Category Archives: July 2011

NILC Asks Court to Block Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 21, 2011

CONTACT:
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (334) 956-8417; marion.steinfels@splcenter.org
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Nikki Cox, ACLU of Alabama, (334) 265- 2754, ext. 205

NILC Asks Court to Block Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of other civil rights groups filed a motion today asking a federal judge to block Alabama’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Sept. 1.

The motion for preliminary injunction, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, follows a federal lawsuit the groups filed earlier this month that charged the law is unconstitutional on multiple grounds. Alabama’s law, which affects myriad aspects of daily life for countless Alabamians, is even more restrictive than Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which has been blocked by the courts.

“This law flies in the face of the core rights and liberties our Constitution was designed to preserve,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center, “Alabamians, like all Americans, deserve better than to saddle local teachers, law enforcement officers, and business people with the additional responsibility of asking children, customers, and community members for their ‘papers.’ We are hopeful that the court will block this discriminatory and unconstitutional law before it takes effect and causes irreparable harms for countless Alabamians.”

The Alabama law was signed into law in June by Gov. Robert Bentley and is the harshest of the Arizona copycat state laws.

The lawsuit charges that HB 56:

  • Chills children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents.
  • Authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops and criminalizes Alabamians for ordinary interactions with undocumented individuals.
  • Unconstitutionally interferes with federal authority over immigration matters a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also subjects Alabamians including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to unlawful search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Alabama is one of six states that have enacted a law emulating Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. Federal courts have been unanimous in blocking similar provisions in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. The coalition has also vowed to challenge South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law.

“This law so undermines our core American values of fairness and equality that it is essential this be weighed before the law is allowed to go into effect,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “When the Speaker of the House, who championed this law and guided it to passage, is acknowledging it has problems, it is clear we have a serious issue.”

“We have already stopped even less oppressive laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Not only is Alabama’s law blatantly unconstitutional, it flies in the face of American values by authorizing racial profiling, deterring children from going to school, and criminalizing those who lend a hand to individuals deemed by the state of Alabama to be ‘illegal.’”

“This law is not only anti-immigrant, it is anti-American,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “It will criminalize Alabamians for everyday interactions with people who are here without documents, such as driving someone to the grocery store or to church, and law enforcement officers will be required to violate the constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.”

“HB 56 seeks to drive all immigrants out of Alabama,” said Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “The courts need to send a strong message that it is not permissible under the law.”

“By creating this law, which impacts not just undocumented immigrants but citizens and legal immigrants who might look ‘foreign’ or speak with an accent, Alabama makes all communities less safe,” said Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “It’s sad that Alabama, the site of many historic civil rights struggles for equality and justice, would enact a law that encourages racial and ethnic profiling. This unconstitutional measure will impact more than 46,000 Asian American immigrants, likely damage Alabama’s reputation and economy and do nothing to fix our broken immigration system. We urge Congress to do its job and fix our immigration laws.”

“Alabama has declared war on immigrants, primarily Latino immigrants. Every Latino in Alabama, regardless of status, is at risk,” said Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “By this motion, we hope to save this state from descending into a racial abyss. We are confident that the courts and people of Alabama will stand with us and stop HB 56 from going into effect.”

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

See the motion for and memorandum in support of preliminary injunction. (PDF)

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NILC Denounces S-Comm Advisory Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 20, 2011

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

NILC Denounces S-Comm Advisory Committee

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The National Immigration Law Center joined more than 200 civil rights organizations to denounce the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) recently formed advisory committee on Secure Communities (S-Comm). In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton, the groups expressed deep disappointment in the advisory committee, which will be virtually unable to make significant recommendations to fix this fundamentally flawed program.

“By funneling hundreds of thousands of parents, children, students, and others into the deportation pipeline, S-Comm has effectively severed an already-tenuous tie between communities of color and local law enforcement,” said Nora Preciado, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Instead of listening to the community and putting a moratorium on this program, DHS has simply applied window dressing in the form of an advisory committee without any real authority. This is not the ‘reform’ we were hoping for.”

