Category Archives: January 2020

No Muslim Ban Ever Coalition Condemns Trump Administration’s Expanded Muslim Ban

January 31, 2020

Juan Gastelum, NILC, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
Sabrina Chin, Asian Law Caucus, (415) 351-9737, [email protected]

No Muslim Ban Ever Coalition Condemns Trump Administration’s Expanded Muslim Ban

New expansion of discriminatory policy double downs exclusion of communities of color

SAN FRANCISCO — The No Muslim Ban Ever campaign, a coalition of progressive, faith, immigrant, asylum, refugee, and civil rights groups, denounces the Trump administration’s latest iteration of the Muslim ban that will expand restrictions on additional countries to include Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The ban will continue to include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea.

The Trump administration continues to push white supremacist and exclusionary policies that discriminate on the basis of faith, national origin, and immigration status. In response, the coalition’s anchor organizations released the following statements:

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco-Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, states:
“We long worried that what Donald Trump could do to one community, he could then also do to others. Today’s new expanded ban proves this fear true. In addition to banning even more Muslim countries, this administration has gone further, banning immigrants from even more nations. We call on members of Congress to act now to support the current, comprehensive version of the No Ban Act and move to reign in the president’s bigoted immigration agenda immediately. Enough is enough.”

Javeria Jamil, staff attorney, National Security & Civil Rights of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, states:
“From scapegoating Muslims with the Muslim ban to now expanding the same restrictions to other immigrant communities of color, the Trump administration continues to weaponize immigration law in order to advance its xenophobic agenda. We will continue to defend the rights of our communities and work to repeal this cruel and discriminatory policy.”

Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center, states:
“Today’s new ban is rooted in the same animus that was the driving force behind the Muslim ban and reaffirms Trump’s cruel commitment to keeping out communities of color. Including countries that are not Muslim- or black-majority doesn’t hide the reality that this new ban will impact Muslims and, in particular, black immigrants the most. It’s imperative that we keep calling out these policies for what they are — attempts to change the complexion of our country and disenfranchise communities of color — and fight to repeal them in our courts and in Congress.”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of MPower Change, states:
“We continue to be outraged by this administration’s actions to ban immigrants seeking a better life in the United States. Trump is fulfilling a white nationalist agenda on the backs of Muslim and African communities and we will not stand for it. All of our families deserve to be together.”

About the No Muslim Ban Ever Coalition (NMBE)
The #NoMuslimBanEver campaign, endorsed by over 200 organizations, represents a diverse community of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations and allies in progressive, faith, immigrant, asylum, refugee, and civil rights sectors who came together in response to the Trump administration’s persistent efforts to ban individuals from Muslim-majority countries as part of its larger xenophobic, white nationalist agenda of exclusion. Visit for more information.


Advocates Urge Families to Fight Fear with Facts as Public Charge Implementation Date Announced

January 31, 2020

Juan Gastelum, NILC, 213-375-3149, [email protected]
Barbara Semedo, CLASP, 202-906-8010, [email protected]

Advocates Urge Families to Fight Fear with Facts as Public Charge Implementation Date Announced

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday its intent to begin implementing the Trump administration’s public charge regulation (PDF) on February 24 and that an applicant’s use of public programs covered by the new policy prior to that date will not be considered.

Few people who are subject to the public charge test qualify for public programs covered by the regulation, but the regulation’s expanded criteria, including age, credit score, and disability, are likely to harm many and dramatically reshape our nation’s immigration system. The fear generated by the rule in immigrant communities threatens the health, nutrition, and housing of millions of families — overwhelmingly families of color — all over the country.

Advocates leading the nationwide campaign against the policy have prepared simple, accessible materials offering accurate information for families (PDF). Those advocates reacted to Thursday’s announcement:

“Good governance should strive to set all families up to thrive, but under Trump, our government is instead intentionally harming families,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This fight is about the country we want to be and having a government that works for all families. We will continue fighting for a federal government that supports, not attacks, families in America.”

“The regulation itself directly affects benefit use by only a small number of people, but the Trump administration is counting on fear to amplify the harm,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “Fight fear with facts and make the best decision to protect your family.”

