Author Archives: Richard Irwin

Horrifying Attack in Portland Should Not Be Met with Silence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2017

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, [email protected], 213-400-7822

Horrifying Attack in Portland Should Not Be Met with Silence

PORTLAND, Ore. — A man viciously attacked three men who defended two young women on a Portland light rail train yesterday afternoon. Witnesses reported that the man was verbally attacking the women by making violent anti-Muslim remarks. Two of the men who intervened died because of the attack, and a third is injured but expected to survive. Below is a statement from Reshma Shamasunder, deputy director of programs for the National Immigration Law Center:

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this heinous attack. This incident should make clear that hate speech and harassment has very real and devastating consequences for entire communities.

“The brave men who stood up to defend two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, and others who led police to locate the man who allegedly committed the attack, should serve as a model for President Trump and other elected officials, who have not spoken out in the face of increased Islamophobia.

“All of us should be able to live free from fear of harassment or assault, regardless of where we were born or how we pray. And we each have a responsibility to speak out against such injustice. Today, on the first day of Ramadan, the silence of our nation’s elected leaders is deafening. Portland — and the nation — deserve better.”

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Fourth Circuit Decision: Muslim Ban Remains Unconstitutional

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2017

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-384-1279

Fourth Circuit’s Decision: Muslim Ban Remains Unconstitutional

RICHMOND, VA — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today refusing to lift the nationwide injunction on President Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban. The court’s opinion in International Refugee Assistance Project, et al. v. Donald Trump, et al. affirms the plaintiffs’ right to challenge an executive order and upholds their claims under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The National Immigration Law Center and the ACLU filed this case on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project, HIAS, the Middle East Studies Association, and others.

Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The Fourth Circuit’s decision today is yet another resounding indictment and rejection of the Trump administration’s Muslim and refugee ban. While the administration has tried to justify its ban under an unfounded and unclear cloak of national security, the courts continue to call it out for what it is: religious intolerance, racial animus, and discrimination.

“The court’s opinion upholds our most sacred and cherished constitutional principles by again affirming what our founders intended when writing the First Amendment — that our government may not favor or disfavor one religion over another, or establish any one particular religious orthodoxy. Our founders were clear in protecting that fundamental principle more than 200 years ago, and our institutions continue to stand guard to ensure it endures any and every attempt to undermine it.

“While the spotlight today is on the Muslim ban, the truth is that this executive order is just one part of President Trump’s xenophobic agenda. We will continue to fight to ensure that all people — regardless of where they were born, what they earn, or how they pray — can live freely and be treated fairly in this country.”

The decision issued today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/IRAP-v-Trump-4th-Cir-affirming-and-vacating-2017-05-25.pdf.

More information about IRAP v. Trump is available at www.nilc.org/issues/litigation/irap-v-trump/.

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NILC Responds to Continuation of Haitian TPS Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-384-1279

NILC Responds to Continuation of Haitian TPS Program

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announced today that he has decided to extend the temporary protected status (TPS) designation for Haiti for an additional six months. TPS gives individuals from designated countries temporary permission, on humanitarian grounds, to remain and work in the United States, if they are here at times of great natural disaster or civil strife in their home country.

Thirteen countries, including Haiti, are currently designated as countries whose nationals living in the U.S. may be eligible for TPS. Haiti was added to the list following the devastating 2010 earthquake there.

Just days before the administration’s expected announcement, the Associated Press exposed leaked emails from high-ranking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials requesting data on Haitian nationals’ use of public benefits and their crime rates. Although DHS officials have denied any connection between these requests and the timing of their decision, the news sent shockwaves through Haitian and immigrants’ rights advocacy communities here in the U.S.

UndocuBlack and the National Immigration Law Center last week filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the agencies involved in the TPS adjudication process to get more information about how the administration arrived at its decision.

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

“This decision is critical to preserving the lives and livelihoods of the approximately 50,000 Haitians who have found relief in our country from extreme circumstances in Haiti and who now call the United States home. We strongly believe an extension of TPS for Haitians is the right decision.

“However, while we are pleased with this progress, a six-month extension will hardly appease the concerns of those who face a return to a country that has been ravaged by natural disasters and continues to experience political and economic turmoil. A longer-term solution is necessary and in the best interest of both the United States and Haiti.

“Furthermore, we cannot overlook the gravity of the Trump administration’s behind-the-scenes attempts to criminalize and vilify Black and immigrant communities. We will continue to fight with our partners to shed light on the administration’s troubling actions in the leadup to this decision.”

