Author Archives: Richard Irwin

Supreme Court Decision Threatens Worker Rights for All

June 27, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 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.



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

Where Are the Children? Not in Trump’s Priorities


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.


Supreme Court Allows Discriminatory Muslim Ban to Stand

June 26, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 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.”



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

June 25, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 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



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

June 22, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected]
Tony Marcano, [email protected], 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.


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 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


Trump Executive Order Makes Border Crisis Worse

June 20, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 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.”



Ryan and Goodlatte Immigration Bills Are Ransom Notes, Not Solutions

June 19, 2018

Email: [email protected]
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.”



Untangling Trump’s Mass Deportation Agenda (The Torch)

Untangling Trump’s Mass Deportation Agenda


By Mahnoor Hussain, SAALT policy associate
JUNE 13, 2018

Since its colonization of indigenous lands, the United States has built its immigration policies on principles of racial exclusion and exploitation. The immigration struggles that our communities face today are not unique to the Trump administration but are the culmination of a series of discriminatory policies on which this country was built.

  • The Naturalization Act of 1790 established citizenship for “free white persons,” excluding millions of enslaved African Americans who were forced to give their lives and freedom to build America.
  • The Immigration Act of 1882 allowed screening of arriving passengers to bar the entry of those deemed a “convict, lunatic, idiot, or person who may become a public charge.”
  • The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended immigration of Chinese laborers and set a precedent for the establishment of discriminatory race- and class-based immigration laws in the U.S.
  • In 1996, the Clinton administration implemented the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which laid the groundwork for the immigrant criminalization and deportation policies we have today.
  • In 2002, the Bush administration launched the Secure Communities program and began 287(g) agreements, essentially deputizing local police officers with immigration enforcement power, which paved the way for current anti-sanctuary legislation in states across the country.

Under the Clinton administration, 12 million deportations occurred between 1993 and 2000; under the Bush administration, over 10 million deportations occurred between 2001 and 2008; and under the Obama administration, 5 million deportations occurred between 2009 and 2016. President Trump is exploiting the tools and infrastructure set in place by previous administrations to (1) expand the definition of who should be banned and deported and (2) militarize federal agencies and build up the deportation machine.

The MUSLIM BAN is linked to REFUGEE policy, which is linked to TPS, which is linked to DACA, which is linked to H1-B AND H-4 VISA policy, which is linked to WORKSITE RAIDS, which are linked to FAMILY IMMIGRATION, which is linked to DENATURALIZATION, which is linked to DEPORTATION, which is linked to INCARCERATION — which all together comprise a broken immigration system.

By terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, rescinding temporary protected status (TPS) for people from certain countries, issuing the Muslim ban, and banning certain refugees, the current administration has made clear that its agenda is to bar entry of immigrants and deport both documented and undocumented individuals. Our immigration struggles are linked to this larger agenda of exclusion and expulsion.

In January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order essentially prohibiting people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., a policy now referred to by many as the Muslim ban. As a result of legal challenges brought against it, Trump has issued three different iterations of the ban, the third of which is awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court. Refugees who are racialized as Black and/or Muslim have also been barred from entering the country. In the first three months of 2018, 5,225 refugees have been resettled in the United States, a 65.8 percent drop from the first three months of 2016. Only 11 Syrian refugees have been granted entry into the U.S. in 2018. In June 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Department of Justice established a “zero tolerance policy” to criminally prosecute asylum-seekers as they enter the U.S. This administration has not only made it impossible for immigrants of color to enter the U.S., but has forced our communities to live in constant fear of deportation.

Individuals from countries on the Muslim ban list, such as Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, are also facing the rescission of temporary protected status (TPS). TPS enables nationals of designated countries who are in the U.S. to live and work here if their country is facing war, disease, or natural disaster. Often these conditions are a result of previous U.S. intervention in these countries and result in long-term, endemic challenges that require decades of recovery.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), based in New York City, coproduced (with MoveOn and United We Dream) a video that connects the fight to protect DACAmented and undocumented folks with the fight against the Muslim registry. DRUM is also addressing an additional concern about personal information provided by both TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients being at risk of cross-agency data sharing. There is no guarantee that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) information on current and former recipients of TPS, DACA, and their undocumented family members is not accessible by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Undocumented immigrants and temporary visa–holders registered for these programs in confidence that their personal information would not be used to deport them, and now their trust and safety may be violated.

