of us, regardless of whether we are in a union, benefit when there are strong unions advocating for safer, better, fairer workplaces. We need the protections that unions provide now more than ever before.

“This Supreme Court decision reminds us that the urgency could not be greater. This is a time to unite, organize, mobilize, and fight for policies and rules that give all workers, regardless of where we were born, a fair opportunity to earn a decent living. We must elect a Congress that has working families’ best interests at heart and are willing to use their political power to bring about the changes all workers need. We will continue to stand proudly with our union sisters and brothers as we fight for fairness and justice — now and in November.

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Where Are the Children? Not in Trump’s Priorities (The Torch)

Where Are the Children? Not in Trump’s Priorities

THE TORCH: CONTENTS

By Mayra E. Alvarez, President, The Children’s Partnership
JUNE 26, 2018

Around the world and on both sides of the political aisle, the safety of children is upheld as a universal value. The U.S. has established special protections for children — courts may give special consideration to what is in the best interests of a child in issuing judgments about their well-being. The children of the president and other elected leaders are traditionally “off limits” to reporters. Even celebrities are afforded a degree of privacy from the paparazzi to ensure their children’s safety. With good reason, it is understood that children deserve special status and need to be protected and taken care of — not only by their parents, but by all of us in society. Yet that universal value has been abandoned by the Trump administration, as it recklessly implements policies that separate children from their families, inflicting serious trauma.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, harsh immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric have instilled a deep and growing fear inside many communities, threatening the health, security, and well-being of children in immigrant families. Eighteen million children in the U.S. — 4.5 million children in California alone — are part of an immigrant family, many living in fear as to what may happen if their parent is deported or detained. Millions of Dreamers are stuck in limbo, uncertain of their long-term future. Workplaces are being raided and detained mothers and fathers taken away from their children. Parents who were once protected by temporary protected status (TPS) now must decide whether to leave their U.S.-citizen children behind or take them to countries still reeling from disaster.

Most recently, the troubling “zero tolerance” policy, which imposes criminal penalties meant to deter immigrant families from coming to our country seeking asylum, is just another example of this administration’s attack on children.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, referred to the separation of children from their parent as “government-sanctioned child abuse.” Separating children from their parents causes them trauma and toxic stress that can have lifelong negative impacts on their mental and physical health. In the short term, the trauma and stress impair a child’s ability to concentrate, remember things, and control and focus their own thinking. In the long term, they place children at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Click on infographic to enlarge.

From the children directly impacted by the separations to the millions of children in immigrant families across the country, the damage is done. In a survey The Children’s Partnership conducted of health providers in California, 90 percent reported an increase in children experiencing anxiety and fear related to their heightened awareness of the possibility of detention and deportation, because of the current national climate. These negative health impacts due to unjust policies that separate families go against American values of inclusion and equality. Whether it happens at the border, through detention, or deportation later in life, the damage is detrimental.

What’s worse? The executive order signed last week by President Trump is not a solution. First, it does nothing to address the trauma experienced by more than 2,000 children already separated from their parents. Second, it seems to say that imprisoning whole families is an acceptable path forward when we know family detention has repeatedly been found to be unsuitable for children. The inhumane conditions that these children face while in detention centers — caged, as well as physically and emotionally neglected — are devoid of compassion and decency. This simply trades one source of childhood trauma for another.

The climate of fear, the separation and detention of families, and the uncertainty of the future compels every American to ask, “Where are the children?” in the Trump administration’s priorities. Children in immigrant families are enduring toxic stress, anxiety, and other longstanding negative health impacts due to unjust policies that separate families, traumatize children, and go against American values of protecting children. As an organization that focuses on putting our children’s well-being first in policymaking, The Children’s Partnership denounces the Trump administration’s policies and implores Congress to stop these cruel practices, put our nation’s values into action, and advance policies that defend and protect the dignity and rights of all children.

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Supreme Court Allows Discriminatory Muslim Ban to Stand

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Supreme Court Allows Discriminatory Muslim Ban to Stand

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a ruling upholding the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, allowing the government to effectively ban individuals from several Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.

