Category Archives: August 2013

MLK’s Speech Inspires Immigrants Working for Justice

August 28, 2013

Gebe Martinez, 703-731-9505, [email protected]

Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech Inspires Today’s DREAMers and All Immigrants Working for Justice

WASHINGTON — On the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring “I Have A Dream” speech, the National Immigration Law Center observes this day with a rededication to our continuing fight for equality and justice. The following is a statement by Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“A half-century ago, when civil rights leaders organized the March on Washington as a call for “jobs and freedom,” Dr. King stood in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke of his dream, making an indelible mark on the consciousness of our nation. His speech was inspired by his belief in racial and economic equality as well as in the promise of the Declaration of Independence—that all of God’s children would one day be treated equally and not be denied their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“To the hundreds of thousands gathered 50 years ago today, Dr. King said 1963 was not the end but the beginning of the fight for democracy and the pursuit of his dream that everyone be judged ‘not … by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

“We share his dream that all people—regardless of their race, gender, or immigration or economic status—be treated equally, fairly, and humanely. In our advocacy on behalf of low-income immigrants and their families, we strive to ensure that all people have equal access to justice, education, government resources and economic opportunities, and are able to achieve their full potential as human beings.

“As many—especially poor people of color— in this country know all too well, Dr. King’s dream and vision of a more just and equal America is still being realized. Income inequality is at historic levels, with many living in extreme poverty and growing numbers of children going to bed hungry. Workers cannot make a living and support families on the minimum wage, and many are still exploited and retaliated against for demanding dignity and justice on the job. Racial profiling by law enforcement, especially of young men of color, continues. Immigrants are unfairly denied access to affordable health care and other programs supported by the taxes they pay.

“But we still dream for a better America.

“Immigrants come to this country because they believe in the American Dream. Those who were brought here as children without documents call themselves ‘DREAMers’ as they pray for the chance to become citizens. They and their parents—and all immigrants—believe in a just and fair democracy and have not given up the hope of living, working, and fulfilling their dreams as American citizens.

“For Dr. King and others who bravely fought for civil rights a half-century ago, we are mindful that the work for racial and economic justice continues. And we will continue to work, inspired by Dr. King’s vision and our shared dreams for an even greater American future enriched by the contributions of immigrants.”

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E-Verify Error Rate Rises for Immigrant Workers

August. 27, 2013

Gebe Martinez, 703-731-9505, [email protected]

National Immigration Law Center Analysis of U.S.-Commissioned Report Underscores Need for Worker Protections in E-Verify

E-Verify Error Rate Rises for Immigrant Workers

WASHINGTON — If implemented without basic worker protections, a mandate that would require all employers in the U.S. to use an electronic employment eligibility verification system such as E-Verify will exacerbate workplace discrimination, according to a new report by the National Immigration Law Center.

NILC analysts who examined data from a recently released Westat report on E-Verify in the context of previously released studies of the program concluded that, if such a mandate were implemented without strict worker protections, hundreds of thousands of authorized workers might lose their jobs due to government error. (The government-commissioned Westat report, which is dated July 2012, was not released to the public until July 2013.)

Every major current immigration reform proposal includes a mandate that all employers in the U.S. use E-Verify to determine whether their employees are eligible to work in the U.S. The Senate immigration reform proposal includes protections that would, for example, allow workers who have been falsely flagged as unauthorized to work to correct their records. The Senate bill also provides that employers who abuse the system should face specific penalties. A current House proposal, known as the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772), lacks such protections.

“Reams of ink have been spilled on E-Verify, but legislators in Washington have stayed relatively silent about the potential consequences of such a nationally mandated program, especially if it is implemented in haste,” said Josh Stehlik, a NILC’s workers’ rights attorney. “The government’s own data show that hundreds of thousands of workers will have to either contact a government office or risk losing their job, and that employers often fail even to tell their workers that they need to straighten out a possible error in their records.”

Among the key issues highlighted in NILC’s analysis is that many employers who currently use E-Verify either inadvertently or deliberately violate the program’s rules, often with dramatic consequences for workers.

For example, many employers either do not inform workers of initial warnings that they may not be authorized to work or of notices that they need to follow up with the Social Security Administration. Meanwhile, no adequate system is in place for workers to contest E-Verify errors, which inevitably results in too many of them having to face financial and emotional hardship.

Some unscrupulous employers also have been found to “E-Verify” workers who complain of substandard working conditions, as way of intimidating them. Moreover, weak monitoring of employers’ compliance leaves little incentive for them to strictly adhere to the program’s rules.

“Unless E-Verify mandates are paired with strong measures that protect workers’ basic due process rights and allow those wrongly accused of being unauthorized to challenge the errors, the program will simply become another expensive immigration enforcement failure,” said Don Lyster, director of NILC’s DC office. “Legislators in the House of Representatives should take a look at the lessons already learned from E-Verify before rushing to advance legislation that would force this system upon every mom-and-pop business in America.”