The statement issued by DHS today says that more details about this extension of Haiti’s designation for TPS, including requirements for applying for the additional six months of protection, will be published later this week in the Federal Register.

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Civil Rights Groups Challenge LaGrange, GA, Policies That Restrict Access to Basic Utility Services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2017

CONTACT
Elizabeth Beresford, [email protected], 917-648-0189
Kathryn Hamoudah, [email protected], 404-688-1202

Civil Rights Groups Challenge LaGrange, GA, Policies That Restrict Access to Basic Utility Services

Policies have unlawful discriminatory effect on Black and Latino residents

ATLANTA — The National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Georgia NAACP, the Troup County Branch of the NAACP, Project South, and individual residents of LaGrange, GA, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia today, challenging two local policies that unlawfully restrict access to basic utility services, including gas, water, and electricity.

Plaintiffs argue that the policies violate the Fair Housing Act and Georgia law, and disproportionately impact Black and Latino residents living in the city of LaGrange. They are asking the court to permanently block the two policies and to award damages to individual plaintiffs for discrimination by the city of LaGrange on the basis of race, color, and national origin.

The LaGrange government—which is the sole provider of basic utilities for residents of the city—attaches unpaid fines from the LaGrange Municipal Court to residents’ utility accounts and threatens utility disconnection if the fines remain unpaid. LaGrange residents are subject to the termination of household utilities for unpaid fines stemming from the city’s municipal court for offenses that range from driving without a license to petty theft.

“The city of LaGrange is using its monopoly on electricity and water to wring every possible dollar out of municipal residents who already struggle to feed and house themselves and their families. By restricting access to such basic utility services, the city’s most vulnerable residents are at risk of not only losing access to water and electricity, but also their housing,” said Justin Cox, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “These policies are not just inhumane—they’re illegal, too.”

Approximately 90 percent of individuals with unpaid court debt added to their utility accounts from January 2015 through September 2016 were Black, although Black residents make up less than half of the city’s population.

“This onerous practice by the city of LaGrange not only deprives its residents of their rights under the law, it robs them of their dignity. This lawsuit is not about Black, Brown or White racial issues; it’s about fundamental red, white and blue issues that go to the heart of what it means to be America. The NAACP will mortgage every asset we have to ensure the answer to that question is same for all of God’s children regardless of race and ethnicity,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro Attorney and state president of the Georgia NAACP.

Under the second challenged policy, the city of LaGrange denies utility services to applicants who cannot provide a Social Security number and U.S. government–issued ID. Latino immigrants, and particularly undocumented ones, are overwhelmingly impacted by this policy. It forces them to find a third party willing to open an account for them—a practice that, in many circumstances, constitutes a crime under a separate LaGrange municipal ordinance—or to go without basic utilities altogether.

“Access to water and sanitation services is a human right. It is deplorable for LaGrange to deny this essential service to its residents based on their immigrant status. We are confident that the courts will address and rectify this injustice,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of Project South.

Unlike most municipalities in the country, LaGrange does not levy property taxes—a policy decision that the city routinely touts to recruit new employers and residents. Instead, municipal operations are largely funded through the city’s sale of basic utilities to its residents.

“There are enough collateral consequences associated with a criminal conviction. Being threatened with water or electricity disconnection shouldn’t be one of them,” said Atteeyah Hollie, staff attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Read the complaint here: https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Georgia-NAACP-v-LaGrange-complaint-2017-05-18.pdf.

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Leaked Emails Expose Trump’s Xenophobic, Racist Agenda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

Leaked Emails Expose Trump’s Xenophobic, Racist Agenda

NILC and Undocublack respond to AP exclusive on request for Haitian and TPS data

WASHINGTON — The Associated Press reported today that a request was made of career U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff to collect and send data on Haitian temporary protected status (TPS)–holders, including information about use of safety-net programs and whether any Haitians with TPS had committed any crimes.

This request for information is as shocking as it is unattainable. It was made while the Trump administration mulls whether to extend the TPS designation of some 50,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S.

“The wanton racism against a group of Black immigrants is not surprising. What is surprising is the brazenness with which the Trump administration is attempting to carry it out,” said Patrice Lawrence, policy and advocacy manager for the UndocuBlack Network. “The fact that the USCIS office is going out of its way to wrap our communities around their mantle of criminality, while working overtime to deport and erase us, is malicious. We will not be bullied. We herald a stronger call for dignity and fairness for all. We need our allies to stand with our Haitian communities, because we know that they will use this precedent to paint all immigrants.”

