Category Archives: April 2016

New NILC Report Highlights Advances to Ensure Legal Representation for Detained Immigrants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 520-313-4921

New NILC Report Highlights Advances to Ensure Legal Representation for Detained Immigrants

LOS ANGELES — Imagine being locked up in jail and having to convince a judge to allow you to stay in the U.S. Losing your case will mean being separated, maybe for the rest of your life, from the people you love most. It may also mean being sent back to a place you fled because you were afraid of being harassed or assaulted or even murdered.

Then imagine that you’ll have to make your case on your own, without any help from someone who knows the law well. You can’t afford a lawyer, and the court can’t appoint one for you—even though the judge knows that having a lawyer while in jail would make it 10 times more likely that you would win your case.

When the stakes are this high, there’s no such thing, without competent legal representation, as a fair day in immigration court. Our latest special report, Blazing a Trail: The Fight for Right to Counsel in Detention and Beyond, makes a case for why a universal right to counsel for all immigrants in detention is a matter of fundamental fairness. Based on interviews with experts from around the country, it highlights the work of existing and emerging campaigns and working groups that have been catalysts for real progress toward securing a genuine right to counsel in immigration court, especially for people in detention. It also provides practical guidance for advocates seeking to build universal legal representation programs in their own communities.

Recently, a senior official within the immigration justice system—a longtime immigration judge who is responsible for training other judges—argued that even three-year-olds are capable of representing themselves competently in immigration court. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in any court knows how absurd such an assertion is. People with college educations who speak English fluently find immigration law baffling and the immigration justice system difficult to navigate without legal help. This difficulty is multiplied many times if you’re in immigration detention.

We trust you’ll find that this new report sheds light on the challenges—and available solutions—in addressing these gaps in accessing justice.

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Thousands Rally in Front of Supreme Court to #FightforFamilies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 520-313-4921

Thousands Rally in Front of Supreme Court to #FightforFamilies

Supreme Court Justices Hear Oral Argument in United States v. Texas

WASHINGTON — One of the most consequential immigration cases in decades reached the highest court of the nation today. Supreme Court justices heard oral argument in the case, and thousands rallied in support of immigration initiatives designed to keep immigrant families from being torn apart.

Thousands of people from across the country took to the steps of the Supreme Court to show their support for the initiatives, known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which would allow certain immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as other immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, to apply for work authorization and protection from deportation.

Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government in December 2014 to block these Obama administration executive actions. In February 2015, a federal district court judge in Texas ruled in Texas’s favor and blocked both DAPA and the expansion of DACA. In a decision issued in November 2015, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s order.

“Solicitor General Donald Verrilli made clear that DAPA and the expansion of DACA are on solid legal ground and well within the parameters of the president’s authority to set common-sense priorities in the execution of immigration law,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“But in addition to hearing legal arguments for why the Supreme Court should uphold its legal precedent and reaffirm the president’s authority, the justices also faced perhaps one of the most diverse audiences the Supreme Court has ever had. Several individuals whose fate awaits the justices’ decision sat courageously across from them and listened to the arguments in support and against these immigration directives that would benefit them and the country.

“They represented families all over the country hoping to be spared from being torn apart from their loved ones. These are people who want to contribute more fully to their communities and provide a better life for their families. Mothers, fathers, and workers have fought hard to help bring our immigration policies in line with our nation’s values, and we should not let a politically driven lawsuit stymie these initiatives from moving forward.”

Economists and other experts agree that implementation of DAPA and the expansion of DACA would benefit the country as a whole, lifting wages and adding to tax coffers. Furthermore, dozens of law enforcement officials assert that implementing these initiatives would improve public safety by making immigrants more likely to come forward when they are victims of—or witnesses to—crime.

“When I watched the president’s speech on television announcing DAPA and the expansion of DACA, I thought I would finally be able to pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer and eventually a judge,” said Jong-Min You, who arrived in the United States as a toddler and missed the cutoff date for the original DACA initiative by one year. “I think the strategy of using the courts to continue to delay our civil rights has to end today. No more politics. This is our future we’re talking about.”

“With DAPA, I would no longer live in fear of deportation, and I would look be able to look for better work opportunities,” said Mercedes Garcia, a DAPA-eligible mother from Colorado. “It would mean so much, not just for me, but for my family.”

The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision on United States v. Texas by the end of June. If the initiatives are allowed to take effect, advocacy organizations are ready to assist with implementing them immediately.

The administration’s original DACA initiative, announced in June 2012, is still in effect and available to eligible applicants.