NILC’s full report, “Verification Nation: How E-Verify Affects America’s Workers,” is available at A two-page summary of the report’s findings and recommendations is available at

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the only advocacy organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. NILC uses a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to advance its mission. Over the past three decades, NILC has won landmark legal decisions protecting fundamental rights, thwarted policies that would have devastated the lives of low-income immigrants and their family members, and advanced major policies that reinforce our nation’s values of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

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New Policy Could Help Immigrant Parents

August. 23, 2013

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

New Immigration Enforcemenet Directive Could Help Immigrant Parents

Policy Will Not Prevent Family Separation Caused by Record-Breaking Deportations

WASHINGTON — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today announced a new directive to the field to provide agents across the country with guidance to safeguard parents’ rights, and to ensure that parents are not unnecessarily separated from their children. The directive also creates a new position charged with overseeing the rights of parents. The new directive was issued after public outcry over newsthat thousands of parents in deportation proceedings have lost – or nearly lost – custody of their children. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Our immigration system has the potential to inflict terrible damage on our most vulnerable citizens: children. This new directive is a necessary step toward protecting family unity, and we welcome ICE’s efforts to ensure that parents are not torn away from their children during – and after – deportation proceedings. No father should be detained hundreds of miles away from his daughter, and mothers should not lose custody simply because ICE has barred them from attending vital family court proceedings or because they have been deported.

“This new directive, however, simply addresses the symptoms of what we all know to be a deeply broken immigration system. Today, thousands of children are growing up with the psychological trauma of having lost a parent to deportation. Thousands more live in fear that they will be without a mother’s hug or a father’s hand to hold, and that number swells each day that commonsense immigration reform is delayed. This new directive should underscore the need for all those in Washington to move quickly to create an immigration system that upholds our most dearly-held family values.”

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Aspiring Citizens Should have Access to Programs

August. 22, 2013

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

Over 400 Groups Tell Congress to Allow Aspiring Citizens Access to Programs their Tax Dollars Support

WASHINGTON —Immigrants who qualify for the road to citizenship should be able to pay their fair share for affordable health care, have access to nutrition programs, and be treated like other taxpayers by the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, Congress was told today in a letter from more than 400 groupsrepresenting immigrant, health care, labor, civil rights, social justice, and faith communities.

Under the Senate bill passed in June, the nation’s 11 million aspiring citizens could apply for a provisional status that would make them wait 10 to 13 years for citizenship. During this time, “registered provisional immigrants” would have permission to live in the country, work, and continue to pay taxes like all Americans, but would be denied access to affordable health care, nutrition assistance, and a decade’s worth of Social Security earnings from taxes they paid.

“During these years, immigrants on a legal path to citizenship will have to pay the same taxes as other working Americans but will be shut out of programs their taxes fund,” stated the letter by over 400 groups in California, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and other states.

“During the August recess, members of Congress are being reminded that our nation and economy would benefit from immigration reform,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “But economic justice also demands that immigrants share in the same opportunities afforded to all taxpaying wage-earners, including access to affordable health care and nutrition programs.  This is a fair and wise investment in a stronger economy and healthier society.”

Equal access to affordable health care and nutrition assistance and equal treatment of all taxpayers who contribute to Social Security allows aspiring citizens to fully participate and contribute to society.

“By creating the same requirements and opportunities for all taxpaying workers — including those on a path to citizenship — we would be protecting the integrity of our tax code and Social Security system,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, which advocates on behalf of children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities. “It is important to remember that more than 4 out of 5 immigrant households include U.S. citizen children.”

Immigrants, including women and children, should not be marginalized in the immigration debate. “The health care needs of women and children are being left behind,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “A 10-15 year wait or more for health care and nutrition assistance can be a lifetime for children and could mean the difference between life and death for a woman with undetected breast or cervical cancer. We urge Congress to advance smart reforms that allow all aspiring citizens to fully contribute to the success of their families and communities.”

Here is the letter.

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DACA Has Proven Successful

August. 15, 2013

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

One Year Later, DACA Has Proven Successful

Program Underscores Need for Lasting, Permanent Road to Citizenship for DREAMers and Parents

WASHINGTON —One year ago today, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program began accepting applications. The program, which provides relief from deportation as well as work authorization to immigrants who arrived in this country as children and have met certain requirements, has attracted more than 500,000 applicants. Below is a statement from Don Lyster, director of the National Immigration Law Center’s DC office:

“The implementation of DACA has been a model of effectiveness. The program is proof that when advocates, attorneys, immigrants, and government agencies work together, we can make life better for hundreds of thousands of people. Across the country, immigrant youth are achieving their personal and professional dreams thanks to the incredible work done by countless people to educate and advocate for this program.