The Court heard oral arguments in April 2018 on Hawaii v. Trump, a legal challenge to one of the latest iterations of President Trump’s Muslim ban. This executive order, first issued in September 2017, indefinitely bans people from several Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S. The Supreme Court had previously stayed earlier preliminary injunctions partially blocking the ban, allowing it to go into full effect. The New York Times has recently covered the devastation and ongoing family separation caused by the ban.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Today the arc of justice just got longer. The Supreme Court ruling marks this as another painful day in our country’s history. The Court’s decision ignores and empowers this administration’s bigotry and serves as a tacit approval of religious and ethnic discrimination that runs counter to the inclusionary principles that our country aspires to. President Trump’s Muslim ban has already caused immeasurable suffering to families and communities and is part of the administration’s overall strategy of attacking and separating immigrant and refugee families.

“The Supreme Court has been wrong before. Today, the Roberts Court joins the shameful legacy left by Court majorities that sanctioned the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans (Korematsu) and the perpetuation of slavery in the U.S. (Dred Scott).

“The fights for religious freedom and justice for all immigrant families do not end here. The right to live in peace and be treated with dignity and justice no matter one’s race, ethnicity, or religion is too important to let one person, one president destroy. In November, we must elect a Congress that will hold this administration accountable. We continue to stand proudly with our plaintiffs, refugees, and the American Muslim community and will fight in the courtroom, in the halls of Congress, at the ballot box, and alongside our communities until there is no Muslim ban ever.”

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NILC Files FOIA Asking 16 Government Agencies to Reveal How They Plan to Reunify Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

NILC Files FOIA Asking 16 Government Agencies to Reveal How They Plan to Reunify Families

LOS ANGELES — In response to the dearth of information provided by the Trump administration, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request demanding that the federal government provide information about its plans for reuniting families separated at the border. As part of the FOIA, NILC asks for locations, numbers, guidelines, and about any training or policy that sheds light on what each of the agencies named in the FOIA is doing to address these issues, given the harm separated families are suffering.

“The Trump administration created a major humanitarian crisis by separating children from their parents at the border under its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, and the president’s executive order does nothing to address the immeasurable damage it has inflicted on immigrant families,” said Nora Preciado, a NILC senior staff attorney. “Since the Trump administration has failed to provide a clear plan, we are deeply concerned that children are being lost in the system. It is absolutely unacceptable that there is no indication that government agencies are working on a plan to reunite more than 2,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents under the zero-tolerance policy.”

The FOIA was filed amid disturbing reports of immigrants being coerced into foregoing the asylum process in order to be reunited and deported with their children. These reports are eerily reminiscent of the U.S. government’s treatment of Salvadorans who sought asylum during the 1980s, when the National Immigration Law Center first sued the government to protect the rights of Salvadoran asylees.

“Our Constitution protects everyone against the inhumane treatment we are witnessing along the border,” said Mayra Joachin, NILC staff attorney. “The federal government has a responsibility to abide by the Constitution. We’re filing our FOIA today to find out what, if anything, the government has done to uphold the laws its officials are sworn to defend.”

The executive order the president signed last week does not clearly address how the government plans to provide a solution for the parents and children who remain detained separately, many without access to legal counsel. The agencies from which this FOIA requests information include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Navy (which is in charge of securing space at military bases), the secretary of Defense, the Department of Justice, and others.

The FOIA request filed today is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FOIA-Request-re-Family-Separation-2018-06-25.pdf.

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Legal Victory in Arizona: State Must Accept Proof of Work Authorization as Sufficient Documentation from Immigrants Seeking Driver’s Licenses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org
Tony Marcano, amarcano@maldef.org, 213-629-2512 x128

Legal Victory in Arizona: State Must Accept Proof of Work Authorization as Sufficient Documentation from Immigrants Seeking Driver’s Licenses

LOS ANGELES — Arizona must accept proof of work authorization as sufficient documentation from immigrants seeking to obtain driver’s licenses, a federal court ruled this week.

The decision in Valenzuela v. Ducey, a lawsuit filed by the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), and the Ortega Law Firm P.C. blocks Arizona’s Department of Transportation from denying licenses to immigrants with deferred action.