This administration has drawn a wedge between recipients of DACA and H1-B and H-4 visa–holders. Some H-4 visa recipients feel that their struggle has been overlooked by the “noise” on the DREAM Act. This administration uses divisive tactics to make it harder for immigrants to stay in the U.S., whether they are H1-B and H-4 visa–holders or TPS or DACA recipients. If and when these groups lose their status, they become part of the ever-expanding population that’s particularly vulnerable to being deported. This is an opportunity to confront the larger white supremacist deportation agenda led by this administration, which has failed to create meaningful pathways to permanent residence and citizenship for all immigrant communities.

As part of this administration’s ongoing deportation agenda, the last six months alone have seen the largest workplace raids under the Trump administration. Nearly 200 individuals were arrested and detained in Tennessee and Ohio, and one-hundred 7-Eleven stores were raided across the country.

In their continued attack on low-income immigrants and families, the Trump administration is intending to expand the criteria for finding that a person is likely to become a public charge, i.e., likely to become dependent on the government for subsistence. An immigrant found likely to become a “public charge” may be denied a visa or lawful permanent resident status. Under a new proposed rule whose provisions were leaked to the press earlier this year, a person could be found likely to become a public charge if they were unemployed, retired, and/or disabled — or if their U.S. citizen children benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), SNAP (“food stamps”), or if they attend Head Start. Penalizing immigrants for utilizing social services is a calculated policy by this administration to limit legal permanent residence, and it represents a direct attack on the possibility of immigrant families here reuniting with their loved ones abroad who are seeking to immigrate.

Another deliberately anti-immigrant piece of legislation, H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act (also known as the Goodlatte bill), which will come to a vote any day now and is being framed as a compromise solution for DREAMers, attacks family immigration by cutting entire categories of visas that help families reunite. The Goodlatte bill also would criminalize the undocumented population by making their mere presence a criminal violation. The bill also would separate vulnerable children and families seeking asylum at the border by sending parents to criminal proceedings and inhumanely placing their children in detention centers hundreds of miles away. Despite all these unimaginable enforcement-oriented provisions, the bill provides only temporary second-class protection to DACA recipients.

This administration doesn’t limit its deportation targets only to visa-holders and undocumented immigrants, it is also quietly denaturalizing and deporting naturalized citizens through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Operation Janus. According to USCIS, failure to comply with any eligibility requirement for naturalization is subject to revocation of naturalization. DHS identified about 315,000 cases of “missing” fingerprint data from the centralized digital fingerprint repository. The U.S. Department of Justice filed civil denaturalization complaints against Baljinder Singh of New Jersey, Parvez Manzoor Khan of Florida, and Rashid Mahmood of Connecticut under Operation Janus. In January 2018, Baljinder Singh was denaturalized by the USCIS.

The administration has used an anti-immigrant and xenophobic political framework to promote an intersectional web of negative policies that affect all of our communities, and we must use an intersectional analysis to counter this violence and discrimination.


What to Look for in Any “DACA Solution” (The Torch)

What to Look for in Any “DACA Solution”

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ignacia Rodriguez, NILC immigration policy advocate
JUNE 14, 2018

Earlier this year, on February 15, the U.S. Senate debated and voted on immigration-related bills and amendments, all aimed at solving the crisis created by President Trump’s decision to terminate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. However, the Senate ended up not approving any of the proposals or bills. Of the four amendments they voted on, one that mirrored President Trump’s proposal received the least support, with only 39 votes. The bipartisan USA Act, sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Christopher Coons (D-DE), which included a pathway to U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth as well as immigration enforcement–related provisions, garnered majority support but fell shy of the 60 votes needed to proceed.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of buzz about a discharge petition that, if it had received enough signatures, would possibly have forced a vote on the “Queen of the Hill” resolution, which would bring four immigration measures to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, the discharge petition fell shy of receiving enough signatures this week. Now attention is focusing on the proposed Securing America’s Future Act of 2018 (also known as the “Goodlatte bill,” after its sponsor, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA) and a “compromise bill” that mirrors the White House anti-immigrant wish list, which could be brought up for a vote next week.

As these developments unfold, it’s important to pause, reflect on, and take some lessons from what’s taken place in Congress over the past few months with regard to immigration legislation. And we need to continue emphasizing the need for our Republican and Democratic legislators to enact a narrowly tailored solution that will provide permanent immigration relief to our DACA-eligible neighbors and friends.