“Yesterday we saw Trump’s lawyers struggle to explain the Islamophobic animus that motivated the Muslim ban. Today we hear about how his staff is attempting to criminalize Black immigrants,” said Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy for the National Immigration Law Center. “This is an administration that has run up the political scoreboard by attempting to demonize and divide immigrants, Muslims, and the Black community. All of us, regardless of where we were born, how we pray, or what we look like, should forcefully reject this attempt to criminalize an entire group that has become an integral component of our communities.”

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Statement on Signing of Texas Anti-Immigrant SB4 Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

NILC Statement on Signing of Texas Anti-Immigrant SB4 Law

LOS ANGELES — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday signed into law SB4, a sweeping and hateful bill that ranks among the most radically anti-immigrant state-level bills to be enacted in recent history.

Among other devastating provisions, SB4 includes “show me your papers” language that will invite rampant racial profiling by enabling local law enforcement officials—including university campus police—to ask about a person’s immigration status. By preventing local entities from limiting their role in carrying out federal immigration enforcement, it endangers the health and public safety of all Texas residents.

And, as the first state law to mandate compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil detainers—which numerous federal courts around the country have found to violate federal law and the Constitution—SB4 forces local law enforcement to choose between potentially breaking the highest law of the land or facing monetary fines or even jail time.

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

“SB4 is Governor Abbott’s shameful and malicious attempt to carry out the Trump agenda of mass deportation. But immigrants are and have always been essential to the fabric of Texas, which is why we have seen powerful community organizing and widespread opposition from diverse constituents, including law enforcement. Immigrants and our allies will not stand for being terrorized by Abbott and this cruel bill.

“We only need to look at Arizona’s SB1070, Alabama’s HB56, and copycat laws as an example of the devastating social and economic effects that follow after a state is branded as hostile to immigrant communities. Rather than recognize and embrace their contributions, Texas’s Republican-controlled government has unfortunately chosen to follow in the footsteps of states like Arizona, Alabama, and other states whose communities, economies and reputations suffered tremendous losses from similar efforts.

“SB4 is hateful, ideology-driven, race-based policy. Texas voters will not forget who turned their backs on their neighbors, family, and friends, to enact this shameful law.”

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NILC Condemns House Vote, Calls on Senate to Reject American Health Care Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

NILC Condemns House Vote, Calls on Senate to Reject American Health Care Act

WASHINGTON — Despite broad consensus and widespread concern about millions of Americans losing access to affordable health insurance, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives today narrowly passed a bill to repeal key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The approved bill keeps provisions from previous iterations of the markedly unpopular Republican plan, known as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA. One provision would exclude many immigrants from accessing tax credits that, although inadequate, are intended to make health care affordable. It would also roll back baseline health insurance benefits and allow states to opt out of protections for people with preexisting conditions.

A Congressional Budget Office assessment of an earlier version of the bill found that 24 million Americans would lose insurance coverage under its provisions. Experts have also found it would most negatively impact the bottom lines of older and low-income Americans, while transferring more wealth to the already wealthy.

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

“The AHCA has been a bad deal for everyone since its inception, but its potentially devastating impact would be most acutely felt by some of the most disenfranchised people in our communities—low-income families, women, and those already struggling to make ends meet because of health concerns. Today’s vote shows a complete disregard by House Republicans’ for the health of millions of families. It’s revolting. But it’s not too late. The Senate can and must reject this harmful bill.

“The Affordable Care Act, though not perfect, has extended access to affordable care to tens of millions—including many thousands of immigrant families. Rather than entertain misguided political attacks, our leaders in Congress should be looking for ways to provide all people in our communities—no matter where they were born or the color of their skin—with the care they need to stay healthy.”

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NILC Statement on Budget Agreement to Keep Government from Shutting Down

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

NILC Statement on Budget Agreement to Keep Government from Shutting Down

WASHINGTON — Congress reached a budget agreement this weekend that will fund the government through September, avoiding a shut-down, but including $1.5 billion dollars for increased border security.

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

“While Democrats may have protected and defended certain fundamental programs for low-income and vulnerable Americans in this budget fight, $1.5 billion dollars dedicated to enhanced border security is an irrefutable loss.