In a 5-4 Monday ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the last remaining injunctions blocking the regulation’s implementation nationwide. Those injunctions were imposed by a federal court hearing Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli and New York v. Department of Homeland Security. A separate injunction in Cook County, Illinois, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Inc. v. Kevin K. McAeenan, et. al. remains in effect but applies only in Illinois. Those suits, as well as others being litigated in other jurisdictions, argue that the regulation is an end-run around Congress, inconsistent with research and evidence, and based on racial animus. Litigation will continue as the regulation is implemented.

The regulation’s proposal in 2018 prompted massive popular resistance, generating a record-breaking 266,077 public comments, overwhelmingly opposed to it. The regulation has already done considerable harm. For the first time in more than a decade, the U.S.’s child uninsured rate has increased (PDF), and the Urban Institute reports that fear generated by the regulation is driving down health care and nutrition access in communities of color.


Civil Rights Groups Argue in the Fourth Circuit to Challenge Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban

January 28, 2020

Juan Gastelum, [email protected]; 213-375-3149

Civil Rights Groups Argue in the Fourth Circuit to Challenge the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban

WASHINGTON, DC —  Today, three years after the Trump administration announced the first iteration of the Muslim ban, civil rights groups argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in an ongoing challenge to the latest version of the Muslim ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to remain in effect in 2018. Today’s hearing focused on whether to allow civil rights groups to demand from the government more information about the origins of the ban. Over the past three years, the administration has continued to separate families solely on the basis of where they are from and what religion they practice.

The case, International Refugee Assistance Project, et al. v. Donald Trump, et al., is being argued in conjunction with two related cases, Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump and Zakzok v. Trump, and was brought by the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project, HIAS, the Middle East Studies Association, and others.

Max Wolson, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Today, we argued to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Muslim ban is a policy derived from hate and that this case more than meets the legal requirements to proceed to discovery. The administration’s Muslim ban has proven to be the foundation on which the administration built each additional attack on immigrants and communities of color. Since it was announced in the first week of Trump’s presidency, the Muslim ban has become just one part of a long list of shameful policies with the same goal of making life difficult for low-income communities of color.

“The issues in this case have implications far beyond the direct impact of the ban, which has had devastating consequences for people who are separated from loved ones and forced to miss family milestones. This administration’s anti-immigrant policies are a direct affront to the values we have aspired to since our nation’s founding. We will continue to fight to ensure that all people — regardless of where they were born, the color of their skin, what they earn, or how they pray — can live freely and be treated fairly in this country.”


Supreme Court Ruling Allows Trump Administration to Implement Anti-Immigrant Regulation While Challenges Are Heard

January 27, 2020 (posted edition revised Jan. 28, 2020)

Hayley Burgess, NILC, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
Barbara Semedo, CLASP, 202-906-8010, [email protected]

Supreme Court Ruling Allows Trump Administration to Implement Anti-Immigrant Regulation While Challenges Are Heard

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Supreme Court today temporarily lifted nationwide court orders blocking implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge regulation, allowing this widely opposed wealth test to take effect while several cases challenging the legality of the rule make their way through the courts. That regulation threatens the health, nutrition, and housing of families — overwhelmingly families of color — all over the country. The multiple lawsuits challenging the regulation will still have to be decided by their merits, and the regulation may be overturned by courts hearing those cases.

Few people who are subject to the public charge qualify for public programs covered by the regulation, but the regulation’s expanded criteria, including age, credit score, and disability, are likely to harm many. The regulation has already done considerable harm, generating fear that has driven immigrant families to forego assistance for which they qualify. In addition to the first uptick in America’s child uninsured rate in more than a decade, the Kaiser Family Foundation has reported that about half of community health centers reported people declining or canceling coverage because of the public charge regulation. Anecdotal accounts nationwide suggest similar harm with respect to anti-hunger programs. Experts expect the fear resulting from today’s ruling will deepen the “chilling effect.”

The two injunctions that were stayed today are Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli and New York v. Department of Homeland Security. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices did not focus significantly on the merits of the underlying suit. A written concurrence by Justices Gorsuch and Thomas questioned the propriety of nationwide injunctions in general.

“Nearly every sector of society has gone on record in opposition to this morally repugnant and legally dubious regulation, and for good reason: its implementation will hurt countless of immigrant and citizen families, and we’re all worse off as a result,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This move by the Supreme Court is deeply disheartening and harmful for our low-income communities of color and our democracy. But it only strengthens our resolve to continue to fight — both in the courtroom and along with our communities — for a future in which every family can thrive.”

