Category Archives: August 2011

DHS’ Stepped-up Targeting of Families and Kids Fleeing Violence Denounced

March 11, 2016

Adela de la Torre [email protected]

DHS’s Stepped-up Targeting of Families and Kids Fleeing Violence Denounced

WASHINGTON — Just one day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) vowed to “offer vulnerable populations in Central America an alternate, safe and legal path to a better life,” it made the chilling revelation that, since late January, it has arrested 336 youth who came here as unaccompanied children fleeing some of the most horrific violence in the Western Hemisphere.

A new media report highlights some of these arrests, conducted as part of “Operation Border Guardian,” and the wave of fear that has gripped schools, churches and communities where these youth live. North Carolina has been particularly hard hit by these raids.

DHS has targeted these teens in aggressive early morning raids taking place in homes and at school bus stops. These arrests, like those of more than 120 Central American and Mexican mothers and young children that took place over New Year’s weekend, have deepened fears that keep children from going to school and parents from going to work or grocery stores, and that deepen the mistrust of government in immigrant communities, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Despite massive public outcry from immigrant, labor, faith, and congressional leaders in response to the early January raids, DHS continues to dig in its heels and forge ahead with these arrests, claiming that these youth represent an enforcement priority.

“There is simply no justification for targeting for arrest vulnerable kids fleeing violence. These enforcement actions urgently call into question what DHS’s priorities are,” said Avideh Moussavian, a policy attorney for NILC.

“These are kids who haven’t had a fair day in court, had no idea how to navigate our complex immigration system, and are often left trying desperately to fight their cases while locked up and cut off from their loved ones and support networks,” Moussavian added.

Strong public opposition to these enforcement actions have been voiced by faith and community leaders, including members of Congress.

Earlier this year, NILC and other groups issued a fact sheet and overview of experiences of 13 Central American and Mexican families during the raids at the start of the year. Based on interviews, the groups found:

• All these families are survivors of violence and trauma in their home countries and are deeply afraid of being sent back.

• 12 of the 13 have meritorious claims for protection and have not yet pursued all the legal remedies available to them.

• Project attorneys quickly filed notices of appeal and stay requests with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Acknowledging the severity of the situation, the BIA immediately issued stays of removal for all 12 families who requested them. In at least three of these cases, families were spared deportation only after literally being pulled off deportation flights at the very last minute.

NILC again calls on DHS to stop all raids against families and children fleeing violence in Central America, including those who have never appeared before an immigration judge.

Also, DHS must:

• Respect the legal rights of immigrant families during any enforcement actions, including constitutional and statutory rights, and avoid sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals, and churches.

• Facilitate access to counsel and ensure a fair day in court before an immigration judge to any immigrant fearing persecution.

• Respond to this as an urgent humanitarian situation and explore root causes for the violent conditions these families are fleeing. While this population overwhelmingly qualifies for asylum, DHS should also consider other protective measures, such as temporary protected status (TPS), as part of a humanitarian response.

• Use appropriate prosecutorial discretion pursuant to its own enforcement priorities rather than apply a blanket approach to all recent border crossers.

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Alabama’s H.B 56 Put on Temporary Hold Until Sept. 29

August 29, 2011

Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law Put on Temporary Hold Until September 29

A federal court announced today that HB 56, the Alabama anti-immigrant law, has been temporarily placed on hold. The law was scheduled to go into effect on September 1. The temporary hold was ordered to give the court sufficient time to issue a decision on motions filed in three consolidated lawsuits to block the law, pending a ruling on the motions. The court’s temporary order does not reflect any view about the substance of the motions.

The hold will remain in place until Sept. 29 at the latest, and the court is expected to publish its decision on the three pending motions before then. The motions were filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, the United States of America, and bishops of the Episcopal, Catholic and Methodist churches in Alabama.