“DACA is more than a life-changing program for DREAMers, it’s also a game-changer in the political world. This program is the result of months of relentless advocacy by DREAMers and their allies. These immigrant youth showed that they are ready to determine their own destinies, and our civil society is made richer thanks to their contributions.

“However, they—and we—are not done yet. DREAMers’ parents and loved ones continue to be deported at record rates, shattering families and communities in the process. Those who’ve been granted DACA are stuck planning their lives in two-year increments, and their position in this country could disappear under a future administration.

“These 11 million aspiring Americans should have the opportunity to earn their citizenship. When the House of Representatives reconvenes in September, it can and should follow in the Senate’s bipartisan footsteps and give DREAMers, their parents, and their loved ones a vote on citizenship. Until then, we will continue to mobilize, organize, and advocate for laws that allow the half million DACAmented immigrants to become full participants in our society.”

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Workers Win End to Jail Immigration Enforcement

August. 13, 2013

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

Workers Win End to Immigration Enforcement in Orleans Parish Prison

Amid national immigration debate, new pro-immigrant policy is one of farthest-reaching in the U.S.

NEW ORLEANS — Reversing his previous position, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has agreed to a policy that locks immigration enforcement out of New Orleans Parish Prison. The policy is one of the farthest-reaching of its kind in the country and comes as some lawmakers push to include broader criminalization of immigrants and ever-harsher enforcement in national immigration reform.

The new policy is part of a settlement agreement in Cacho v. Gusman(2:11-CV-225, E.D. Louisiana), a lawsuit filed by two immigrant worker members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice(NOWCRJ). The two men were unconstitutionally held on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold requests in Orleans Parish Prison for more than 160 and 90 days, respectively. ICE hold requests are supposed to be limited to 48 hours, according the federal agency’s rules.

NOWCRJ, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the law firm Orrick represented the plaintiffs in the litigation. The plaintiffs are members of NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers.

Over the past three years, the sheriff has faced pressure from prayer vigils, a unanimous New Orleans City Council resolution calling on him to stop submitting to immigration detainers, and a U.S. Department of Justice finding that raised serious constitutional concerns with his previous policy.

According to the new policy, Orleans Parish Prison will decline all ICE hold requests except for specific serious crimes. For individuals with those charges, the sheriff will defer to the recommendation of the criminal court.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff will not investigate an individual’s immigration status.

ICE may not conduct investigations into civil violations of immigration law in the jail. If ICE wants to conduct a criminal investigation in the jail, ICE must provide reasonable notice and opportunity for the individual’s attorney to be present at any interview.

NILC staff attorney Melissa Keaney said, “Orleans Parish Prison has been emblematic of a national problem: When local law enforcement carry out immigration enforcement, severe constitutional violations follow. Lawmakers debating national immigration reform need to reject the broad criminalization found in proposals such as the SAFE Act and instead let immigrant communities take the lead in setting policies that actually make communities safer.”

“Together, the community and the sheriff have put New Orleans on the right side of history,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, lead immigration organizer for NOWCRJ. “The new policy respects the right of immigrant workers to remain in the communities they rebuilt.”

NOWCRJ legal director J.J. Rosenbaum said, “The sheriff’s previous policy led to systematic racial profiling and severe constitutional violations. The new policy can serve as a model both for local communities and policymakers in Washington, DC.”

Plaintiff and NOWCRJ member Antonio Ocampo said, “No one should be torn away from their family and spend more than 90 days in jail without a charge, the way I did. I am proud that because of our fight, no other worker in New Orleans will go through what I did.”

For more information about Cacho v. Gusman,

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Civil Disobedience on Capitol Hill

August. 1, 2013

For English-language media:

Donna De La Cruz, [email protected], 202-339-9331, 202-441-3798 (cell)

For Spanish-language media:
Ricardo Ramírez, [email protected], 202-339-9371, 202-905-1738 (cell)

More Than 30 Advocates Arrested on Capitol Hill for Protesting Unjust Immigration Policies, House GOP Inaction on Path to Citizenship

NILC’s Marielena Hincapié Among Those Arrested

WASHINGTON — More than 30 immigrant rights, labor, faith, and other leaders were arrested today on Capitol Hill protesting against the unjust immigration policies and the House GOP’s inability to pass a bill that contains a pathway to citizenship and keeps families together.

The civil disobedience action was held to send the strongest message possible to House GOP leaders that the fight for immigrant families has been escalated and will continue through the August recess and into the fall until the House produces a comprehensive bill that creates a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Thursday’s action is just the start of many nationwide activities that will be held to continue putting pressure on House GOP lawmakers. Over the August recess, the groups will participate in “40 Days of Action” to make sure Republicans don’t forget the urgency of passing immigration reform. The actions represent an escalation in the fight for immigrant families and a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Advocates blocked traffic at the intersection of First Street and Independence Avenue Southeast by the House Cannon Office Building. Participants chanted, sang and held banners demanding the end to the immoral separation of families.

