Category Archives: June 2014

Children from Central America Fleeing Persecution

June 30, 2014

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

Obama Administration Moves to Deport Children Fleeing Persecution

Request to Congress Puts Immigrant Children at Risk

WASHINGTON – The New York Times and other sources have reported that the Obama administration will ask Congress to expand its legal authority to fast track deportations for Central American children fleeing violence in their home countries. The administration also will request up to $2 billion in additional funds to pay for care for these children.

The National Immigration Law Center has long fought for the due process rights of all immigrants, particularly those fleeing violence in Central America. The organization has secured nationwide permanent injunctions to ensure basic protections for detained migrants. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“Since its inception, America has been a beacon of hope and fair treatment for those fleeing persecution or dangerous situations in their home countries. Today, the Obama administration will ask Congress to give it authority that contradicts this country’s noble history, allowing it to quickly deport Central American children back to the violent situations they escaped.

“This is outrageous and unacceptable. This latest move is simply part of the Obama administration’s failed strategy of trying to appease right wing policymakers. We’ve seen the administration use this erroneous logic for more than six years, resulting in the separation of more than two million families due to deportation. Continuing to use this flawed logic, this time to deport children, is unconscionable.

“These Central American children deserve nothing less than a compassionate, regional response to what has become a humanitarian situation affecting the entire hemisphere. Instead of placing children back in the violent situations they risked their lives to leave, the Obama administration should work with its counterparts in Latin America to go after smugglers and others who seek to profit off this truly tragic situation.

“Our immigration system should allow all people — and especially children — to receive fair and full consideration of their legal claims and have their day in court. Failure to afford these young people basic dignity and security under the law will not appease fear mongers, and the price of the administration’s actions — pushing vulnerable children back into dangerous or deadly situations — is simply too high.

“We call upon Senate and House leaders to swiftly reject this request, and instead work with advocates and experts to ensure that the fundamental rights of these children are guaranteed.”

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On Immigration, Obama Must Act Boldly

June 30, 2014

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

National Immigration Law Center Responds to President Obama’s Remarks on Administrative Relief

President must go bold, says NILC’s Marielena Hincapié

WASHINGTON — In remarks from the Rose Garden, President Obama today announced he would no longer wait for Congress to begin fixing the immigration system. Although he did not provide a specific administrative proposal, the president noted that he would begin allocating judicial resources along the U.S.-Mexico border, moving funding away from interior enforcement operations. The president also announced that he had asked the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to provide recommendations to determine how the president can use his legal authority to improve the immigration system. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who attended a meeting with the president and his senior staff shortly before his speech at the Rose Garden:

“In a historic shift, the president acknowledged what many of us have long noted: The House of Representatives’ GOP leadership lacks political will to bring immigration reform to a vote this year. In the meantime, 1000 immigrants are ripped from their families and communities each day.

“Today’s announcement brings a sliver of hope to those of us who have advocated for President Obama to use the power of his pen to create a system that allows immigrants, who are vital members of our communities and economy, to come forward to apply for relief from deportation and for work authorization. This shift in the administration’s priorities is a testament to the courage and leadership exemplified by immigrant communities, who have been calling on the president to use the full extent of his legal authority to allow immigrants to contribute fully to society.

“In order to truly change our immigration system, however, President Obama must be bold, and he must act quickly. Rather than tinker at the edges of a formidable enforcement machine, President Obama should create a system that embraces immigrants as an inextricable part of the fabric of our society. Doing so would both cement his legacy and improve our nation’s economy.”

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Click here to read NILC’s fact sheet on how Obama can stop deportations.

Click here to read NILC’s fact sheet on ways the Department of Homeland Security can immediately scale back detentions and deportations.


Affordable Care Act FOIA Filed

June 19, 2014

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

National Immigration Law Center Seeks Answers for Failure to Enroll Eligible Immigrant Families in Health Care

Freedom of Information Act Request Seeks Data on Eligible Immigrants Shut Out of Federal Health Care Marketplace

WASHINGTON — Far too many eligible immigrants were shut out of the online federal health care marketplace due to onerous and inflexible identity verification requirements, and advocates want to know why. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) today filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the government’s “identity proofing” requirements and its use of Experian, the credit check database used to verify a user’s identity on, the federal website through which Americans may enroll in health care plans as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The health insurance application process requires the electronic verification of several pieces of information applicants provide, including household income and citizenship or immigration status. Because of important consumer protections built into the law, deficiencies with the electronic verification system generally do not prevent people from buying necessary insurance for themselves or their loved ones.