“A driver’s license is about more than a piece of paper,” said Nicholas Espíritu, staff attorney at NILC, who argued the motion for summary judgement. “Our plaintiffs should be treated just like anyone else and have the freedom to live their lives fully in their communities. This order allows them to have the license they need to drive to work and support their families, and it prevents Arizona from engaging in a discriminatory practice.”

NILC and MALDEF sued Arizona on behalf of several deferred action holders who, despite having received work authorization from the federal government, were denied the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license. Deferred action recipients include survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell said that the state cannot create a policy that grants driver’s licenses to some deferred action recipients, while denying them to others.

“This decision is a great victory for the courageous individuals who brought this lawsuit to challenge Arizona’s harsh and unnecessary driver’s license policy, and for hundreds of individuals across the state affected by this policy,” said Julia Gomez, staff attorney at MALDEF, who argued a companion motion in the case. “The court’s order ensures that deferred action recipients can finally get on with their lives, and helps remove the hurdles that come from not being able to drive.”

Arizona’s discriminatory policy followed an initial attempt to deny licenses to all those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. NILC, MALDEF, and others successfully challenged that discriminatory policy in 2012.

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Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center envisions a society in which all people — regardless of race, gender, income level, or immigration status — have the opportunity to live freely, work safely, and thrive in society. For more information, visit www.nilc.org and follow on Twitter @NILC_org.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit www.maldef.org.

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Trump Executive Order Makes Border Crisis Worse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Trump Executive Order Makes Border Crisis Worse

Jailing families is not a solution

WASHINGTON — President Trump has signed an executive order mandating that families be jailed by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security or Defense. This order will likely have the effect of jailing, for months or even years, immigrant families seeking safety in the U.S. The National Immigration Law Center has long decried the practice of jailing immigrant families, filing lawsuits when necessary to defend their rights. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who visited family detention facilities in 2014:

“The Trump administration has created a crisis and committed horrific human rights abuses by separating children from their parents at the border. Clearly on the defense, today it used a political sleight of hand to try to placate Americans who have been rightly outraged by their government’s repugnant policies, including separating children and babies from their parents and housing them in cages.

“Jailing families is not an acceptable solution to putting children in cages. The best — and safest — place for these children is with their families and in their communities. The Trump administration pretends that alternatives to detention don’t exist. This is false. There are numerous alternatives that are both more humane and less costly, but this president refuses to use them. Our country has a system in place to process asylum claims, and these families should be allowed to go through this legal process.

“The Trump administration may not care much for the basic constitutional rights of people seeking safety. We do, and we’ll work with communities and in courtrooms to protect them. Not a single one of us should be standing on the sidelines as this administration inflicts lifelong trauma on these children. It is up to all of us to hold this administration accountable and stop this nightmare.”

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Ryan and Goodlatte Immigration Bills Are Ransom Notes, Not Solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2018

CONTACT
Email: media@nilc.org
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Ryan and Goodlatte Immigration Bills Are Ransom Notes, Not Solutions

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives this week is expected to vote on two anti-immigrant bills that would make sweeping, harmful changes to our immigration system and provide inadequate protections for Dreamers. Republican House leaders advanced the two proposals — commonly known as the Ryan bill and the Goodlatte bill, after their respective sponsors — in order to stave off good-faith efforts to bring bipartisan, narrowly tailored legislative solutions for Dreamers up for a vote.

The expected votes come in the midst of widespread outrage over the Trump administration’s policy resulting in the separation of children and their parents seeking asylum. Among a litany of extremist, anti-immigrant provisions, the Ryan and Goodlatte bills both call for extreme border militarization and enforcement, including funding for President Trump’s border wall. Neither would end the jailing of children and families.

Kamal Essaheb, policy and advocacy director at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Paul Ryan and likeminded Republicans for months have played into the Trump White House’s cruel and repulsive ploy to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip to enact an extremist, anti-immigrant agenda and build his border wall. These latest efforts in the House only show Republican leadership’s commitment to thwart any real solution for immigrant youth and their complicity in this administration’s efforts to hurt the broader immigrant community and people of color.

The Ryan and Goodlatte bills are ransom notes. And what’s worse, Trump and his enablers in Congress are now taking more hostages: kids ripped away from their parents and jailed. Any lawmaker who truly cares about finding a real solution for Dreamers must reject these partisan, extremist proposals.”

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