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Ley Anti-Inmigrante de Alabama en Suspenso Temporal Hasta el 29 de Septiembre

Un tribunal federal ha anunciado hoy que la HB 56, la ley anti-inmigrante de Alabama, ha sido temporalmente suspendida. La ley estaba programada para entrar en vigor el 1 de septiembre. La orden temporal le dará al tribunal federal tiempo suficiente para emitir una decisión sobre las peticiones presentadas para bloquear la ley en tres casos consolidados, mientras hay una decisión sobre las peticiones. La orden de la corte de suspender la ley temporalmente no refleja ningún punto de vista de la corte sobre las peticiones.

La suspensión temporal se mantendrá en pie hasta el 29 de septiembre a más tardar, y la corte espera emitir su decisión sobre las tres peticiones pendientes antes de dicha fecha. Las peticiones fueron presentadas por una coalición de grupos de derechos civiles, los Estados Unidos de América, y los obispos de iglesias Episcopales, Católicas y Metodistas en Alabama.

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NILC Asks Federal Court to Block H.B. 56

August 24, 2011

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (334) 956-8417; [email protected]
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; [email protected]
Olivia Turner, ACLU, Alabama, (334) 265-2754 ext. 204; [email protected]

NILC and Civil Rights Coalition Ask Federal Court to Block Anti-Immigrant Law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of civil rights groups asked a federal judge today to block the state’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Sept. 1. The law criminalizes Alabamians for everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants and chills access to public schools, making it the most extreme of the five state laws inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070.

Linton Joaquin, general counsel, NILC, said: “Federal courts across the country have rightly stemmed the tide of unconstitutional state attempts to deny countless people of color and those who associate with them their fundamental rights. We are confident that the courts in Alabama will agree that a law that usurps exclusive federal authority and threatens the freedom of Alabamians should not be allowed to go into effect.”

Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “Today’s hearing highlighted why Alabama’s law must be stopped in its tracks. The law makes it impossible for immigrant families to go to school, to make a living, to take care of routine business, and even to drive on a public road without fear of being punished under state law. This discriminatory law aims at undocumented immigrants, but catches lawful immigrants and U.S. citizens in the crossfire.” 

Sam Brooke, lead attorney on the case for SPLC, said: “We asked the court to block what is now the harshest anti-immigrant law from taking effect. Not only is Alabama’s law blatantly unconstitutional, it flies in the face of American values by authorizing racial profiling, deterring children from going to school, and criminalizing those who lend a hand to individuals deemed by the state of Alabama to be ‘illegal.’” 

Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney, Asian Law Caucus, said: “HB 56 is intended to expel immigrants and must be struck down as unconstitutional.” 

Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney, Asian American Justice Center, said: “HB 56 will hurt all Alabamians, regardless of their status, and it is intended to create fear and confusion. We are confident the court will agree that this discriminatory law is unconstitutional and must not take effect.” 

Juan Cartagena, president of Latino Justice PRLDEF, said: “Tens of thousands of Latinos in Alabama now await the judge’s decision, fearful that they will have to flee Alabama if the new law goes into effect. But we are confident that the judge understands that the federal law’s mandate is clear, that Alabama cannot build its own immigration system, especially one based on racial divisiveness and one that is designed to harass Latinos and other immigrants so as to drive them out of the State. We will not let that happen.” 

Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel of MALDEF, said: “Alabama’s anti-immigrant law unfairly targets Latinos and violates core constitutional principles. This misguided law mandates racial profiling, interferes with the rights of adults to enter into contracts, and deters children from going to school. The Court should block this divisive law.” 

Jessica Karp, legal counsel, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said: “The courts will show this law is blatantly unconstitutional. Day laborers, like everyone, have the same first amendment rights that cannot be violated.”

The U.S. Department of Justice and a group of Alabama church groups also filed lawsuits against the state. 

Alabama’s law chills children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalizes Alabamians for ordinary, everyday interactions with undocumented individuals. 

