Author Archives: Robin Aubry

Immigrant Youth Hail Court Decision Rejecting Trump Administration’s Assault on DACA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2020

CONTACT
NILC: Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
MRNY: Yatziri Tovar, [email protected], 917-771-2818

Immigrant Youth Hail Court Decision Rejecting Trump Administration’s Assault on DACA

In August, New York immigrant youth amended their lawsuit to challenge Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf’s entire DACA memo

NEW YORK — Today, in the Batalla Vidal v. Wolf lawsuit, a federal court rejected the Trump administration’s latest attack on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The court found that the July 2020 memo issued by Chad Wolf, who claimed to be the acting secretary of Homeland Security, was invalid because he was unlawfully appointed. As a result of the decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should return the DACA program to its initial form — reopening DACA to first-time applicants, restoring work authorization and renewals to two years, and making travel on advance parole available to DACA recipients without restrictions.

The court also granted the plaintiffs’ request to be certified as the representatives of a nationwide class of approximately one million DACA-eligible individuals across the country. The court directed the parties to contact the court “immediately” to schedule a conference regarding next steps and any relief stemming from the legal opinion.

In August, DACA-eligible youth, first-time applicants, and DACA recipients filed a legal challenge against the Wolf memo, arguing that it unlawfully and drastically diminished the program, and that it was issued without legal authority. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA, the government should have restored DACA to its original terms. Instead, it issued the Wolf memorandum, which prohibited first-time DACA applications, cut renewals from two years to one, and drastically curtailed the ability of DACA recipients to travel abroad on advance parole. The plaintiffs asked the court to invalidate this latest attack on DACA so that the government would be required to process first-time DACA applications, two-year renewals, and advance parole requests. The court’s ruling today now makes that relief likely.

“This is an incredible victory for DACA recipients and first-time applicants like me,” said Johana Larios, plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Wolf and member of Make the Road New York. “DACA has opened so many opportunities for hundreds of thousands of youth, and now I hope to be able to go through with my application. With DACA, I hope to be able to return to school and feel safe from being separated from my young children.”

Javier. H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, organizational plaintiff in the case, said, “As we look forward to a Biden administration, we know this victory is just the beginning. Not only must the new administration immediately protect DACA and TPS [temporary protected status] holders and reverse all of Trump’s nativist polices, but also provide swift relief and a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented families across this country.”

“The court’s ruling today is a victory for the individual plaintiffs in this case and for Make the Road New York as well as for over one million DACA recipients and applicants,” said Medha Swaminathan, a law student intern with the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. “The Batalla-Vidal plaintiffs are fighting for all Dreamers, their families, and their communities. The court’s decision today reflects the tenacity, strength, and determination of the DACA movement in ensuring that the government respects the law.”

“The court has reaffirmed what we always knew: Chad Wolf was not authorized to perform the functions of an acting secretary when he issued the July 28 DACA memo,” said Trudy S. Rebert, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “This is a victory for our courageous plaintiffs, DACA-eligible youth across the country, and all of our communities. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that the Trump administration is accountable to the law and that immigrant youth remain safe and have the freedom to thrive here at home.”

The plaintiffs — Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcón, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, Carlos Vargas, Johana Larios, Ximena Zamora, Sonia Molina, M.B.F., and Make the Road New York — are represented by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, a part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.

The court’s memorandum and order is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Batalla-order-class-cert-Wolf-memo-2020-11-14.pdf.

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♦♦ More information about DACA and the Wolf memorandum’s restrictions is available from www.nilc.org/daca/

♦♦ Information for class members: nilc.org/dacaclassaction or www.nilc.org/daca-class-action-lawsuit

LPR Applicants, Sponsors, and Rights Groups Sue Over Violations in Implementation of Public Charge “Wealth Test”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2020

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Belle Woods, AILA, [email protected], 202-507-7675
Anne Gallagher, Jenner & Block LLP, [email protected], 312-923-2641
Julie A. Fei, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, [email protected], 714-830-0684

LPR Applicants, Their Sponsors, and Immigrant and Civil Rights Groups Sue Over Law Violations in Implementation of Trump Administration’s Public Charge “Wealth Test”

WASHINGTON, DC — Today,  a group of applicants for lawful permanent residence, their sponsors, nonprofit immigration legal service providers, and immigrant and civil rights groups sued the Trump administration for violating the law in its implementation of the new “public charge” regulation, alleging that the new guidance goes further than the regulation itself to exclude individuals who merit admission to the United States. The complaint was filed by lawyers from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Jenner & Block LLP, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP. Plaintiffs claim that the guidance contains a complex and contradictory set of policies designed to unlawfully and arbitrarily prevent all but the wealthiest of immigrants from becoming lawful permanent residents.