What are some of the elements that any truly effective DACA solution should contain? In other words, what questions should we be asking when evaluating the legislative proposals we’ve seen thus far or any new proposals that may be offered?

First, does the proposal provide a path to citizenship? Early on, the BRIDGE Act was introduced to provide a path by which certain immigrant young people would be able to legalize their immigration status, but it did not include a path to U.S. citizenship. Essentially, it would have placed the DACA program into the immigration statute, making it a law rather than an administrative policy. Although various bills introduced after the BRIDGE Act included provisions for permanent relief (including the ultimate possibility of U.S. citizenship), the Goodlatte bill would instead take several steps backwards. For example, it proposes that immigrant youth become a completely new category of immigrants, to be known as “contingent nonimmigrants,” and that they receive authorization to live and work in the U.S. for a three-year period that could be renewable but would include no path to citizenship.

Immigrant youth deserve permanent immigration relief that provides a path to U.S. citizenship, with all the rights citizens have; anything less would be relegating those who are granted the proposed new status to a permanent second-class existence in this their de facto home country. Any bill that simply makes the current DACA program permanent by codifying it — making it part of the immigration statute — would create a situation in which people with DACA would have to periodically and continually renew it, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Immigrant youth, like everyone else, need and deserve long-term stability.

Second, if the proposal provides a path to U.S. citizenship, is it a reasonable one? What are its requirements? How long would the person have to wait before being eligible to apply for citizenship? The longer the wait, the more insecurity people will feel about applying, since the program they’re counting on could conceivably be rescinded by Congress. Even if such a development is unlikely, remember that immigrant youth have experienced the ups and downs of having the government make DACA available and then take it away. So any lack of trust they have in the government is well-earned by the latter; going forward, they need a secure and reliable path that they can count on.

Third, is the path to citizenship fair? For example, minimum and maximum age requirements should be evaluated critically. An amendment (No. 1958) to the Immigration Security and Opportunity Act, introduced by Senators Rounds (R-SD), King (I-ME), and Collins (R-ME), includes an age cap of 38; and an amendment (No. 1959) to the Secure and Succeed Act, introduced by Sen. Grassley (R-IA), includes an age cap of 31 — i.e., to be eligible to apply for the immigration benefit, a person must have not been older than either age 38 or 31, respectively, on June 15, 2012, the date when the DACA program was announced. Sen. Grassley’s amendment also provides that, to be eligible, the immigrant must have arrived in the U.S. by the age of 16 (rather than 18), thus excluding many minors from a program intended to provide relief for immigrant youth. If someone meets every other requirement to qualify for relief, why should they be excluded for the one thing they have no control over: their age when they arrived in the U.S. and/or their age on June 15, 2012?

Fourth, what’s the real cost of applying? For example, under Sen. Grassley’s amendment to the Secure and Succeed Act, an applicant who is 18 or over would have to “sign, under penalty of perjury, an acknowledgement confirming that the alien was notified and understands that he or she will be ineligible for any form of relief or immigration benefit … other than withholding of removal … or relief from removal based on a claim under the Convention Against Torture” if they violate any ground of eligibility for conditional temporary resident status. In other words, in exchange for receiving relief, which could be taken away, they would have to waive the ability to seek most other forms of immigration relief in the future.

The grounds of eligibility for conditional temporary resident status under the bill include ones the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the authority to alter and redefine. For example, one such ground is that an applicant is not likely to become a “public charge” — and for months it’s been known that the Trump administration is in the process of expanding the criteria for finding that a noncitizen is or is likely to become a public charge (see, for example, NILC’s issue brief Changes to “Public Charge” Instructions in the U.S. State Department’s Manual).

And under the Rounds-King-Collins amendment, a person granted relief under the Immigration Security and Opportunity Act would not be allowed to sponsor their parents for immigration relief if the parents knowingly assisted the person in entering the U.S. unlawfully. Many young immigrants would feel severely conflicted about applying for much-needed immigration relief through a process that criminalizes and punishes their parents. Applying for immigration relief should not put immigrant youth or their families at risk in the future.