The law is even more restrictive than Arizona’s draconian SB 1070, the anti-immigrant law that served as the inspiration for “papers please” measures in five other states. Federal courts have blocked similar provisions in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. The coalition has also vowed to challenge South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law. 

Attorneys on the case include Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney, and Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center; Mary Bauer, Sam Brooke, Andrew Turner, Michelle Lapointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Cecillia D. Wang, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, Michael K. T. Tan of the American Civil Liberties Union and Freddy Rubio of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama; Nina Perales, Victor Viramontes, Amy Pedersen, and Martha Gomez of MALDEF; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Erin E. Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; Foster Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Diana Sen of Latino Justice; Jessica Karp of National Day Laborer Organizing Network; G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney. 

View the motion for preliminary injunction (PDF).

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Prosecutorial Discretion

August 18, 2011

Obama Administration Finally Flexes Its Prosecutorial Discretion Muscle

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration today announced how it will begin implementing the prosecutorial discretion memo issued on June 17 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton. In response to pleas by families and students waiting for Congress to act on the DREAM Act or broader humane immigration reform, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) finally issued a response to a letter sent on April 13, 2011, by a group of senators urging the administration to stem the deportation of students eligible for the DREAM Act.

Under the new process set forth by the administration today, a working group consisting of DHS and Dept. of Justice (DOJ) staff will develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on “positive factors” mentioned in the ICE memo on prosecutorial discretion, which include whether an individual has been present in the U.S. since childhood (as is the case with DREAM Act students), or whether the person has been the victim of a serious crime or civil rights violation, is a minor, is elderly, pregnant, or a nursing woman, or has a serious disability or health problem.

The working group will develop a process for reviewing cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria. The administration will quickly begin reviewing all 300,000 pending cases to identify those that meet these new criteria. And moving forward, ICE attorneys will conduct a regular review of every case scheduled for a hearing to also identify future cases that meet these specific criteria.

Cases that meet these criteria will be administratively closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Upon hearing the outline of the new process, National Immigration Law Center executive director Marielena Hincapié said, “We welcome this great news from the administration, which shows that it is finally listening to the community’s demands and exercising sound judgment to provide much-needed relief for immigrant families. This new process comprises a positive first step toward ensuring that the country’s limited resources are not misspent on ripping families apart or deporting students who came as children to the U.S., or workers who exercised their civil rights, or countless other immigrants who have been caught up in the deportation dragnet.

“Many questions as to what the specific criteria will be and how these priorities will be implemented remain unanswered, however. We remain particularly concerned about how the administration will apply these priorities to immigrants still being detained for low-level offenses and minor traffic violations as a result of the infamous Secure Communities program, and how it will ensure relief for immigrants who do not qualify for prosecutorial discretion. As always, the devil is in the details, but we look forward to working with DHS and DOJ to ensure that immigrants currently in deportation proceedings can benefit from this new process.”

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18 de agosto de 2011


WASHINGTON, DC — La administración Obama ha anunciado hoy la forma en que se comenzará a aplicar el memorando sobre consideraciones discrecionarias emitido el 17 de junio por el director del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE), John Morton. En respuesta a las peticiones de las familias y los estudiantes que han estado esperando que el Congreso actúe sobre el Acta de los Sueños (DREAM Act) o una reforma migratoria más amplia y humana, el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) finalmente emitió una respuesta a una carta enviada el 13 de abril del 2011, por un grupo de senadores urgiendo al gobierno que detuviera la deportación de los estudiantes elegibles para el DREAM Act.

Bajo el nuevo proceso establecido por la administración hoy, un grupo funcionario que consiste de personal del DHS y el Departamento de Justicia (DOJ), desarrollará criterios específicos para identificar los casos de deportación de baja prioridad que deben de ser considerados para la discreción del fiscal. Estos criterios se basarán en los “factores positivos” mencionados en el memorándum de ICE, que incluyen si una persona ha estado presente en los EE.UU. desde temprana edad (como en el caso de aquellos estudiantes que se beneficiarían del DREAM Act), o si la persona ha sido víctima de un delito grave o de una violación de derechos civiles, es un menor de edad, es anciana, está embarazada o es madre lactantes, o tiene una discapacidad grave o problema de salud.