House GOP members have not just failed to act on a pathway to citizenship, but have instead let the most conservative and anti-immigrant GOP members take the lead in the debate, prompting advocates to turn to non-violent direct action to address the moral crisis of the broken immigration system.

Here are quotations from leaders who participated in the action and risked arrest:

“Each day that the House pushes immigration reform to the side, another 1,100 members of our community are deported. We’re taking a stand today to say enough is enough. Our community has organized, mobilized, and voted to demand a vote on the road to citizenship, and we will not stand down until that vote is taken.” —Marielena Hincapié,Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center

“I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience against unjust immigration policies that are tearing families apart, leaving children without their parents, wives without their husbands and brothers and sisters without each other. I was arrested with more than two dozen other courageous activists in the immigrant rights, progressive, faith and labor movements to send the strongest message possible to our leaders: No More! No Mas!” —Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Campaign for Community Change

“Speaker Boehner needs to understand the urgency for reform. Until the House passes a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, we will continue to be in the streets, at town hall meetings and on the phones, demanding justice for the 11 million aspiring Americans in our country.”—Eliseo Medina, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer

“Our organizations – immigrant rights, faith, progressive and labor – will not stop escalating until we win what is right and good for America. Our rapidly growing political power confronts Congress with the moral urgency and human cost of our broken immigration system that can only be ignored at the risk of unprecedented upheaval. America deserves a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship.” —Kica Matos, Director of Racial Justice and Immigrant Rights, Campaign for Community Change

“With all of the talk about polling and demographics, I think too many people have lost touch with the human and moral crisis of deportations. Every day, roughly 1,000 people are deported because the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives is denying the majority of the US Congress a chance to vote on citizenship. I will be arrested today because the labor movement stands with the families tragically ripped apart by John Boehner and the House Republicans’ embrace of a broken immigration system.” —Arlene Holt Baker, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President

“This summer, thousands of immigrant families face separation, deportation, and alienation. It’s all part of the status quo which the House of Representatives refuses to address and fix. While this summer, members of Congress seek family, peace, tranquility, vacation, our community will enjoy none of it unless immigration laws change. In the absence of justice and a path to citizenship, this will not be a regular summer for us nor the members of Congress.” —Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

“All of us in CWA are proud to stand for citizenship and against intolerance. I am proud to represent our members today as we demonstrate the broad movement that supports a citizenship path for 11 million of our co-workers and neighbors. We will support this campaign as long as it takes whether we are sitting in the streets or organizing in our communities.” —Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America

“As Americans, we honor and celebrate our unique commitment to protecting families, and giving equal opportunities and respect to women and girls. Immigrants like my parents came here to share in that vision. Yet our current immigration policies tear mothers from their children and discriminates against immigrant women. The House of Representatives has a choice: to do nothing and leave this country divided, or to take strides towards a house united for common sense immigration policy reform that treats women fairly and that keeps families together.” —Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

“We are willing to get arrested to put the spotlight on what is at stake for millions of families and the nation. There are millions of parents who will be separated from their children, married couples that will be separated all because some House Members refuse to do what the voters want them to do: create a path to citizenship so communities around the nation can heal.” —Denise Lopez of Michigan United

“I left my two daughters at home, to participate in this action, because everyday parents are being taken from their children. I know I will see my girls soon, but many immigrant parents don’t know when they will be able to see their children again. We need immigration reform that respects the dignity of our families and allows millions of immigrant women and their families to enter the pathway to citizenship without fear that some family members may be excluded. We belong together.” —Andrea Cristina Mercado, National Campaign Director, National Domestic Workers

“Today we directly confronted obstructionist House Republicans for embracing the status quo – a status quo that is broken – over the will of the American people who want a comprehensive fix for our current immigration system. In dismissing a real solution to our nation’s unjust, unsound immigration system, House Republicans are choosing to ignore hard economic data and compelling public opinion. The House GOP must move our nation forward by passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship and strong worker protections.” —Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work

“We urge Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, to make a stand for real immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship. There’s a notion that doing so is somewhat complicated, but it’s not complicated. House Republicans could just choose to allow a vote for the Senate bill or for the comprehensive immigration reform proposal that a bipartisan group of House representatives are working on. Americans and new immigrants have been waiting for too long.” —Giev Kashkooli, Vice President, United Farm Workers

“I am proud to join my friends in this simple act of conscience.  Immigration reform with a path to citizenship is a defining issue for our generation. It is time for the House leadership to stop dithering, delaying and denying a vote. It is time to let the bipartisan majority that exists in the House of Representatives today to vote in favor of reform that includes a path to citizenship. It is time for Congress to do the people’s will and ensure that America lives true to its creed of “out of many, one.”Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice

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