However, users of have found that if Experian fails to verify their identity, they are automatically prevented from buying insurance through the website. As a result, they have to navigate a maze of red tape to successfully buy the health insurance they are required to have under the new health care law. Because the Experian database relies on an individual’s credit history to verify his or her identity, the database cannot verify the identity of recently arrived immigrants and young people who don’t have credit histories, among others.

“The promise of the Affordable Care Act — to provide access to affordable health care for all eligible individuals — has been undermined by an unnecessarily restrictive and inflexible identity verification system that locks millions of immigrant families and others out of Obamacare,” said Alvaro Huerta, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “The process is not responsive to the real-world circumstances of many low-income Americans and is keeping too many people from enrolling in the health care coverage they need. We want to know how the government plans to fix this problem before open enrollment begins again later this year.”

Obamacare “navigators” (individuals who help applicants navigate the new system) and health care advocates working with immigrants described the identity-proofing process as one of the top issues preventing their clients from purchasing health care. Jean Paul Ruzibiza, an immigrant from Burundi seeking asylum in Maine, obtained work authorization in February and applied for insurance through Experian was unable to verify his identity, forcing Ruzibiza and advocates to call the national marketplace call center to process his application, which has been incorrectly denied. Mr. Ruzibiza has appealed the decision, but the issue has yet to be resolved. In the meantime, Mr. Ruzibiza, who suffers chronic health issues due to having been tortured in his home country, remains without health coverage.

“Jean Paul is a prime example of someone who the marketplace is intended to help, but who has been improperly denied coverage,” said Robyn Merrill, a senior policy analyst with Maine Equal Justice Partners, which is assisting Mr. Ruzibiza.

NILC’s Freedom of Information Act request seeks data on how many people have been denied health care due to this technical glitch, information about why the government chose to use the Experian database to verify identity, and the government’s plans for remedying this problem. Once obtained, information produced by the request will be made available from

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.

A copy of the FOIA request is available at

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Utah HB 497 Provisions Blocked

June 18, 2014

Adela de la Torre, NILC: 213-400-7822; [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU: 415 343-0785; [email protected] or[email protected]
Karen McCreary, ACLU of Utah: (801) 871-0330;[email protected]

Civil Rights Coalition Victorious in Lawsuit against Utah Anti-Immigrant Law

Federal District Court Blocks Several Provisions of HB 497, Strictly Limits Enforcement of “Show Me Your Papers” Provision

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal district court today issued a decisionblocking several components of Utah’s HB 497, an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law passed in 2011 that threatened the basic civil rights of all Utahns.

In its order, the court blocked key provisions of the law that would have allowed police to arrest certain potentially deportable immigrants and that would have criminalized everyday activities, such as driving an undocumented immigrant to the store. The order also severely limited implementation of several provisions of the law. The court clarified that the provision authorizing police to demand “papers” of those they think may be in the country without authorization does not authorize police to stop or detain an individual simply to verify his or her immigration status. The court also made clear that the law does not require Utahns to carry identification with them at all times.

“Today’s order establishes a bright line for Utah law enforcement, explaining to local police that if they prolong a traffic stop for even one minute to determine an individual’s immigration status, they risk running afoul of the U.S. Constitution,” said Karen Tumlin, the managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center who argued the case before the court in 2012 and again in 2013. “The decision makes efforts to ward off overzealous attempts to determine whether someone is American based on the way they look or whether they have an accent.

Archie Archuleta of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said, “Today’s order reinforces a simple truth: No one should fear being charged with a misdemeanor or felony simply for driving her parent to the grocery store or a friend to church. Although the fight for equality is not over, we are pleased to see that the court has prevented much of this law from harming countless Utahns.”

Karen McCreary, executive director of the ACLU of Utah, said, “Since our lawsuit halted HB 497 from going into effect three years ago, there has been growing acknowledgement among Utahns that state laws such as HB 497 and Arizona’s law primarily cause division and strife within our community and that as a state we are better off working for longer term comprehensive solutions that protect our families and enhance our economy. Even the primary sponsor of HB 497 now has publicly acknowledged HB497 is not good public policy for our state. The Utah legislature should respond by repealing what remains of this law following Judge Waddoup’s ruling.”

“The court’s message is loud and clear: state and local police may not stop, detain, or arrest someone solely for immigration purposes,” said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in 2013.

In the 2011 filing, civil rights groups charged that HB 497 is unconstitutional because it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and authorizes and requires unreasonable seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment, among other unconstitutional challenges.

Counsel for the plaintiffs in the case were:

National Immigration Law Center: Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney;

ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project: Cecillia Wang, Omar C. Jadwat, Andre Segura, Katherine Desormeau, Jennifer Chang Newell;

ACLU of Utah: Leah Farrell;

Munger, Tollles & Olson LLP: Bradley S. Phillips.