“Republican leadership continues to turn its back on core American values that should transcend political party, doubling down on its commitment to implement Trump’s agenda by funding and enacting policies that divide, discriminate, and sow fear. Democrats must not waver in their resolve to defeat this agenda.

“We may have made certain inroads this go-round, but let’s be clear that they came at a cost and that the battle over next year’s budget continues. These border security funds will lay the groundwork for Trump’s promised deportation regime, which has already broken records for the number of families detained and deported in these first few months of his administration.

“On this May Day, we march for our families. We stand together and will continue to hold all our elected officials accountable for any and every threat to our democracy. This fight goes on and is far from over.”

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Statement from Montes Attorneys on DHS Claim That Montes Voluntarily Abandoned His DACA Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

Statement from Montes Attorneys on DHS Claim That He Voluntarily Abandoned His DACA Status

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today said in statements to the media that Juan Manuel Montes, a young immigrant who was physically deported despite having permission to live and work in the U.S. temporarily under DACA, left the country without first making arrangements that would have preserved his DACA status. The agency took back its initial statement to media denying that Montes’s DACA status had been renewed before he encountered Border Patrol and was forcibly removed in February 2017.

Nora A. Preciado, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel on the case, issued the following statement:

“Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA. We believe him. We filed a FOIA lawsuit to get answers. Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, DHS should respond to our request for documentation. We will see them in court.”

Mónica Ramírez Almadani, an attorney with Covington & Burling LLP in Los Angeles and co-counsel on the case, issued the following statement:

“The government is providing information to the press, but not to Juan Manuel and his attorneys. We know Juan Manuel was physically removed. We filed this lawsuit to find out how it happened.”

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Deported DACA Recipient Sues Trump Administration for Unlawfully Withholding Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

Deported DACA Recipient Sues Trump Administration for Unlawfully Withholding Information

LOS ANGELES — A young immigrant who was physically deported despite having permission to live and work in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program filed a federal lawsuit today demanding that the federal government turn over key information about his sudden deportation.

Juan Manuel Montes, 23, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after U.S. immigration officials failed to provide any documentation to explain the legal basis for sending him to Mexico, even after his legal counsel contacted Border Patrol and requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Montes worked in California’s agricultural fields to help support his family and had studied welding at his local community college before he was detained by Border Patrol in Calexico, Calif., and then was swiftly sent to Mexico, in February 2017.

Montes is now fighting to understand what happened and to take the necessary steps to return to the U.S., his home since he was 9 years old.

“I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say, but my home is there,” Montes said. “I miss my job. I miss school. And I want to continue to work toward better opportunities. But most of all, I miss my family, and I have hope that I will be able to go back so I can be with them again.”

Montes, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and has a cognitive disability, is believed to be the first-known DACA recipient with an active work permit to be physically deported by the Trump administration. He is represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Covington and Burling LLP, the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, and the Law Offices of Belinda Escobosa Helzer.

“Juan Manuel was funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why or how,” said Nora A. Preciado, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “The government shouldn’t treat anyone this way—much less someone who has DACA. No one should have to file a lawsuit to find out what happened to them.”

On the night of February 17, Montes was walking to a taxi station in Calexico, a border town, when a Border Patrol agent on a bicycle stopped him and asked for an identification. Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car and did not have an identification on him.

Border Patrol then took him to a local station, where they made him sign documents without allowing him to see an immigration judge, seek counsel, or obtain copies of the documents he signed. Within hours, in the middle of the night, Montes was physically removed to Mexicali, Mexico.

“We look forward to presenting our case to the court, because our client has the right to know why and how he was physically removed from the United States when he had permission to live and work here,” said Mónica Ramírez Almadani, an attorney with Covington & Burling LLP in Los Angeles.

On March 15, with help from his attorneys, Montes filed a FOIA request with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), asking for all records of his interactions with the agency. CBP acknowledged receiving the request, but has not provided any additional information. Montes also sought additional information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and from the Calexico Port of Entry, to no avail. FOIA provides an agency with 20 business days to respond to a request for records. CBP and USCIS have failed to timely respond as required by law.

Announced by the Obama administration in June 2012, DACA allows eligible immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work here temporarily. Montes was first approved for DACA in 2014 and successfully obtained a renewal in 2016. His DACA and work authorization were not set to expire until 2018.

Read the complaint here: www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/FOIA-Complaint-JMMB-2017-04-18.pdf.

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