“Our plaintiffs have navigated increasingly onerous obstacles imposed by the immigration system in their attempts to create a safe, permanent home in the United States, only to be confronted with a new set of arbitrary and unlawful barriers,” said Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “The Trump administration is attempting to circumvent and reshape our immigration system and the statutory standards for admission that Congress has established by using this backdoor and unlawful approach in the interest of changing the face of immigrants allowed into this country.” 

The Trump administration published sweeping changes in a public charge regulation in August 2019, after receiving hundreds of thousands of comments in opposition to the proposed rule change. This regulation, which critics claim makes it more difficult for immigrants who are not wealthy to become lawful permanent residents, has already caused immigrants of all statuses to forego health care and vital economic support out of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. 

The lawsuit filed today alleges that the guidance purporting to implement the regulation is contradictory and even more punitive than the regulation itself, creating additional burdens for immigrants who are applying for lawful permanent residence by fundamentally altering the standard of proof and counting the mere fact of the application for lawful permanent residence against every applicant.  

The complaint also alleges that the defendants impose additional unprecedented, arbitrary burdens and costs, adding new evidentiary requirements via the I-944 “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.” The information sought in the Form I-944 goes beyond and in some cases contradicts the regulation, without explanation. Some of the mountains of information required are irrelevant to the public charge inquiry and appear designed to deter applicants from applying at all.

Plaintiff Alhassan Nabieu Sesay is a U.S. citizen and health care worker who is sponsoring visas for his parents, who live with him and his family. The challenged guidance has raised the burden of proof and the amount of evidence needed to apply for and secure lawful permanent residence, and the policies count against applicants the very fact that they are seeking lawful permanent residence in weighing the evidence. 

“Our family members, including my parents — as well as the grandparents who care for their grandchildren, or the uncles and aunts who carry on family traditions — are some of our country’s most precious resources,” said Sesay. “Yet the Trump administration’s guidance stacks the deck against them. I’m suing today to make sure that my parents — and other parents — are afforded the dignity they deserve.” 

“As immigration attorneys, our 15,000 members are used to navigating the complexity of immigration laws, regulations, and the agency’s binding policy manual,” said Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation for AILA. “Unfortunately, USCIS has taken the liberty of legislating new requirements for purposes of those who must demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge. Put simply, the administration took a discriminatory and terrible regulation that they promulgated with the intent to keep immigrants from becoming green card holders and eventually citizens, and made it even worse through the manual and overreach for information included in the new Form I-944. As we learned with the Supreme Court’s DACA decision, the Trump administration cannot play fast and loose with the laws that govern administrative rulemaking.”

The complaint further charges that the guidelines and Form I-944 are additionally invalid because they were developed when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lacked a lawfully serving secretary or director. 

Other plaintiffs in the case include Community Refugee and Immigration Services, a nonprofit based in central Ohio, and Immigrant Legal Defense, an immigrant-serving organization in Oakland, California. Khudheyer et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al., No. 20-cv-1882, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the complaint here

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National Immigration Law Center Announces Key Leadership Hires

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 26, 2020

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

National Immigration Law Center Announces Key Leadership Hires

Nation’s leading immigrants’ rights organization welcomes new chief operating officer, director of communications

LOS ANGELES — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) announced today the addition of two senior staff to its leadership team: Adnan Bokhari will serve as NILC’s chief operating officer, and Victoria Ballesteros has joined the team as NILC’s director of communications.

Adnan Bokhari, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Bokhari will serve on NILC’s Executive Leadership Team and play a key role implementing NILC’s strategic priorities, including advancing racial equity through organizational systems and policies. He will lead the finance, human resources, information technology, administration, and development teams. Bokhari will join NILC on March 2, 2020, and will be based in Washington, DC.

“We are excited to have Adnan take the helm of our operations at this critical time in NILC’s history, as the organization experiences unprecedented growth and executes multiple transformational initiatives to advance our vision for immigration in this country,” stated Marielena Hincapié, executive director of NILC. “Adnan will play a key role in moving our work forward while creating an organizational infrastructure to support our continued success,” continued Hincapié.

“I am thrilled to be joining the leading immigrant rights organization at this important time for the movement and our nation. I migrated to the United States at the age of 15 and experienced first-hand the arduous path that millions of low-income immigrants traverse in pursuit of a better future. Being a part of NILC’s amazingly talented team offers a distinguished opportunity to advance its mission by utilizing my personal and professional background,” stated Bokhari.