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9th Circuit Reaffirms That Arizona May Not Deny Driver’s Licenses to DACAmented Youth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU National, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org, 212-284-7347
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, skilar@acluaz.org, 602-773-6007

Federal Appeals Court Reaffirms Arizona May Not Deny Driver’s Licenses to DACAmented Youth

PASADENA, CA — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a lower court’s ruling that permanently blocks Arizona from denying driver’s licenses to immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“Yesterday’s ruling affirms once again that Arizona’s insistence on discriminating against its immigrant youth is not only morally abhorrent, it’s also illegal,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “The decision makes it clear that there is no conceivable justification for Arizona’s discriminatory effort to thwart its young immigrants from obtaining the driver’s licenses they need go to school and to work, and to provide for their families.”

Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “Arizona continues to discriminate against the Latino immigrants that it should be embracing. Instead of choosing legitimate policies, Arizona insists on paying attorneys’ fees and wasting taxpayer monies on unconstitutional attacks directed at its own residents.”

The ruling in Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, a lawsuit filed in November 2012, follows a series of victories by young immigrants in the case. In early 2015, the federal district court in Arizona permanently blocked the ban on driver’s licenses for immigrant youth that was ordered by former Governor Jan Brewer in 2012. Prior to that, in July 2014, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the policy was likely unconstitutional and that people with DACA—who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S.—are seriously harmed by their inability to obtain driver’s licenses.

Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “While Arizona has been stubbornly fighting this legal battle, these young people have been getting on with their lives, legally driving in all 50 states and contributing their talents to their communities across the country. It’s time for Arizona to move on as well.”

Arizona enacted this discriminatory policy in 2012, shortly after the Obama administration announced the creation of the DACA program. Arizona is the only state in the U.S. that has continued in its efforts to deny licenses to “DACAmented” youth, of whom there are roughly 26,000 in the state.

“In a strongly worded opinion, the unanimous panel found that the animus held by Arizona officials resulted in an illegal attempt to deny a basic need,” said Dan Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona senior counsel. “It is past time to end the attempts to make immigrants’ lives unbearable, and the resulting damage to Arizona’s reputation and economy.”

Yesterday’s decision by the Ninth Circuit is available at https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/04/05/15-15307.pdf.

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Ryan Amicus Brief Further Politicizes United States v. Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

Ryan Amicus Brief Further Politicizes United States v. Texas

WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday filed an amicus brief on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of 26 states, led by Texas, that are challenging the Obama administration’s deferred action immigration initiatives in the case U.S. v Texas, which is now before the Supreme Court. The brief was filed only after Ryan staged an unprecedented vote authorizing the House of Representatives to submit the brief, despite the fact that more than 180 of his colleagues had already voiced their support for the administration’s immigration initiatives.

Noting the extraordinary nature of filing a friend-of-the-court brief, Ryan decries the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion even while he recognizes the executive branch’s authority “to decide how best to use its limited resources.” In a near party-line vote, the GOP-led House approved an unprecedented resolution to allow Ryan to file the brief with the Supreme Court.

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

“The Ryan amicus brief further politicizes a case brought forward by disgruntled politicians looking to impose their own misguided immigration policy preferences through the courts. Ryan disingenuously purports to speak for all members of the U.S. House of Representatives, many of whom have already expressed their unwavering support for the Obama administration’s immigration policies.

“The administration’s immigration initiatives provide a much-needed temporary fix to our outdated immigration system and will allow American families to stay united while enhancing economic opportunities for all of us. Rather than continue trying to subvert the president’s common-sense immigration initiatives, Ryan should be working to build consensus for a permanent fix to the nation’s broken immigration system.”

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Supreme Court Affirms That Everyone Counts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

Supreme Court Affirms That Everyone Counts

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Texas’ voting district apportioning system, ensuring that all people are counted for districting purposes regardless of their age or where they were born. In a unanimous decision, the Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that only those eligible to vote should be considered. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center issued the following statement in response to the decision. The National Immigration Law Center joined a coalition of civil rights organizations in filing an amicus curiae brief in support of Texas in Evenwel v. Abbott:

“The Supreme Court today issued a powerful reminder that our elected officials represent all of us, regardless of whether we can vote. This unanimous decision puts to rest claims by conservative ideologues’ years-long attack on the most vulnerable members of our community, all of whom deserve representation, even if they cannot vote for those who represent them.

“Today’s decision correctly recognizes that counting every person when apportioning comports with the democratic goals asserted in the constitution. This is a great victory for children too young to vote, immigrants who contribute to our communities but cannot join us in the voting booth, or those unfairly stripped of their voting rights, and will allow these individuals to have appropriate representation. One person, one vote is at the core of our democracy.”

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