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NILC Attorney a “Champion of Change”

June 16, 2014

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

National Immigration Law Center’s Kamal Essaheb Named a Presidential “Champion of Change”

Immigrant Who Once Faced Deportation to Join June 17 White House Celebration

WASHINGTON — Kamal Essaheb, an immigration policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center’s Washington, DC, office, was named a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama earlier today. The White House cited Essaheb’s work to promote the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as an example of his commitment to improving the lives of immigrants across the country. Essaheb, who came to the United States at age 11, has dedicated his legal career to ensuring that immigrant families are better able to navigate an infamously complex legal system.

At the National Immigration Law Center, Essaheb works with young immigrants such as himself, government officials, and other allies to advocate for broad immigration reform and the fair implementation of current laws and policies. Essaheb is also an ardent supporter of efforts to restore fairness, due process, and justice to our detention and deportation system.

Like some other young immigrants, Essaheb was able to achieve his educational goals by securing private scholarships and other forms of financial support. As a law student at Fordham University, he was awarded Stein scholarships to support his commitment to community advocacy. Unlike other law students, Essaheb faced an additional hurdle while attending law school: he was using his developing legal skills to stop his own deportation. His experience navigating through the Department of Homeland Security’s draconian detention and deportation system has compelled him to advocate for fairness for other immigrants who face similar challenges.

“The attorneys and advocates who helped me with my case continue to serve as a personal and professional inspiration to me,” said Essaheb. “My goal today is to do for others what so many legal advocates have done for me — fight to restore fairness and due process to a system that has for too long been blind to these fundamental American values.”

“Over the last two years, Kamal has proven to be a savvy advocate for low-income immigrants and their families, cutting through legalese to help policymakers, the media, and others understand the consequences of our inhumane and irrational immigration system,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This recognition by the White House comes as no surprise to those of us who have watched him fight to ensure that all people, regardless of where they were born or how much money they have, are treated with dignity. We are very proud that, as someone who has been directly impacted by our deportation policies, Kamal is being honored today by the White House for using his legal and policy expertise to create systemic change.”

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 an integrated approach of advocacy, litigation, and communication strategies. Over the past three decades, NILC has won landmark legal decisions protecting fundamental rights, promoted pro-immigrant policies resulting in greater integration, and advanced major policies that reinforce our nation’s values of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

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DACA Renewal Form Available

June 5, 2014

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

New Application Forms & Instructions for DACA Eligibility Released by USCIS

NILC Urges DACA Youth to Apply for Renewal As Soon As They’re Eligible

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released the revised form that must be completed by all those who wish to renew their protection from deportation and work authorization through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA was first implemented on August 15, 2012, and the first beneficiaries of this program are already eligible to apply to renew their documents.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), which has led efforts to provide all eligible youth and service providers with the tools and information to apply for DACA, urges those who have been granted DACA and those applying for the first time to carefully read and follow the guidelines laid out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. More than 550,000 people have been approved for DACA.

“It has been almost two years since President Obama first announced the DACA program, which gives immigrant youth the opportunity to more fully contribute to their own communities. The economic, social, and education benefits of the program have been clearly demonstrated by the more than half million immigrants who have participated in it so far,” said Marielena Hincapié, NILC’s executive director.

“It is up to us — the advocates and legal service providers, along with eligible youth and their parents — to continue the success of this program by completing and submitting DACA renewal applications and instructing other eligible candidates about how to sign up for this important program,” Hincapié added.

“People who currently have DACA must adhere strictly to the renewal application guidelines to maintain their DACA standing and work authorization. For example, immigrants who currently have DACA should complete and submit their renewal application 120 to 150 days before their current DACA and employment authorization document (EAD) expire in order to ensure that they remain legally eligible to be employed. Renewing one’s DACA will ensure that the person with DACA is protected from deportation if he or she is picked up by immigration law enforcement authorities, such as in an immigration raid.

“Until Congress fixes the immigration system and creates a path to citizenship, President Obama’s DACA program is the only alternative available for young immigrants who qualify to remain in the U.S. and get work authorization,” Hincapié said. “That is why it is critically important for young people who currently have DACA to renew their authorization for another two years and for those who have not signed up to apply immediately.”

“In the meantime, NILC will continue to advocate for an immigration system that provides relief from deportation as well as work authorization to as many aspiring citizens, no matter their age, as possible,” Hincapié said.

NILC has conducted webinars and created materials to assist DACA applicants and legal service providers. Answers to frequently asked questions regarding renewal of DACA are available and will be updated and augmented in the coming days and weeks.

The revised DACA application form is available at

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