El grupo funcionario desarrollará un proceso para revisar los casos pendientes ante tribunales de inmigración y federales que cumplen estos criterios. La administración pronto comenzará a revisar todos los 300.000 casos de deportación pendientes para identificar aquellos que cumplen con estos nuevos criterios. En el futuro, los abogados de ICE llevarán a cabo una revisión periódica de todos los casos que tienen una audiencia programada para determinar futuros casos que cumplan con estos criterios.

Casos que cumplen estos criterios serán cerrados administrativamente, salvo en circunstancias extraordinarias, en cuyo caso el abogado de ICE tendrá que obtener la aprobación de un supervisor para seguir adelante. Las personas cuyos casos sean cerrados podrán solicitar ciertos beneficios de inmigración, incluyendo permiso de trabajo. Todas las solicitudes de beneficios se revisarán caso por caso.

Al oír el resumen del nuevo proceso, la directora ejecutiva del National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapié, dijo, “Damos la bienvenida a ésta gran noticia de la administración, que demuestra que finalmente está escuchando las demandas de la comunidad y están ejerciendo el buen juicio para dar un alivio muy necesario para las familias inmigrantes. Este nuevo proceso es un primer paso positivo para asegurar que los recursos limitados del país no sean malgastados en separar familias o deportar a los estudiantes que llegaron como niños a los EE.UU., o los trabajadores que ejercen sus derechos civiles, u otros inmigrantes que se encuentran atrapados en la red de deportación.

“Muchas de las preguntas sobre cuáles serán los criterios específicos y cómo se llevarán a cabo estas prioridades todavía no tienen respuestas, sin embargo. Estamos particularmente preocupados sobre cómo la administración va a aplicar estas prioridades a los inmigrantes que están actualmente siendo detenidos por delitos menores y violaciones de tráfico menores, como resultado del infame programa llamado “Comunidades Seguras” (Secure Communities), y cómo va a garantizar un alivio para los inmigrantes que no califican bajo este nuevo proceso discrecionario. Como siempre lo importante está en los detalles pero estamos deseosos de trabajar con el DHS y el Departamento de Justicia para asegurar que los inmigrantes que actualmente estén en proceso de deportación puedan beneficiarse de este nuevo proceso.”

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National Report Condemns “Secure Communities”

August 16, 2011

National Leaders, Experts, and Victims of S-Comm Conclude Program Should End

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Today the National Immigration Law Center and others made public an authoritative report condemning the Secure Communities (S-Comm) deportation program and recommending its termination.

The report, titled “Restoring Community: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed ‘Secure Communities’ Program,” includes testimony from former New York district attorney Robert Morgenthau, heads of law enforcement, and victims of S-Comm such as Isaura in Los Angeles, whose 911 call for help resulted in her being placed in deportation proceedings. 

In contrast to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)–appointed taskforce, which has failed to enlist the voices of affected communities, scholars, or critics on the subject, this report constitutes a real, deliberative, and representative review of the program. 

The report recommends that S-Comm be terminated, that the current investigation by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) of S-Comm be expanded to review all of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security” (ICE ACCESS) programs, that the Department of Justice begin its own investigation into the mysterious role of the FBI in S-Comm, and that states not be compelled to share biometric data with ICE. 

The following statement can be attributed to the National Community Advisory Commission: 

“This report confirms what immigrant communities have long known. The program called Secure Communities results in the opposite. Entangling local police in immigration enforcement is not just bad policy, as the experts testify. Conscripting local police into immigration enforcement has provoked a massive civil rights crisis our country now faces. The only suitable approach is to end Secure Communities.” 