Bokhari is a certified public accountant and brings 20 years of finance and operations experience in the nonprofit sector to NILC. He most recently served as CFO and COO for a national anti-poverty organization based in Washington, DC. Bokhari has gained expertise in leading change and garnered a reputation for building resilient organizations.  He is also the first Pakistani-American to be elected as chairman of the board of directors of Golden Key International Honour Society, the world’s largest collegiate honor society. He also serves on the board of Virginia Community Colleges System (VCCS) appointed by the governor of Virginia, and is chair of the Personnel Committee of the VCCS board.

Victoria Ballesteros, Director of Communications
Ballesteros joined NILC’s Senior Leadership Team in January and will develop strategic communication initiatives for the organization. She is based in Los Angeles, and leads staff in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

“We are elated to welcome Victoria Ballesteros to the NILC team, where she will help grow the visibility and reach of NILC’s work on behalf of immigrants,” stated Hincapié. “So much of what we do requires effective communication strategy, and Victoria brings an incredible blend of strategic and tactical experience to NILC that will support our continued growth and success.”

“My parents are immigrants from Mexico, and I am intimately familiar with the injustices faced by those coming to this country in search of a better life. I cannot think of a more meaningful way to honor their sacrifices than to join NILC in its efforts to protect and advance the rights and opportunities of immigrants, particularly at this time in our nation’s history when immigrants are under relentless attacks by the Trump administration,” stated Ballesteros.

Ballesteros has more than 15 years of experience leading communication efforts in the nonprofit and public sectors. She has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Children’s Defense Fund, Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, California’s Senate Majority Leader, and The SCAN Foundation. Ms. Ballesteros has a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the California State University, Fullerton, with a minor in Chicano studies. She is fluent in Spanish.

ABOUT NILC

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gender/gender identity, immigration status, or economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential. NILC is committed to advancing its mission — which intersects race, immigration status, and class — through a racial, economic, and gender justice and equity orientation.

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I spent a week at the border with families seeking asylum. Here’s what they’re facing. (The Torch)

I spent a week at the border with families seeking asylum. Here’s what they’re facing.

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Hayley Burgess
SEPTEMBER 13, 2019

Last week I was sitting on the floor of a stiflingly hot building in Tijuana with an 18-month-old girl. We were scribbling in a coloring book. She was sprawled on her stomach with a concentrated look on her tiny face, handing each crayon back to me as she finished using it. I was intent on keeping her busy so her mother, sitting in the chair next to us, could absorb the critical information an advocate was sharing with her and other asylum-seekers.

As the toddler tottered to her feet and reached up to grab her mother’s leg, I heard the advocate get to the family separation part of the presentation. The advocate explained to the parents in the room that it’s very likely that their children will be taken away from them when they cross into the U.S. And that right before it’s their turn to cross, they should write their information in Sharpie on their child’s arm in hopes they will be reunited. The parents were encouraged to dress with their warmest clothing closest to their skin, since they likely would be confined in “hieleras” for several days while they await their next step — in many cases, indefinite detention or being returned to extremely dangerous conditions in Mexico to wait for their court dates. As so many alarming reports are now showing, migrant families stranded in Mexico are facing homelessness, kidnapping attempts, assault, and threats of violence from those they are fleeing.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

If you don’t know about hieleras — the cold, concrete rooms where people apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are held for days with nothing but the layer of clothing closest to their skin — learn the horrifying details here.

The rest of the children, most of them no older than 11, were playing on the other side of the room. My fellow volunteers were keeping them distracted so they could enjoy a few hours of playing freely and to ensure that they weren’t hearing the same scary information their parents were. As most of these children were staying in overcrowded shelters or on the streets of Tijuana, I couldn’t help but think of how rare and important these moments of joy were.

A report released last week on the lasting psychological effect on the children caught in this situation is gut-wrenching. And reading it after spending most of my time last week with families about to navigate through the horrors of our immigration system, connecting these details to the kids I met and spent time with, breaks my heart. “[I] can’t feel my heart,” some children are saying. Or: “I can hear my heart beat.”

There are so many other moments that will stay with me. The time another young mother, also of an infant, asked us if U.S. immigration officials will take good care of her baby when the baby is taken away from her. Or if she’ll ever see her again. And we couldn’t in good conscience give her a comforting answer. The time I was at the nearby port of entry early one morning and watched a young girl hug her dad goodbye before she and her mother crossed without him. Or when I gripped another young mother’s hand and wished her luck before she and her family were hurried toward the vans taking that day’s small allotment of asylum-seekers towards the U.S. side of the border.

