Category Archives: December 2011

Federal Court Blocks Major Parts of SB 20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2011

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org

Federal Court Blocks Major Parts of South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law

Decision is a Setback Against National Effort to Pass Anti-Immigrant Laws

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal district court today blocked major parts of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law from going into effect Jan. 1 after a civil rights coalition recently argued the law is unconstitutional, interferes with federal laws, and would cause great harm if implemented.

The court determined that major sections of the law, SB 20, are likely to be held unconstitutional, including those provisions that mandate that police demand “papers” in virtually all traffic stops, that make it a crime to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants, and that criminalize the failure to carry ‘papers’ at all times.

The coalition filed a lawsuit against the law in October. A court hearing regarding the coalition’s motion for preliminary injunction – which seeks to temporarily block the law pending a final ruling on its constitutionality – was held on Dec. 19. The U.S. Department of Justice, which also filed a lawsuit against the law, also argued that the law should be blocked because it will cause irreparable harm and interfere with federal immigration law.

Today’s ruling comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take a case involving parts of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. The coalition has pressed to continue hearings over similar laws in South Carolina, Alabama, and other states because these cases involve claims that are not before the Supreme Court, and because these states’ laws will cause severe harms if they are allowed to take effect. It also comes on the heels of Alabama state leaders — including the governor and attorney general — acknowledging that Alabama’s law has major flaws. That law also sparked a backlash from the state’s business and economic leaders. In South Carolina’s neighboring state of Georgia, farmers and other businesses have lost untold amounts in revenues despite a federal judge’s ruling that blocked major parts of its anti-immigrant law.

Nora Preciado, staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said: “Today’s decision rightly prevents SB 20 from unconstitutionally depriving all South Carolinians of their rights and dignity. We, along with our plaintiffs – and the thousands of people they represent – will not rest until this law is permanently stopped. Next year’s legislature should work to find solutions to bring the South Carolina’s communities together, not tear them apart.”

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case in court on Monday of this week on behalf of the coalition, said: “Today’s ruling blocking key provisions of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law recognizes that such legislation is unconstitutional and likely to lead to serious civil rights abuses. We have already seen the devastating effects of a similar law in Alabama, and are pleased South Carolina will not follow the same destructive path.”

“This decision provides a great deal of hope to the large numbers of South Carolinians -citizens and non citizens alike- who would be impacted by this clearly overreaching and unconstitutional law,” said Michelle Lapointe, lead attorney on the case for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s also another major blow to the national effort to pass these fundamentally un-American laws that are based on little more than ignorance and hate.”

Victor Viramontes, MALDEF national senior counsel, said:“Like similar laws across the county, South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law has been blocked because it violates the constitution. We are pleased that the people of South Carolina will not be subjected to this destructive, racially polarizing law.”

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said: “The court’s ruling means this draconian law will not immediately threaten the safety of innocent people, including victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and even asylum seekers. We hope the ruling means families will not be separated and South Carolina will not be turned into a police state.”

Diana Sen, senior counsel for LatinoJustice, said: “Today’s decision is a victory for everyone in South Carolina.  The Court upheld the constitutional mandate that states cannot regulate immigration by trying to expel undocumented immigrants. Latinos, the target of SB 20, can now go about their lives without the fear of arbitrary arrest and detention simply because they look Hispanic.”

Tammy Besherse, staff attorney with the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said: “South Carolina’s families will have something to truly celebrate this holiday season, thanks to a ruling that will keep families together and make our communities safer. Today’s ruling is a victory for all those who believe in family unity and community safety.”

South Carolina’s law would have subjected South Carolinians, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, to unlawful searches and seizures and interfered with federal power and authority over immigration. The law attempted to require police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person lacks immigration status, thereby inviting racial profiling. It also attempted to criminalize South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room to a friend.

Arizona’s SB 1070 inspired South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, as well as similar laws in Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Indiana. Federal courts have already blocked key provisions of these laws in Arizona, Indiana and Georgia. A federal court in Alabama allowed some parts of the law to take effect, leading to devastating humanitarian consequences. Other provisions of the Alabama law have been blocked by the courts. Members of the civil rights coalition also have a pending case against Utah’s anti-immigrant law, which the court temporarily blocked pending a hearing now scheduled for February.

The coalition in the South Carolina case includes the National Immigration Law Center, ACLU, MALDEF, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU of South Carolina, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.

To learn more about the case and read the decision issued today in both the civil rights coalition’s and Department of Justice’s cases, the complaint, as well as the motion for preliminary injunction, go to: https://nilc.org/sb20.html.