The commission includes: American Friends Service Committee, Project Voice New England, Asian Law Caucus, CASA de Maryland, CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Rights Working Group, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and We-Count! 

View the report.

Background information on S-Comm is available at and

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NILC Welcomes Opposition to Alabama’s H.B. 56

August 11, 2011

NILC Welcomes Opposition to Alabama’s H.B. 56

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and a coalition of other civil rights groups applauded the filing of legal briefs on behalf of more than 90 advocacy groups and countries opposed to Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, HB 56. The groups cited the briefs as further evidence of the widespread harm the law will inflict across the state and the diverse coalition of groups opposing HB 56 and similar anti-immigrant measures across the country.

Nine amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs were filed last week in the civil rights coalition lawsuit challenging the law in U.S. district court. The briefs demonstrate that the Alabama law interferes with U.S. diplomatic interests and encourages discrimination. Civil rights and education groups contend that the law will adversely impact victims of crimes, students with limited English proficiency, Alabama educators, and others. The law is set to take effect on September 1.

The coalition asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama last month to block the law from taking effect. The court has consolidated the coalition’s lawsuit with a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which accuses the state of undermining federal immigration priorities, and a lawsuit filed by state religious leaders, which alleges that the law criminalizes their ability to worship by making it a potential crime to be a Good Samaritan to an undocumented immigrant.

HB 56 allows law enforcement officials to check individuals’ immigration status, makes it a crime to knowingly transport or house an undocumented immigrant, and requires school officials to determine the immigration status of students and their parents, among other provisions.

Amicus curiae briefs are legal briefs filed by individuals or organizations with a strong interest in a matter at issue. The briefs filed in Alabama focus on a number of issues related to the new law.

  • The following nations joined Mexico’s amicus curiae brief opposing the law: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
  • The following organizations signed a brief describing how the law will discourage the reporting of domestic violence and other violent crimes: Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Legal Momentum; ASISTA Immigration Assistance; the Victim Rights Law Center; Alianza Latina en contra de la Agresión Sexual (ALAS); American Friends Service Committee; Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Arte Sana; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; California Women’s Law Center; Break the Chain Campaign; Casa de Esperanza (Minnesota); Casa de Maryland, Inc.; Central American Resource Center; Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE);  Coalition of Labor Union Women; Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST); Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc.; Counsel of Mexican Federations in North America/Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamericana; Family Values @ Work Consortium; Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA); Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Nancy Kelly; National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies; National Association of Social Workers and the Alabama Chapter of NASW; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Council of Jewish Women; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; National Women’s Law Center; Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence; New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc.; 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women; Raksha; South Asian Americans Leading Together; University of Cincinnati College of Law Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic; Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Voces de La Frontera; Washington Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE); West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
  • The following organizations signed a brief describing the law’s negative impact on individuals’ civil rights: the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Alabama Council on Human Relations; Alabama New South Coalition; the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Alabama NOW; Birmingham Peace Project; Dominican American National Roundtable; the National Dominican American Council; Equality Alabama; Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund; Hispanic Federation; Immigration Equality; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Montgomery Improvement Association; the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; National Council of La Raza; National Employment Law Project; National Guestworker Alliance; National Immigration Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild; National Lawyers Guild; New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice; Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund; Society of American Law Teachers; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Southern Coalition for Social Justice; and United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.
  • The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers signed a brief describing the threat posed to individuals’ constitutionally protected rights against prolonged detention, the fact that the law will deputize Alabama police officers as immigration agents in conflict with federal law, and the law’s overall negative impact in criminal justice matters.
  • The Alabama Education Association and the National Education Association signed a brief describing the law’s negative impact on Alabama educators, students, and families.
  • The following organizations signed briefs citing the law’s adverse impact on students who have limited English proficiency or are English language-learners: Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, Hispanic College Fund; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); and Multicultural Education, Training & Advocacy, Inc.  The brief asserts that HB 56 seeks to deter immigrant children from attending school because it requires educators to ascertain their families’ immigration status.
  • The Anti-Defamation League signed a brief describing the law’s impact on victims of hate crimes.
  • The following organizations signed a brief describing the law’s adverse impact on housing in Alabama: Central Alabama Fair Housing Center; Fair Housing Center of North Alabama; South Alabama Center for Fair Housing; and National Fair Housing Alliance.
  • The American Immigration Lawyers Association signed a brief describing how the law is incompatible with existing federal immigration law.