Members of the newly-created advisory committee, which include law enforcement officials, ICE agents, and immigrants’ rights advocates, were appointed without public input. The committee’s scope is limited to suggestions about treatment of individuals identified as a result of minor traffic offenses. The committee has no authority to stem the deportations of hundreds of thousands of community members caught in the S-Comm dragnet.

The controversial program has sparked outcry among immigrant and law enforcement communities across the country, prompting governors from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts to request that their states be allowed to opt-out of S-Comm. The California legislature is also considering the TRUST Act, legislation that would put the power back in local hands to determine if participation in S-Comm comports with community policing concerns.

In May, Angelenos were shocked to learn that S-Comm triggered deportation proceedings for Isaura Gomez, a mother who called 911 to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend.

ICE’s practices and policies have been shrouded in secrecy since the program’s inception. Civil rights organizations, including the National Day Labor Organizing Network, filed a lawsuit demanding that the government shed light on its practices. The documents procured as a result of the suit, which were made public earlier this year, showed that ICE used misleading definitions of “voluntary” and “opt out” to allow room for the agency to expand implementation of the program.

“For too long, ICE has rebuffed public and private pleas for accountability and transparency on a program that has wreaked havoc on our communities,” said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “We hope this letter will serve a wake-up call to ICE: we will not be placated by toothless advisory committees and cosmetic changes. We demand that ICE put the brakes on the fatally flawed ‘S-Comm.’”

A copy of the letter to ICE director John Morton is available athttps://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/371/images/FINALSCommMortonLtr.pdf.

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NILC Files Lawsuit Challenging Alabama’s H.B. 56

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 8, 2011

CONTACT:
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (334) 956-8417; marion.steinfels@splcenter.org
Elizabeth Beresford, ACLU national, (917) 498-9697 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Nikki Cox, ACLU of Alabama, (334) 265- 2754, ext. 205

NILC Files Lawsuit Challenging Alabama’s H.B. 56

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit today challenging Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant law, HB 56, passed last month. The draconian law is even more restrictive than the Arizona law it was inspired by—Arizona’s SB 1070.

The Alabama law chills children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalizes Alabamians for ordinary, everyday interactions with undocumented individuals. The lawsuit charges that the extreme law endangers public safety, invites the racial profiling of Latinos, Asians and others who appear foreign to an officer, and interferes with federal law.

The coalition filing the lawsuit includes the National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, the Asian Law Caucus, and the Asian American Justice Center. The law is set to take effect September 1.

The lawsuit charges that HB 56 is unconstitutional in that it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters, in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; subjects Alabamians including countless U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to unlawful search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment; unlawfully deters immigrant families from enrolling their children in public schools; unconstitutionally bars many lawfully present immigrants from attending public colleges or universities in Alabama; and drastically restricts the right to enter into contracts.

Alabama is the fifth state to have enacted laws emulating Arizona’s controversial and costly SB 1070, even though the Arizona law was blocked by the courts. In a stinging rebuke to these unconstitutional laws, federal courts have also halted implementation of similar laws passed in Utah, Indiana and Georgia. The coalition has announced plans to challenge the latest state to pass an Arizona-inspired anti-immigrant law, South Carolina.

The filing of the lawsuit was announced at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in downtown Montgomery.

“If allowed to take effect, this law will deter parents from enrolling their children in schools, restrict the ability of individuals and businesses across Alabama to freely engage in commercial activities, and restrict ministers from fully administering to their parishioners’ spiritual and other needs,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “In short, Alabama’s law will affect the daily lives of countless residents, native-born and foreign alike. Alabama cannot constitutionally turn teachers, landlords, and community members into de facto immigration enforcement agents. We look forward to adding HB 56 to the roster of discriminatory laws that have been blocked by federal courts.”

“We have filed this lawsuit today because Alabama’s immigration law is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This law revisits the state’s painful racial past and tramples the rights of all Alabama residents. It should never become the law of the land.”

So far, none of these discriminatory anti-immigrant laws passed by the states have been fully implemented due to legal challenges.

“Alabama has brazenly enacted this law despite the clear writing on the wall: Federal courts have stopped each and every one of these discriminatory laws from going into effect,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Local Alabama communities and people across the country are shocked and dismayed by the state’s effort to erode our civil rights and fundamental American values. Just as we’ve stopped similar draconian laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia from going into effect, we will do so here in Alabama as well.”