“The regulation itself directly affects benefit use by only a small number of people, but the Trump administration is counting on fear to amplify the harm,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “The administration disregarded the law, the facts, and the voice of the American people to advance a brutal attack on millions of children and their families. Don’t let them win — fight fear with facts and make the best decision to protect your family. This regulation has already fueled fears that could cost millions their food, medical care, and homes”

The public charge regulation was finalized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August 2019 despite a record-breaking 266,000 public comments having been received about it, the vast majority in opposition. It represents a drastic departure from how the public charge test was previously administered and is opposed by experts in fields ranging from health to education and economics.

The DHS regulation is much narrower than early drafts leaked by the administration in 2018, applying in its final form to only a few specific public programs and a small segment of people. It is also one among many Trump policies targeting immigrant families of color. Others advanced by Trump’s State Department, Census Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture Department, and immigration enforcement agencies, among others, have contributed to the harm.

“The public charge regulation is ultimately about disenfranchising low-income communities of color. Trump has launched a governmentwide assault on families of color, and we must meet that challenge with an equally massive resistance,” said Hincapié. “As a Latina and as an immigrant, I know that my community will continue to fight back against Trump’s attacks on our communities. We urge our allies to join the fight to protect immigrant families.”

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The following changes were made to the posted edition of this news release on Jan. 28: The first sentence of the second paragraph was deleted and two new sentences added in its place. A new sentence was added to the beginning of paragraph three (to provide the names of the two cases). And the first sentence of the quotation from Olivia Golden (paragraph five) was slightly revised.

Trial Challenging Unconstitutional Conditions Inside U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Facilities in Arizona Ends

January 22, 2020

– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, [email protected]
– Marcela Taracena, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6004, [email protected]
– Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, 202-507-7526, [email protected]
– Matt Kovac, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, 415-543-9444, [email protected]
– Kristin Loe, Morrison & Foerster LLP, 415-268-6410, [email protected]

Trial Challenging Unconstitutional Conditions Inside U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Facilities in Arizona Ends

Immigration groups advocated on behalf of detained migrant men, women, and children who experienced dirty, cold, and overcrowded conditions in Border Patrol detention centers in the Tucson Sector

TUCSON — Today, a federal judge heard closing arguments in Doe v. Wolf, a lawsuit filed by the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the American Immigration Council, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015, seeks a permanent remedy to the inhumane conditions in U.S. Border Patrol detention centers in Arizona’s Tucson Sector. Evidence gathered in the case revealed cold and overcrowded conditions where there was no access to beds and limited access to soap, showers, adequate meals, and medical care.

During the course of the trial, a federal judge heard from qualified experts who testified on the inadequate medical care and severe conditions inside CBP detention centers. Another witness summarized government data that showed detention in these facilities are intended only for short-term confinement.

The judge also heard from two witnesses previously held in Tucson Sector facilities. One witness described very cold and filthy conditions and alleged she was not provided with any personal hygiene items or received any medical attention to an infected wound. She also described receiving a burrito that looked green and was past its expiration date. Another witness described inadequate medical care for her high-risk pregnancy and cells so overcrowded that she was forced to sleep on the floor next to a bathroom stall. She recounted the trouble she had moving around to get to the toilet to vomit.

“This case is about the dignity we provide to vulnerable men, women, and children seeking safety,” said Alessandra Navidad, executive director for the ACLU of Arizona. “We hope the court remedies Border Patrol’s harsh treatment of migrants and that those detained in the future are granted the humane treatment the constitution provides them.”

“Very few facts were in dispute at trial,” said Colette Reiner Mayer, trial counsel from Morrison & Foerster. “It was undisputed that although these facilities were designed for short-term detention, they are now routinely used to hold detainees for more than 72 hours. Likewise, there was no dispute that detainees are forced to sleep on the floor and are provided nothing for warmth but a thin mylar blanket. We are happy to be one step closer to ending the unconstitutional conditions in the Border Patrol’s hold rooms.”

“At trial, plaintiffs’ case revealed a systemic problem that’s been allowed to persist for far too long,” said Karolina Walters, staff attorney at the American Immigration Council. “Now that the court has all the facts and heard the arguments, we hope for a permanent remedy that will build upon the court’s earlier findings, ensure humane conditions in the Tucson Sector, and serve as an example for other CBP facilities.”