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Read decision (updated 12/22/11)

 

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Civil Rights Coalition Asks Court to Block SB 20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2011

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org

Civil Rights Coalition Asks Court to Block South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law

Attorneys Argued in Federal Court Today That Law Would Cause Harm;
Judge Said He Will Rule Before Jan. 1

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups asked a federal district judge today to block South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Jan. 1 because it is unconstitutional, interferes with federal laws and would cause great harm in the state.

The coalition filed a lawsuit against the law, SB 20, in October. A court hearing regarding a motion for preliminary injunction – which seeks to temporarily block the law pending a final ruling on its constitutionality – was held today. The U.S. Department of Justice, which also filed a lawsuit against the law, also argued today that the law should be blocked. The judge said he will rule on the motion before the law’s Jan. 1 effective date.

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued in court on behalf of the coalition, said: “Across the country, we have been fighting anti-immigrant laws because they are unconstitutional, lead to racial profiling and widespread civil rights abuses. This misguided law should be blocked before it causes great harm and turns South Carolina into a police state.”

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said: “South Carolina must not become like Alabama, whose inhumane anti-immigrant law has created a crisis in the state, separated families and devastated the business community. This law will hurt all South Carolinians and must be blocked before it wreaks havoc in our state.”

Michelle Lapointe, Southern Poverty Law Center’s lead attorney on the case, said: “If this law goes into effect at the end of this month, the devastating impact will be immediate and irreparable. The experience of other states has made it clear the devastating social and economic upheaval of such laws.”

Linton Joaquin, general counsel of NILC, said: “Immigrant and Latino communities across the state can look forward to a ruling from the court before the law’s implementation date of January 1.  We cannot understate the devastation and chaos created by the implementation of these laws as we have witnessed in Alabama. We will continue to fight until this law is permanently blocked.”

Victor Viramontes, MALDEF national senior counsel, said: MALDEF issued the following statement: “We have asked the Court to block South Carolina’s destructive law that unfairly and illegally targets the Latino community with improper arrests and detentions. Together with Arizona, Alabama and others, South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law threatens to create a patchwork immigration policy divorced from the Federal Government’s uniform immigration system.”

LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Senior Counsel Diana Sen said: ”Latino immigrants continue to get unfairly blamed for all that ails our economy. This race based demonization has no place in our post segregation world. If unchecked, Latinos will be subjected to intensive status verifications every time they cross the street, and become the new second class citizenry, an outcome abhorrent to anyone mindful of our country’s past.”

SB 20 subjects South Carolinians, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, to unlawful search and seizure and interferes with federal authority over immigration laws. The law requires police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person lacks immigration status, thereby inviting racial profiling. It criminalizes South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room to a friend.

Arizona’s SB 1070 inspired South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, as well as similar laws in Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Indiana. Federal courts have already blocked key provisions of these laws in Arizona, Indiana and Georgia. A federal court in Alabama allowed some parts of the law to take effect, leading to devastating humanitarian consequences, while other provisions have been blocked. Coalition members also have a pending case against Utah’s anti-immigrant law, which the court delayed pending a hearing in February.

The coalition in the South Carolina case includes the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.

Learn more about the case and read the complaint, as well as the motion for preliminary injunction.

Read decision (updated 12/22/11)

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U.S. Citizens Illegally Detained Due to S-Comm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2011

CONTACT:
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Diana Rubio, ACLU/SC, (213) 977-5252

U.S. Citizens Illegally Detained by Los Angeles Authorities Due to Secure Communities Program Errors

Civil Rights Groups Call on Los Angeles City and County to Enact Safeguards to Protect Residents and End Their Collaboration with Immigration Authorities

LOS ANGELES, CA – A coalition of civil rights groups today offered evidence that United States citizens have been illegally detained, sometimes for many days, due to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “holds” placed on them after these men and women were erroneously flagged as deportable. The U.S. citizens were detained due to Los Angeles County participation in the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities (“S-Comm”), a fingerprint-sharing, federal detention and deportation program.

Civil rights leaders and elected officials today spoke out against S-Comm, which results in the unconstitutional incarceration of U.S. citizens at the behest of immigration authorities. In letters sent today to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and City Council, a coalition of five civil rights groups called on the officials to enact safeguards to ensure that County and City authorities do not continue to violate the constitutional rights of Los Angeles residents.