“The diversity of these amici briefs shows the staggering reach of HB 56 and the dire consequences its implementation would have on students, survivors of crime, and people of color all across the state,” said Linton Joaquin, NILC general counsel.

“We are pleased to see so many groups voice their opposition to a law that undermines the core American values of fairness and equality,” said Mary Bauer, SPLC legal director. “These briefs show this law will wreak havoc across the state and trample the rights of countless residents – regardless of immigration status.”

Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “The outpouring of these briefs shows broad support for the lawsuits challenging this unconstitutional law. They condemn the Alabama law because it violates core civil rights and interferes with our government’s ability to protect our national interests on immigration and foreign relations.”

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. The organization’s advocates and attorneys use a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to achieve this vision.

The amicus briefs are available from NILC upon request.

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Congressmembers Take Steps to Protect Refugees

Thursday, August 10, 2011

Congressmembers Take Steps to Protect Refugees

WASHINGTON, DC – Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect refugees facing termination of their disability benefits (H.R. 2763, introduced Aug. 1). Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is leading similar efforts in the Senate.  The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) applauds these members of Congress for their work on behalf of this very special population.

The 1996 welfare law established time limits to refugee eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  These time limits were intended to provide an incentive for refugees to naturalize quickly and then maintain their eligibility for SSI as U.S. citizens. However, many refugees have difficulty achieving citizenship for the very reasons that make them eligible for SSI: advanced age, severe disability, and complex health care needs. They struggle with the new language and may be illiterate in their native tongue. Often they may not have the wherewithal to maneuver the application process.

In response to the recently introduced legislation, Ellen Battistelli, a NILC policy analyst, said: “Each year, thousands of individuals flee persecution in their home country and are promised safety and opportunity in the United States. Most of these refugees adjust to their new communities and achieve economic independence. A small number are elderly and disabled. These refugees are unable to work and are without sufficient support from friends or family to meet their basic expenses. They may suffer from isolation, poverty, and chronic health and emotional problems.  For many, their only protection from hunger and homelessness is their eligibility for the modest SSI stipend, also available to elderly and disabled citizens.

“In 2008, President Bush signed bipartisan legislation extending the time limit. This law, unanimously approved by Congress, is set to expire on September 30, 2011. It is essential that Congress act quickly to ensure that these vulnerable refugees receive the protection and support promised in our invitation to move to this country.”

The text of the bill is available from The bill number is H.R. 2763.

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DREAM Defenders Network Will Represent Youth

August 9, 2011

Groups Create Network of Pro-Bono Attorneys and Advocates to Defend DREAMers

WASHINGTON, DC — A network of student groups, activists, and immigration attorneys have announced that they will form a DREAM Defenders network to support immigrant youth who are at risk of deportation. The network will focus on youth who would benefit from theDREAM Act, legislation that would provide undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children a pathway to citizenship if they attend college or enlist in the armed forces.

“Across America, countless lives have been touched by courageous undocumented youth who want nothing more than to be allowed to fully contribute to the country they call home,” said Adey Fisseha, policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Sadly, our broken immigration system too often ensnares these young people and deports them to countries they hardly remember. The DREAM Defenders will work to support these immigrant youth until Congress passes legislation to provide them with the legal status they need to serve the country they love.”