“This trial has made clear what we already knew: that CBP cannot justify the disgusting and dehumanizing conditions to which it subjects immigrants in its custody,” said Bree Bernwanger, senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “Our clients testified that they spent days in CBP custody with nowhere to sit or lie but on the floor in the doorway to a bathroom, that they vomited continuously without receiving medical attention, and that they spent night after night in freezing hold rooms, shivering and unable to sleep. These conditions are as senseless as they are harmful. We hope that this trial will lead to a permanent solution that brings the agency into compliance with the Constitution and guarantees humane treatment for our clients.”

“At the heart of this matter are issues of basic human dignity,” said Alvaro Huerta, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “As the judge aptly reminded the courtroom at the outset of this trial, this case is fundamentally about how we, as a country, treat people and what consequences that treatment has in their lives. We stand firmly in our belief that all people should be treated humanely and with dignity, and not detained in conditions that put their health and safety at risk.”

Immigration attorneys involved in the case held a telephonic press briefing following the trial, where they spoke on the inadequate medical care and severe conditions inside CBP detention centers. A recording of the briefing is available at

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Immigrant Rights Advocates and Individual Immigrants File Petition to Block Three Interrelated “Public Charge” Rules

January 21, 2020

– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
– Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York, (917) 771-2818, [email protected]
– Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, [email protected]
– Alejandra Lopez, The Legal Aid Society, (917) 294-9348, [email protected]

Immigrant Rights Advocates and Individual Immigrants File Petition to Block Three Interrelated “Public Charge” Rules

Plaintiffs seek preliminary injunction to protect immigrants seeking green cards while litigation continues

NEW YORK, NY — Today, immigrant rights advocates filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for a preliminary injunction in Make the Road New York v. Pompeo, the first federal lawsuit seeking to jointly block three interrelated “Public Charge” rules promulgated by the Trump administration.

Attorneys from The Legal Aid SocietyCenter for Constitutional RightsNational Immigration Law Center, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP are litigating the case on behalf of Make the Road New York (MRNY), African Services Committee (ASC), Central American Refugee Center New York (CARECEN-NY), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), and individual plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs argue that these interrelated rules seek, independently and together, to wholly transform the United States’ longstanding family-based immigration system, which allows immigrants and their loved ones to seek a new and better life in the United States, into a system that favors the wealthy and discriminates against people of color. These radical proposed changes violate the immigration statutes and the Constitution.

“Trump’s private health insurance proclamation is a stunning and illegal attempt by the administration to rewrite immigration law behind the back of Congress,” said Center for Constitutional Rights senior attorney Ghita Schwarz. “When you add it to the unlawful public charge wealth tests, a clear picture of this administration’s goal emerges: keeping out low-income immigrants of color.”

“The injunction we are seeking today is critical in protecting millions of immigrant families who are simply pursuing a better life for themselves and their children here in the U.S.,” said Susan Welber, staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “We will not allow Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda to reshape the very fabric of this country, and [we] look forward to fighting in court on behalf of our clients and all low-income noncitizens and their families.”

“The Trump administration’s repeated unlawful attempts to restrict family-based immigration by executive mandate are already causing immediate irreparable harm. They’re denying low-and moderate-income immigrants of color equal access to legal immigration and family unity, as well as clear access to the health, food, and housing that families need in order to thrive,” said Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “All three consular rules violate the Administrative Procedure Act and fail to explain how they would prevent harm to public health or the U.S. health care system. Experts warn that the health insurance coverage the White House proclamation requires would actually cause more people to become uninsured and underinsured, driving up uncompensated costs, jeopardizing public health, undermining the U.S. health care system, and frustrating the will of Congress.”

“The Trump administration’s public charge tests are racist and unlawful,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “The administration’s first round of public charge rules sought to make life miserable for low-income immigrants, and this set of rules builds on that by seeking to change the composition of who can immigrate to the United States to exclude immigrants of color and low-income families. We urge the court to put a full stop to any attempts to impose these racist wealth tests on our immigration system.”


The lawsuit challenges the legality of the following three rules:

1. The Department of State’s (DOS’s) January 3, 2018, changes to the public charge provisions of its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) governing consular processing, which led to a twelvefold increase in visa denials, largely of nonwhite immigrants.

2. The DOS October 11, 2019, Interim Final Rule, which changes the public charge regulations that pertain at the point of consular processing and would require DOS to apply the same enjoined U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “public charge” criteria to immigrants who must undergo consular processing before entering the country to unify with their parents, children, and spouses.