The parents I spoke with during my time there are brave, kind, and resilient. Most were fleeing some kind of government persecution, extortion, organized violence from cartels, or other significant threats to their family’s safety and had endured harrowing journeys to get as far as the border. Not only should their courage and sacrifice for their families be honored, but their legal right to seek asylum must be upheld. Instead, our government is tormenting them and their children.

The Trump administration has taken extraordinary steps to dismantle our asylum system. Despite the great work by so many to fight back, the damage has been substantial and will likely only get worse. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the administration to enforce a policy that makes it nearly impossible for these families to exercise their legal right to make their asylum cases while litigation challenging the policy continues. The consequences will be dire.

The right to seek asylum literally means life or death for these families. And yet our government punishes them and makes each step more miserable and dehumanizing than the last. Our system is being intentionally reconfigured to make life as difficult as possible for those seeking safety within our borders. It’s an ugly reality that we all must confront and work tirelessly to dismantle.

Al Otro Lado is one of the many crucial organizations both fighting these cruel policies and working to support asylum-seekers so they know their rights within what has become, under the Trump administration, a more cruel and complicated process. I encourage you all to learn more about what they’re doing and support them in their critical work.


Hayley Burgess is NILC’s media relations associate.

HUD’s “Mixed-Status” Rule Is the Latest Attack on the Immigrant Community (The Torch)

HUD’s “Mixed-Status” Rule Is the Latest Attack on the Immigrant Community

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Milicent Sasu
JULY 8, 2019

From family separations at the border to a proposed “public charge” rule that would punish immigrant families for using health, housing, and nutrition programs, the Trump administration has been issuing policies that strike fear within communities to fulfill its anti-immigrant agenda. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) proposed changes to low-income housing eligibility, which have not yet been implemented, are the most recent in the long string of attacks on the immigrant community.

On May 10, 2019, HUD published a proposed rule that would bar “mixed-status” families from residing in public housing and using Section 8 programs. Mixed-status families are households where member(s) who are eligible for public housing assistance live with member(s) who are ineligible for housing assistance due to their immigration status. If this rule is implemented, HUD will also require all household members under age 62 to have their immigration status screened and would change the citizenship and immigration verification requirements for U.S. citizens and noncitizens over age 62.

Under this proposed rule, mixed-status households would have to make the impossible choice between tearing their families apart or being evicted from their homes within 18 months. HUD falsely claims the proposed rule is necessary to prevent undocumented immigrants from utilizing federal housing assistance. Yet under current rules, ineligible immigrants do not receive subsidies and housing assistance is prorated so that only eligible family members receive benefits.

Ultimately, this is another “family separation policy” and scare tactic from the Trump administration intended to spread fear in communities. This newly-proposed rule is ruthless and fails to take into consideration the detrimental impacts the proposed rule will have on families and communities across the nation.

If HUD’s proposed rule is implemented, nearly 108,000 people will be at risk of being evicted and displaced. Approximately 55,000 are children at risk of being displaced and subject to homelessness, including U.S. citizens and legal residents. In addition, children may face separation from family members who are ineligible for public housing assistance and are evicted. HUD has acknowledged that “fear of the family being separated would lead to a prompt evacuation by most mixed households.” This rule leaves families with the unbearable decision of whether to stay together and face homelessness or be separated from one another.

This proposal and the ongoing attacks against immigrants will only increase the “chilling effect” in immigrant communities, resulting in immigrants avoiding or disenrolling themselves from programs that make their families healthy and strong, even if they are not technically impacted by policy proposals or those proposals have not yet been approved. Further, the proposed rule only worsens the nation’s affordable housing crisis. According to HUD’s own estimates, this proposed rule will reduce the “quantity and quality of assisted housing” in the United States.

HUD is currently accepting public comments on the proposed rule until July 9, 2019. During this public comment period, individuals are encouraged to submit comments that share their unique stories about how the rule could impact them, their loved ones, and their community. No family should be at risk of being displaced from their homes due to their immigration status, nor should members of a household have to decide between keeping their family together or losing their home. As a country, we must combat Trump’s racist agenda, which includes the HUD mixed-status rule, and use our voices during this comment period to stand up for those who are silenced.

For more information regarding the HUD rule or ways on how you can make an impact and submit a comment, go to www.keep-families-together.org.


Millicent Sasu is NILC’s Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign intern.