Congressional failure to fix our broken immigration system, combined with ramped-up immigration enforcement practices, have left DREAMers in an especially precarious legal situation. DREAMers, like other immigrants targeted for deportation, are often in desperate need of attorneys to assist them with their legal proceedings. This need spawned the network, which includes representatives from the National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Educators for Fair Consideration, the United We Dream Network, and DreamActivist.

“Every day we receive word of young people who are being ripped from their families and communities, simply because they lack the papers they need to allow them to fully contribute to this country. Without attorneys, these young people are often placed in the deportation pipeline and permanently separated from friends and loved ones. The DREAM Defenders network prevents this tragic story from occurring again. We hope it will provide undocumented youth like us with hope to continue to fight for our dreams until the DREAM Act is passed,” said Gaby Pacheco of United We Dream.

DREAM Defenders will match individual DREAMers with an immigration attorney as well as experienced advocates who can launch a legal and advocacy campaign to support each individual case. With legal representation and community support, an increased number of DREAMers may be able to remain in the U.S. to continue their studies and serve their country.

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. The organization’s advocates and attorneys use a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to achieve this vision.

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9 de agosto de 2011

DREAM Defenders Network (Red de Defensors para Estudiantes de la Acta de Sueños) Representarán a Jóvenes Inmigrantes Enredados en el Sistema de Inmigración

WASHINGTON, DC — Una red de grupos de estudiantes, activistas y abogados de inmigración han anunciado que formarán una red de Defensores del SUEÑO para apoyar a los jóvenes inmigrantes que se encuentran en riesgo de deportación. La red se enfocará en los jóvenes que se beneficiarían por la Acta de Sueños (DREAM Act), una legislación que permitiría a jóvenes indocumentados, que fueron traídos a los Estados Unidos de niños, con un camino a la ciudadanía si van a la universidad o si se alistan en las fuerzas armadas.

“A lo largo de los Estados Unidos, muchos han sido impresionados por los jóvenes valientes indocumentados que solo quieren que se les permita contribuir plenamente al país que llaman su hogar,” dijo Adey Fisseha, abogada con el National Immigration Law Center. “Lamentablemente, nuestro sistema de inmigración está quebrado y a menudo atrapa a los jóvenes y los deporta a países que no conocen. Los Defensores del SUEÑO trabajarán para apoyar a estos jóvenes inmigrantes hasta que el Congreso apruebe la legislación que le ofrece a estos jóvenes el estatus migratorio que necesitan para servir al país que aman.”

El fracaso del Congreso en arreglar nuestro sistema de inmigración, combinado con el aumento de control migratorio, ha resultado en que los Soñadores se encuentren en una situación jurídica especialmente precaria. Soñadores, como otros inmigrantes sujetos a la deportación, necesitan desesperadamente de abogados que les ayuden con sus procedimientos legales. Esta necesidad dio lugar a la red, que incluye a representantes del National Immigration Law Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Educators for Fair Consideration, United We Dream Network, y DreamActivist.

“Cada día, nos enteramos que jóvenes están siendo separados de sus familias y comunidades, simplemente porque no tienen los papeles que necesitan para poder contribuir a este país. Sin abogados, éstos jóvenes terminan frecuentemente en la tubería de deportación y quedan separados permanentemente de sus amigos y seres queridos. La red Defensores del SUEÑO evita que esto se repita. Esperamos poder ofrecer a los jóvenes indocumentados como nosotros, la esperanza de seguir luchando por nuestros sueños hasta que el DREAM Act sea ley,” dijo Gaby Pacheco de United We Dream.

Defensores del SUEÑO asignará a Soñadores con un abogado de inmigración y con defensores con experiencia para que lancen una campaña para apoyar cada caso individual. Con representación legal y con el apoyo de la comunidad, mas Soñadores podrían permanecer en EE.UU. para continuar sus estudios y servir a su país.

Fundado en 1979, el National Immigration Law Center aspira a una sociedad en la que todas las personas, sin distinción de raza, género, nivel de ingresos o estatus migratorio, tengan la oportunidad de vivir libremente, trabajar de forma segura, y prosperar en la sociedad. Los abogados y demás defensores de la organización utilizan una variedad de estrategias, incluyendo el análisis político, litigio, la educación y abogacía, para lograr esta visión.