“It is time for us to finally say ‘no, we will not participate in a program that detains people unlawfully, crowds our jails, and compromises community policing,’” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, one of the groups that signed the letter. “Our elected officials must pull the blinders off their eyes. The costs of this program are far too great to ignore.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) endorsed the coalition’s requests and called on L.A. County and City officials to end their damaging cooperation with immigration officials. Their request comes just days after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote to Governor Brown urging him to suspend California’s participation in S-Comm.

“For years, community members have decried S-Comm, which destroys families and communities across the country,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We now know that the program is not only destructive, but also error-ridden. We hope Los Angeles’ elected officials will agree that preserving our fundamental due process rights is more important than participating in overzealous detention and deportation programs.”

Antonio Montejano, a 40-year-old Los Angeles-born U.S. citizen wrongly ensnared by S-Comm on Nov. 5, 2011, said he spent four nights locked up for a shoplifting charge after he forgot to pay for candy his children had eaten while shopping. Among $600 in purchased items, a $10 bottle of perfume had also slipped through. Even after a judge ordered him released, Los Angeles County detained Montejano because of an immigration hold, which was triggered by the fundamentally flawed S-Comm program, despite his American citizenship. County authorities detained him for two nights at the Inmate Reception Center and forced him to sleep on the floor without a mattress or even a blanket, in violation of court prohibitions on floor-sleeping in County jail.

“What kind of a message does this send to my kids?,” Montejano said, “My eight-year-old son asked me: ‘Dad, can this happen to me too because I look like you?’ I feel so sad when I heard him say this. But he is right. Even though he is an American citizen – just like me – he too could be detained for immigration purposes because of the color of his skin – just like me. What am I supposed to tell him?”

Romy Campos, a 19-year-old resident of Redondo Beach, was arrested for a misdemeanor in Torrance, California on November 12, 2011. Within hours of her arrest, an immigration hold was triggered through S-Comm despite her citizenship. Police authorities refused to allow her family to post bail for her release because of the erroneous immigration hold. Romy spent four days in custody due to this immigration hold before the hold was lifted.

Los Angeles County Sheriffs arrested Jose Velazquez, Jr., a 37-year-old resident of Huntington Park, on July 13, 2011. ICE placed an immigration hold on Velazquez despite his citizenship, preventing his wife from posting bail for his release. He was detained for at least one day in County custody on the immigration hold before his wife succeeded it getting it lifted.

Rigoberto Amador Flores, a 29-year-old resident of Los Angeles, was arrested by Redondo Beach Police Department. ICE placed an immigration hold on Mr. Flores, despite his citizenship, preventing him from posting bail. He was detained for at least eight days in County custody, including during the Thanksgiving holiday, before the hold was lifted.

According to a recent report by the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley, approximately 3,600 citizens have been apprehended from the inception of the program through April 2011.

Through S-Comm, ICE requests that local authorities detain an individual for immigration purposes before they have investigated an individuals’ immigration status. This violates the basic principle of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that no person be arrested absent probable cause. Although the immigration hold is a voluntary request by ICE that the local authorities hold the person, Los Angeles authorities currently comply with every request. In doing so, Los Angeles County authorities also deny any person with an immigration hold the right to post bail, causing tens of thousands of inmates per year to remain detained for lengthy periods of time. ICE does not reimburse the County or the City for these detentions.

In recent months, communities across the country, such as Santa Clara County and Cook County, Illinois, have enacted policies that narrow the circumstances in which they will detain persons for ICE based on federal reimbursement and the person’s criminal history. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and City Council can do the same.

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House Votes to Raise Taxes on Working Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2011

CONTACT:
Adela de la Torre, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org

HOUSE VOTES TO RAISE TAXES ON WORKING FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN
Groups Urge Congress and White House to Protect Taxpaying Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON, DC – The tax package passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 3630, included language that would effectively raise taxes on approximately two million working immigrant families by denying them eligibility for the reimbursable Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This tax credit has prevented millions of children from falling into poverty.

Last week, 36 immigrant, labor, and faith-based advocacy organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center, AFL-CIO, SEIU, and National Council La Raza, sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), urging them to reject Republican-led efforts to eliminate the ACTC for immigrant families. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“In their annual rush to pass legislation prior to the December recess and go home to their families, House Republicans are using must-pass legislation to enact amendments that will please extremists and hurt the 99 percent. Instead of taxing the wealthy, the House has chosen to effectively raise taxes on taxpaying immigrant families by denying them eligibility for the reimbursable Additional Child Tax Credit. This change will compromise the ability of these parents to care for their families.