3. The “Presidential Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the Health Care System,” issued on October 4, 2019, which would bar entry to any immigrant who cannot demonstrate the ability to obtain certain types of private health insurance within 30 days of arrival.

Judge George B. Daniels recently enjoined a similar “public charge” rule (Make the Road New York v Cuccinelli) issued by DHS, which targeted low-income immigrants of color seeking to become lawful permanent residents through adjustment of status in the U.S. Last week, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Trump administration’s “emergency” request to stay that injunction, which is in effect nationwide, and on Monday, the Trump administration made an application to the U.S. Supreme Court to again seek a stay.

Two of the rules that advocates asked be enjoined today, both issued by DOS, concern changes to “public charge” determinations at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. The FAM changes are already in effect, and the DOS public charge rule is nearly identical to the blocked DHS rule, which redefines public charge from a person who is predominantly reliant on government aid for subsistence to include anyone that a government officer predicts is likely to use any amount, at any time in the future — even long after becoming a U.S. citizen — of various cash and noncash benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and federal housing subsidies.

The rules challenged today apply to immigrants who must undergo consular processing abroad, including longtime residents of the U.S. who must temporarily leave the country in order to complete the process for becoming a lawful permanent resident. Thus, though immigrants obtaining their green card from within the U.S. are not subjected to the DHS rule because it is currently enjoined, individuals who are required to complete the process through consular processing are threatened by nearly identical provisions via the DOS rule.

The lawsuit states that denials of admissions and permanent status on public charge grounds are likely to rise dramatically if the DOS public charge rule goes into effect. The FAM changes implemented in early 2018 have already caused a twelvefold increase in denials between 2016 and 2019, with disproportionate impact on immigrants from nonwhite countries. The lawsuit cites studies showing that 81 percent of the world’s population would fail to satisfy the wealth test that is a factor in the public charge determination under the DOS’s Interim Final Rule. More than 40 percent of U.S. citizens use the benefits the government seeks to penalize in its new definition of public charge.

Advocates also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction blocking an unprecedented presidential proclamation and agency implementing actions that bar entry to immigrants who cannot demonstrate the ability to obtain certain private health insurance plans within 30 days of arrival or financial resources to pay for foreseeable medical costs, claiming, with no support, that new lawful permanent residents impose financial burdens on the U.S.’s health care system. No president has ever used the Immigration and Nationality Act’s proclamation authority to impose new immigration requirements based on domestic policy goals. Our lawsuit alleges this, too, violates the public charge statute, which requires that the government evaluate immigrants based on a totality of circumstances, not just whether they can purchase expensive private health care plans.

The impacts of the DOS public charge criteria and the health care proclamation and agency implementing actions will be particularly severe on immigrant families of color, who are more likely to be denied admission and separated as a result of this rule. For example, plaintiff Eric Doe, a U.S. citizen suffering from a chronic form of cancer requiring ongoing treatment, is sponsoring his wife, an intending immigrant from Mexico. They also reside with three of their children. As a result of the proclamation and agency implementing actions, Eric Doe could be separated from his wife upon whom he relies for care, and the children could be separated from their mother.

Plaintiff Carl Doe, a business owner from El Salvador who is the primary financial and emotional support for his U.S. citizen wife, could be barred from entry if he does not purchase highly expensive insurance that does not provide basic coverage. If he is barred, his wife will not be able to support herself through her low-wage job and may have to access supplemental public benefits as a result.

As a further consequence of these draconian policies, more immigrants and mixed–immigration status families like theirs are also more likely to refuse or cease use of benefits such as health care to which they are entitled — even benefits not impacted by the new policies. The new rules impose nonsensical requirements on immigrants and will cause needless hardship and suffering.

For more information, see

Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (filed Jan. 21, 2020)

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Migrant Justice Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Vermont DMV

January 15, 2020

– Juan Gastelum, NILC, [email protected], 520-313-4921
– Will Lambek, Migrant Justice, [email protected], 802-321-8393
– Beth Nolan, ACLU-VT Communications Director, [email protected], 802-223-6304 x111

Migrant Justice Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Vermont DMV

Federal case over immigration information-sharing ends

MONTPELIER, VT — Human rights organization Migrant Justice and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles have reached a settlement in a federal antidiscrimination lawsuit. The Vermont-based farmworker group, accompanied by its legal team, announced the settlement Wednesday in a press conference in the state’s capital.

