Category Archives: December 2014

Amicus Filed in Executive Action Case

December 29, 2014

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

Immigration, Civil Rights, and Labor Groups Join Legal Effort to Defend President’s Executive Action on Immigration

WASHINGTON —Today, immigration, civil rights and labor groups joined the legal effort to defend President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration by filing an amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) brief in the case, State of Texas v. United States.

In the days after the president’s November 20 announcement, two lawsuits were filed seeking to block implementation of the new deferred action initiatives. Both lawsuits seek a preliminary injunction, which would temporarily block the programs from being implemented during the life of the lawsuit. The amicus brief, which was written in support of the federal government, provides economic, fiscal, and societal reasons to allow these programs to take effect later this year.

“President Obama’s executive action isn’t just about policy — it’s about people,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “A court has been asked to block a policy that will keep families together and improve our economy. Any delay to implementation of the new deferred action initiatives wouldn’t just hurt immigrants, it would hurt all of us. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Define American, National Immigrant Justice Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream filed a brief opposing the states’ request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s new deferred action initiatives.

In their brief, the groups provide powerful testimonials about potential beneficiaries of the new deferred action initiatives, many of whom are already entrepreneurs and community leaders. These individuals include a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, passionate advocates and volunteers, and primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen children. The groups also explain how the deferred action initiatives will improve the U.S. economy, raising wages, increasing tax revenue, and creating new jobs.

Legal battles against President Obama’s action on immigration have already begun. Last week, the first case brought by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was rejected by a federal district court judge in D.C. The second case, filed by Texas and 24 other states, is currently set to be heard on January 9, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division.

These lawsuits are merely an attempt to use the courts for political ends; scores of legal experts agree that the President’s actions are well within the scope of his executive authority. Beneath the surface of the lawsuits are the same speculative and discredited myths of criminality and economic impacts that have long fueled anti-immigrant rhetoric.

To view the groups’ legal brief in full, see

For more information about the president’s action,

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FOIA Lawsuit: Driver’s License Databases

December 17, 2014

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected]

National Immigration Center Sues for Information about Immigration Enforcement Use of Driver’s License Database

Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeks to shed light on how the government uses license databases when searching for immigrants

LOS ANGELES — After months of requests and appeals, the National Immigration Law Center, represented by Paul Hastings, LLP, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to learn more about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials’ use of state driver’s license databases for immigration enforcement purposes. This lawsuit comes weeks before California is set to join eight other states and the District of Columbia in allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for state licenses.

“Californians understand that it’s in our best interest to ensure that all our drivers are tested, trained, licensed, and insured,” said Melissa Keaney, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Immigrants who come forward shouldn’t have to worry about how the information they provide might be used by immigration authorities. Unfortunately, instead of reassuring advocates and immigrants, ICE has been remarkably tightlipped about how they access database information. We filed this lawsuit to find out why.”

Advocates in other states have reported raids and other immigration enforcement activities that resulted from immigration authorities locating immigrants via driver’s license databases. ICE officials admitted to using the databases in Maryland but provided no information about internal protocols for ensuring that databases are not used simply to search for immigrants who may lack status.

“Maryland joined other states in recognizing the importance of allowing all residents to apply for licenses,” said George Escobar, director of Health and Human Services at CASA de Maryland, an immigrants’ rights organization. “Unfortunately, the immigration raids that resulted from database searches have sent a chill through the immigrant community and may have prevented people from coming forward to apply for licenses. Immigration authorities should come clean and explain how they use these databases, and why.”

The National Immigration Law Center also filed a motion for preliminary injunction to process its request as quickly as possible, a request that advocates believe will allow groups to better understand when and how ICE uses databases in its efforts to detain and deport immigrants. Groups hope to use this information to ensure that all those eligible for licenses will be able to come forward and apply for them. With an estimated 1.4 million people currently eligible for California’s new license, driver’s license databases could expand precipitously early next year.

“We look forward to an expeditious and successful resolution to this matter, which will shed light on the use of driver’s license databases by federal agencies and, ultimately, improve public safety,” said Andrew Grossman, a lawyer with global law firm Paul Hastings who is advising the National Immigration Law Center.

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the only advocacy organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. NILC advances its mission through policy analysis and litigation, along with education and advocacy. 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.

The complaint is available at

To learn more about immigrant access to driver’s licenses, visit


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ADAC – Supreme Court Denies Stay

December 17, 2014

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected]
Isabel Alegría, American Civil Liberties Union 415-343-0785, [email protected]
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-492-8540, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, MALDEF, 202-466-0879, [email protected]

Supreme Court Refuses to Allow Arizona to Deny Driver’s Licenses to Immigrant Youth

Supreme Court rules that DREAMers can apply for licenses pending the high court’s review of state’s appeal request

WASHINGTON — Immigrant youth will be allowed to receive driver’s licenses in Arizona while the Supreme Court considers whether or not to hear an appeal of a Ninth Circuit ruling inArizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, a lawsuit challenging the state’s denial of licenses to immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under a federal program.

Arizona had asked the high court to stay the Ninth Circuit’s mandate while it considered Arizona’s request for certiorari, or judicial review of the federal appeals court ruling in the case.

“This is a victory for the community. It will change many lives for the better,” said Carla Chavarria, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Personally I will be able to run my business more effectively and no longer have to rely on public transportation. We will be able to contribute to our state without any boundaries.”