“HB 56 is the harshest version of the SB1070 copycats we have seen so far,” said Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “Requiring schools to verify a student’s immigration status forces teachers to become law enforcement officers which is counterproductive to creating a positive learning environment. HB 56 should be struck down as unconstitutional.”

“Alabama’s HB 56 comes at the unacceptably high cost of sacrificing the U. S. Constitution. This law, if allowed to stand, will create a two-tiered system of justice in Alabama, which all Alabamians should fight against,” said Olivia Turner, executive director, ACLU of Alabama. “In the nearly fifty years since the historical and worldwide movement for civil and human rights began in our state, real progress has been made. But this law threatens to pull us back to a dark and shameful past—and one in which all Alabamians were held back.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit reflect the far-reaching and devastating impacts HB 56 would have if allowed to be implemented even for a single day. Plaintiff Matt Webster and his wife are in the process of adopting two boys. These children do not currently have federal immigration status but are in the process of acquiring it based on their U.S. citizen adoptive parents. Alabama’s immigration law will criminalize these youths and make it illegal for Webster to transport and provide for these children.

“I will be considered a criminal for harboring, encouraging and transporting my own sons,” he said. Webster added, “I am furious that our state representatives have wasted and will continue to waste taxpayer money with this law. I am a Republican and probably agree with many of our Republican legislators on most issues. On this one, however, I do not.”

The law has also raised concerns from faith-based organizations that provide community services.

“Today, our mission and the missions of many religious groups across Alabama have been made impossible by the recently enacted Alabama immigration law,” said Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This law interferes with the free exercise of religion. It violates core values of various faiths because it criminalizes acts of love and hospitality commandments from our God of many names.”

Other agencies that work with immigrant communities are concerned the law may criminalize their work.

“We are fearful that HB 56 will lead to another era in this state of racial profiling and discrimination and foster hate and separation, rather than welcoming and community-building,” said John Pickens, executive director for Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “What we need is a comprehensive national immigration policy, and our state legislative leaders, and Governor Bentley, should be urging our congressional representatives in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform, rather than spending time passing and trying to enforce piecemeal state immigration laws.”

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), a social service organization that works with the Latino community, joined the lawsuit because of the damage the law will inflict across the state.

“If implemented, HB56 will cause irreparable harm to Alabama’s reputation, to the vitality of our economy, and to the well-being of hardworking immigrant families that ¡HICA! works daily to engage and empower,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director of ¡HICA!. “With no other recourse remaining, ¡HICA! must join this lawsuit to stop HB56.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on behalf of several organizations and individuals across the state who will be adversely affected by the law.

Attorneys on the case include Bauer, Sam Brooke, Andrew Turner, Michelle LaPointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Cecillia D. Wang, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, Michael K. T. Tan and Freddy Ruibio of the American Civil Liberties Union; Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney, and Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Erin E. Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; and G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip, and Rebekah Keith McKinney.

See the complaint in the lawsuit. (PDF)

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The POWER Act Would Thwart Bad-Apple Employers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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

The POWER Act Would Thwart Bad-Apple Employers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) yesterday introduced the POWER (Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation) Act, legislation that that, if passed, would expand the right to organize and offer key protections to all workers. Below is a statement from Emily Tulli, policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center:

“For too long, bad-apple employers have taken advantage of the broken immigration system by reporting workers who assert their labor rights to immigration enforcement officials, hurting organizing efforts for all workers. The POWER Act would put an end to the unfair advantage unscrupulous employers currently enjoy by closing the legal loophole between immigration and labor law. In doing so, the POWER Act will finally level the playing field for employers who play by the rules and respect workers’ rights. We hope colleagues of Sen. Menendez, Rep. Miller, and Rep. Chu will follow in their footsteps and pass this much-needed legislation.”

The text of the Senate and House bills is available from http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. The bill numbers are:

  • S.1195 (Senate bill)
  • H.R.2169 (House bill)

See a NILC summary and analysis of the bill (PDF).

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