“With this settlement, the state of Vermont makes good on its promise to guarantee access to driver’s licenses without discrimination,” said Migrant Justice leader and suit plaintiff Enrique Balcazar. “Though justice delayed is justice denied for the many whose lives have been ruined by the DMV’s harmful collaboration with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], we firmly believe that this settlement will put an end to that abuse of power going forward. Vermont’s immigrant community can now safely exercise this hard-fought right.”

The case stems from the Vermont DMV’s practice of information-sharing and collaboration with federal immigration agents, particularly targeting Latino applicants. In 2013, after a campaign spearheaded by Migrant Justice, Vermont passed legislation creating a new class of driver’s license available regardless of immigration status, called “driver’s privilege cards.” Following the law’s implementation, DMV officials began routinely colluding with ICE in the immigration detention and deportation of many DMV customers, prompting one ICE agent to write to a DMV employee, “We’re going to have to make you an honorary ICE officer!”

Despite a 2016 settlement with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the DMV continued to discriminate against applicants and share information with immigration agents. In 2017, the DMV sent to ICE the driver’s license application of community leader Enrique Balcazar, on which a DMV employee had written “Undocumented,” an act that resulted in Enrique’s subsequent detention and potential deportation. Enrique is one of many human rights leaders in Vermont who have been targeted by ICE due to their activism, a pattern detailed in the lawsuit.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Migrant Justice farmworker leaders signed the settlement agreement to end the organization’s claims against the DMV. The lengthy and detailed settlement formalizes new regulations to restrict communication and information-sharing between the state department and federal immigration agencies. Furthermore, the DMV will be prohibited from retaining copies of birth certificates, passports, and other sensitive information of applicants for driver’s privilege cards. The DMV must retrain all personnel and hire an auditor for a minimum of 18 months to ensure compliance with the agreement.

ACLU of Vermont Attorney Lia Ernst said, “Today’s settlement puts a stop to the DMV’s history of close collaboration with Border Patrol and ICE and ensures greater protections for our immigrant communities. The settlement limits what information the DMV collects and under what circumstances that information can be shared with the federal government. We know, however, that the protections our clients fought for and won are only as strong as their implementation and enforcement. That is why this settlement also includes training, transparency, and accountability measures that ensure that those protections are realized. The ACLU and our allies have long fought for the rights of immigrants in Vermont, and this detailed, far-reaching, and comprehensive settlement helps further disentangle Vermont from the Trump administration’s deportation machine.”

Under today’s settlement, Vermont has adopted strong provisions protecting drivers’ personal information from unlawful disclosure. Across the country, states are increasingly recognizing it is necessary to vigilantly safeguard the information submitted to motor vehicle agencies to ensure the success of driver’s license programs, such as Vermont’s driver privilege card, increase public and road safety, and make a state more welcoming for all who call it home.

“We strive for communities in which all of us, regardless of where we were born, have access to the tools and opportunities necessary to thrive, including the ability to drive lawfully,” said Sarah Kim Pak, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “As a country and in our local communities, we cannot allow the weaponization of essential DMV and other government services, which require the disclosure of personal information and data, to infringe upon fundamental civil rights, to instill fear, or to bring harm to our families and neighbors. With this settlement, Vermont is taking a significant step toward safeguarding the rights, information, and data privacy of all its residents. We are proud to stand alongside our courageous plaintiffs and partners who have fought to secure this important victory for all Vermonters.”

“Today’s settlement is a testament to the power of every individual to demand and achieve accountability of public actors,” said Joel Cohen, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “We are hopeful that this agreement will serve as a model for other public agencies across the country to evaluate their information-sharing practices and adopt more robust antidiscrimination protections that ensure equal access to public services for all.”

While the portion of the case against the Vermont DMV was settled today, the case continues against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Plaintiffs sued the federal agencies in November 2018 following an unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest, and detain Migrant Justice members and leaders. Those activities were undertaken in retaliation for plaintiffs’ First Amendment–protected speech and assembly and in order to destabilize Migrant Justice and its successful organizing of Vermont’s immigrant farmworkers.

Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farmworkers. The organization is a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with members Enrique Balcazar, Zully Palacios, and Victor Diaz, all of whom have been unlawfully targeted by ICE.

Plaintiffs in the suit are represented by the ACLU of Vermont, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

For more information, visit

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at