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Don Lyster Tapped to Be Director of NILC’s DC Office

August 8, 2011

Don Lyster Tapped to Be Director of NILC’s DC Office

WASHINGTON, DC – Don Lyster, a seasoned Hill veteran, has joined the National Immigration Law Center as director of its Washington, DC, office. In that capacity, he will provide strategic support to advance NILC’s policy agenda. Lyster has served members of Congress in various capacities, including recently as chief of staff to then Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), who is now the U.S. secretary of labor.

“Don’s unique mix of Hill policy and politics expertise and direct knowledge of an immigrant-rich state like California makes him an indispensible addition to our DC office,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We’re excited to add his inside-the-Beltway strategies to our office of experts and advocates who are already working to defend and advance the rights of all those living in the United States, regardless of where they were born.”

In his new role, Lyster will work in conjunction with Tyler Moran, the National Immigration Law Center’s policy director, to develop an overall vision for NILC’s policy agenda. Prior to joining the National Immigration Law Center, Lyster was a congressional aide for ten years, serving in various capacities for Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Sen. Edward Kennedy at the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, and Rep. Solis, for whom he was legislative counsel and, later, chief of staff. He also worked at the American Immigration Law Foundation and a government relations consulting firm.

“We’re thrilled that Don, who brings a combination of extensive experience on Capitol Hill and passionate commitment to immigrants’ rights, will lead our Washington office. Don will help legislators and others understand the importance of immigrant inclusion in the policy arena,” added Tyler Moran, policy director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Mr. Lyster holds a juris doctor from The Catholic University of America and a bachelor of arts from Loyola University in Maryland. He is the son and grandson of Irish immigrants.

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. The organization’s advocates and attorneys use a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to achieve this vision.

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DHS Comes Clean about Its Mass Deportation Agenda

August 5, 2011

Adela de la Torre, 213-674-2832 or [email protected]

Showing Its True Colors
Department of Homeland Security Comes Clean about Its Mass Deportation Agenda

WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced significant changes to Secure Communities (S-Comm), the department’s signature immigration enforcement program. Starting today, DHS will unilaterally rescind memorandums of agreement with 42 states that authorized fingerprint information sharing with DHS under the flawed S-Comm program, stating that such agreements are unnecessary. This latest announcement makes clear that S-Comm is an unfunded, mandatory program imposed on states despite intentionally misleading assertions by DHS to the contrary. DHS also announced that it will continue to unilaterally implement S-Comm in existing jurisdictions and expand the program across the country.

S-Comm has been the subject of significant community outcry in recent months. DHS’s announcement comes shortly after several states, including Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts, attempted to opt out of the program by rejecting the memorandums of agreement their states currently have with DHS. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“The Department of Homeland Security has clearly shown that its regard for rules, community safety, and transparency take a backseat to using S-Comm, a fundamentally flawed program, to advance its mass deportation agenda. Since the program’s inception, the program’s rules of engagement have shifted to fit DHS’s needs and not the needs of our communities. A program that was once voluntary has become mandatory, and a program that was sold as customizable to address community concerns has become a one-size-fits-all mandate.

“DHS has chosen to ignore the reams of evidence proving that S-Comm has become a virtual dragnet that ensnares members of the immigrant community and places them directly in the deportation pipeline and dismiss the concerns raised by communities across America. Instead they will unilaterally engulf the country in a program that will undoubtedly sever the tenuous tie between immigrant communities and local law enforcement and endanger us all.”

Nora Preciado, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, added, “Today’s announcement continues a pattern of deception that has shattered any modicum of confidence that the immigrant community may have had with DHS. The Obama administration must end this disastrous program before it is allowed to wreak more havoc on communities from Los Angeles to New York.”

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