The Supreme Court’s denial today of Arizona’s stay motion opens the way for the Arizona federal district court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from continuing to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. Once the district court enters an injunction, the young immigrants would be allowed to receive driver’s licenses.

“Justice, in this case, took more than two years to finally be delivered, but we’re no less pleased with the outcome,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Soon, immigrant youth will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and economy, and they’ll finally have the identification proving on paper what they already know: that they are Arizonans.”

Today’s decision is the latest victory in a civil rights coalition’s lawsuit against the policy, ordered by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in 2012 shortly after the Obama administration announced its DACA program. In July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the policy was likely unconstitutional and that the group of young people—who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S.—are seriously impaired by their inability to get drivers’ licenses.

“This order is a big holiday gift to the DREAMers — and a lump of coal for Governor Brewer,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s time for Arizona leaders to put this unwise, discriminatory policy behind them and let it end with Governor Brewer’s term.”

“Arizona continues to appeal and lose, at great tax payer expense,” said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF national senior counsel. “Now, the federal courts are directing Arizona to issue drivers’ licenses to DACA recipients and stop their established pattern of violating constitutional rights.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the ACLU of Arizona challenged the executive order and related policies in court, alleging that the ban violates DACA recipients’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law as well as the principles of federal supremacy in the area of immigration policy and law.

A copy of today’s decision by the Supreme Court is available at

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Obama Action Is About Family Values

December 10, 2014

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

NILC: Obama Action Is About Family Values

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today on “Keeping Families Together: The President’s Executive Action on Immigration and the Need to Pass Comprehensive Reform.” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié released the following statement prior to the hearing:

“For years, we have heard politicians speak of defending ‘family values,’ and that is one area that is sorely lacking in today’s immigration system. President Obama, acting within his full legal authority, has taken action to allow parents of citizen children and others to come forward to apply to work legally and pay more taxes. Most importantly, this will give children and their loved ones the security of knowing that the children’s immigrant parents are no longer one traffic stop away from being forcibly deported from their lives.

“Participants must qualify for the president’s program that temporarily defers deportation for three years. It is not ‘amnesty,’ as critics have falsely maintained, and it does not confer permanent residence or citizenship. It does not place these parents or young immigrants ahead of anyone currently experiencing a long wait, because of our dysfunctional immigration system, for their visas to be approved, nor does it rewrite or undo immigration law.

“Let’s get the facts straight and remember the benefits that will come from this program for all workers, U.S.-born and immigrants. Fewer workers will be subjected to abuse by employers who retaliate against them. Instead, they’ll be empowered to improve working conditions for all.

“The Council of Economic Advisors estimates the U.S. GDP will rise by 0.4 percent after 10 years, ‘equivalent to an additional $90 billion in real GDP in 2024,’ under the president’s program, partly because of increased productivity from the American labor force that will grow by nearly 150,000 people over 10 years. The impact on U.S.-born workers is not job losses, but a rise in average wages by 0.3 percent in 2024. Also, federal budget deficits are expected to be cut by $25 billion in 2024 because of the growth in the GDP resulting from this important action on immigration.

“The president’s actions are a good, though temporary and limited, first step. The limitations on this program underscore the need for Congress to enact long-term, comprehensive solutions to the problems we face.

“We will continue to fight for the rights of all workers, no matter where they were born. Meanwhile, those who do qualify for relief should have the same right and responsibility to lead healthy, productive lives as anyone else. As the world celebrates Human Rights Day today, it is very apt that the Senate Judiciary Committee is highlighting the rights and dignity that will be restored for about 5 million immigrants as under President Obama’s action on immigration.”

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Petty Politics in the House of Representatives

December 4, 2014

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

Petty Politics in the House of Representatives

Yoho vote shows utter disregard for practical solutions to repair immigration system

WASHINGTON — In a move that allowed the House of Representatives to continue venting its dislike for President Obama and his policies, lawmakers voted along party lines Thursday on a bill that attempts to limit the president’s well-founded executive authority over immigration.

The vote against the president’s policy to allow parents of U.S. citizen children and other immigrants who meet certain requirements to apply for temporary deportation relief and work authorization was the latest in a series of recent actions intended to strip the president of his legal authority over immigration enforcement. This legal authority is based on established regulations, court decisions, and historical precedent.

Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee used a hearing to make the claim that the president’s action exceeded his executive authority. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, was the only hearing witness who detailed the legal and historic precedents for the president’s action, and she issued the following statement after today’s House vote:

“Unable to legislate on pragmatic immigration reform, the House has resorted to tearing apart legal and moral policy solutions proposed by President Obama that are a temporary, first step toward much-needed immigration reform.

“Congress’s vote today is a rejection of the will of all Americans for Congress to fix our dysfunctional immigration system in a way that protects families, sustains our economic growth, and upholds our nation’s moral values.

“During the House Judiciary Committee hearing this week, I testified to the facts: Under the law, the president has a duty to enforce the laws and the authority to decide how to do so. On immigration, he has done just that, removing the threat of deportation for millions of aspiring citizens and their families.

“Our immigration system is broken. Rather than continuing to lob misguided attacks on the president’s recent immigration initiative, we recommend that House members do what they were hired to do: legislate. Bring immigration reform up for a vote, and give the American people the permanent solution they have supported for years.”

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