“This provision will hurt up to four million immigrant and U.S.-born children. We call upon Republican and Democratic congressional leaders and the White House to reject efforts to harm low-income, taxpaying immigrant families and retain their access to the reimbursable ACTC.

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Anti-Immigrant Law Dealt Yet Another Major Blow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec.12, 2011

CONTACT:
Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Apreill Hartsfield, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), (334) 956-8458; apreill.hartsfield@splcenter.org
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU (212) 284 -7347 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
John Garcia, LatinoJustice (212) 739-7513; jgarcia@latinojustice.org
Stephen Dane, Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC (202) 728-1888; sdane@relmanlaw.com

Anti-Immigrant Law Dealt Yet Another Major Blow

Federal Court Halts Discriminatory Housing Practice with Preliminary Injunction in Scathing Ruling

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction today that temporarily blocks the application of a provision of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law that threatened to push families who cannot prove lawful status out of their homes.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is the latest blow for proponents of the ill-conceived law, also known as HB 56. The ruling by the U.S. district court in Montgomery comes after a civil rights coalition filed a lawsuit last month challenging this application of Section 30 of HB 56. This application demands “papers” from everyone applying for the annual mobile home registration tags they need to reside in their mobile homes. The court found evidence that the law has racially discriminatory intent.

“This latest ruling cuts to the heart of the deficiencies of HB 56, instead of writing this law from good policy it was written from a place of hate that targets on group of people,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “While we are incredibly pleased the court has blocked a provision that would push families out of their homes, sadly, this law is still wreaking havoc across our state, creating a humanitarian crisis. So, we will continue to fight it with everything we have.”

This provision, which criminalizes business transactions between state officials and people who cannot prove citizenship or immigration status, would have left undocumented immigrants in an impossible position: attempt to renew the mobile home tags they need and risk being charged with a felony under HB 56, or refrain from renewing tags and therefore face criminal charges and fines.

Thompson previously granted a temporary restraining order that allowed families to renew their mobile home tags.

“This decision helps put the brakes on an inhumane law that has already forced some families out of their homes,” said Justin Cox, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The court’s reasoning indicates that many applications of this law, including denying water and other essential services, are also unconstitutional.”

“Judge Thompson’s decision reaffirms that discriminatory housing practices are illegal, and that all people are protected regardless of immigration status,” said Stephen Dane, an attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC. “This ruling sends a clear warning to other states and local governments that denying housing to immigrants violates the law.”

The ruling comes as the damaging effects of HB 56 are becoming more apparent and spurring calls for revisions and even repeal. In a five-page letter released early last week, the state attorney general advised lawmakers to revise major portions and repeal other provisions. Then, late Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley and the leaders in both the Alabama house and senate released their own statement acknowledging major flaws in the law.

“This Court saw this section of HB56 for what it was: an attack on the ability of Latino and other immigrants to stay in their homes as if they are causing our economic problems,” said Foster Maer, attorney with the LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “We hope that courts across the country will carefully read this decision and come to understand that states cannot commandeer this country’s immigration laws to serve such a nefarious goal.”

After Mercedes-Benz and Honda auto executives were detained under the law, Gov. Robert Bentley has said he’s worried the law could hurt recruitment of foreign industries, prompting Bentley to reassure foreign executives they’re welcome in Alabama, according to news reports.

Despite HB 56 being touted as a “jobs bills” by its sponsors, farmers have seen their workers – regardless of immigration status – flee the state rather than live under HB 56. Crops have been left rotting in the fields.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan held a conference in Mobile Tuesday designed to connect farmers with workers. McMillan said at the conference that a failure to address this labor shortage will have “a substantial economic impact in Alabama,” according to the (Mobile) Press-Register.

Two larger suits bringing facial challenges to HB 56 in its entirety and several provisions in particular, are also underway. One suit is brought by the United States, and the other is brought by a coalition of immigrant rights groups and individual plaintiffs. Cross-appeals from a district court’s order denying in part and granting in part a preliminary injunction are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. A hearing on the appeals from the lower court’s decisions to allow several provisions of the law to go into effect has been set for March 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The mobile home case shows that the full effects of pernicious laws like HB 56 aren’t really felt until these laws are allowed to go into effect and wreak havoc on local communities,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “State legislators considering adopting draconian and racist laws in their states would do well to examine the high humanitarian cost of HB 56 on all Alabamians, and refrain from following in Alabama’s misguided footsteps.”

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