Fifth, does the proposed DACA fix include other unacceptable trade-offs? Immigrant youth have made it clear that they won’t allow their lives and futures to be used as bargaining chips so the Trump administration and Trump’s allies in Congress can further a harmful and racist anti-immigrant agenda. Thus, any DACA fix that isn’t narrowly tailored should be evaluated carefully and critically. Legislative proposals including a DACA fix have included at least some of the following proposed provisions:

  • Permanent changes to family immigration sponsorship — for example, no longer allowing any citizen to sponsor their adult child for immigration relief.
  • An end to the Diversity Visa Program, which would predominantly affect migration from Africa and Asia.
  • More funding and intrusive technology for border enforcement.
  • Attacks on policies adopted by states, cities, and localities intended to build trust between all residents (including immigrants) and local authorities.

Therefore, it’s critically important to carefully read and evaluate any proposed bill. The public messaging about a bill may be focused on “protecting DACA and immigrant youth,” but we must look at the entire bill and understand any potential harm it may have on immigrant communities and broader communities of color. It’s usually the case that, until you read a bill section by section, you can’t really tell what its real purpose is, regardless of its title.


What Does the Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Mean for Immigrant Communities? (The Torch)

What Does the Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Mean for Immigrant Communities?

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Josh Rosenthal, NILC staff attorney
JUNE 5, 2018

In a narrow ruling announced yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s citation of a Denver-area bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, for having violated Colorado’s public accommodations law by refusing to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court based its reversal of the state commission’s decision on a finding that the commission had shown a bias against the bakery owner’s religious beliefs.

Public accommodations laws provide important protections for LGBT and non-LGBT immigrants

Public accommodations laws are intended to ensure that everyone can participate in the U.S. society and economy, regardless of their membership in a protected group. As the hashtag says, public accommodations laws help ensure that businesses are #OpenToAll. At the federal level, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000a) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin by restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and places of entertainment. The Americans with Disabilities Act further provides that people with disabilities have access to a wider range of public accommodations.

In addition to these federal protections, 45 states and the District of Columbia have their own public accommodations laws. These laws provide for equal access to a wider range of businesses and may include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, age, or other personal characteristics. These protections are inconsistent, however: Only 22 states prohibit sexual orientation–based discrimination in public accommodations, and only 19 prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

In its Masterpiece Cakeshop opinion, the Supreme Court recognizes the importance of public accommodations laws. The Court cites the long “history … of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services, and public accommodations,” which exist to prevent “community-wide stigma” and ensure that members of protected groups can “acquir[e] whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.”

Public accommodations laws thus provide essential protections for the approximately one million immigrants who identify as LGBTQ (including an estimated 10 percent of DACA recipients), as well as for other immigrants who may face bias on the basis of their race, skin color, religious beliefs, or ethnicity.

Religious beliefs are not a license to deny goods or services to a member of a protected class

The Court reaffirmed the longstanding principle that “[religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.” For example, in Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U. S. 400, 402, n. 5 (1968) (per curiam), the Court rejected the idea that the owner of a barbecue restaurant could avoid complying with public accommodations law because he held a religious objection to racial integration. The Court made clear that similar religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination on other bases either, including against gays and lesbians. Nor should religious beliefs shield discrimination against trans or gender nonconforming individuals.

However, the Court did leave open the possibility that individuals may refuse to provide certain expressive services, notwithstanding public accommodations laws, if providing the good or service would require the individual to “exercise the right of his own personal expression for the [customer’s] message, a message he could not express in a way consistent with his religious beliefs.” Because the Court did not resolve this issue, it is not clear what kinds of goods and services, if any, would fit in this category. The question may be resolved by this case on remand to the Colorado court system or by other cases that are being presented to state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

Biased statements by officials are relevant to determining whether an apparently neutral decision is legitimate

The Supreme Court ultimately decided this case by finding that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to provide the baker with “neutral and respectful consideration” of his religious beliefs. The Court pointed to statements by a commissioner that described the baker’s religious beliefs as “despicable” and other statements that the Court interpreted to be “inappropriate and dismissive comments showing lack of due consideration for [the owner’s] free exercise rights and the dilemma he faced.” The Court also noted that the commission apparently applied a different standard to the baker than it had to other bakers who refused to bake cakes with anti-gay messages.

Several commentators have noted similarities between the “official expressions of hostility” to religious beliefs in this case and the anti-Muslim comments made by President Trump in relation to his Muslim ban executive orders. It remains to be seen whether the Court will take Trump’s comments as seriously, while it considers the constitutionality of the administration’s Muslim ban in the Trump v. Hawaii case. However the Court rules, NILC is committed to fighting for #NoMuslimBanEver.