Category Archives: March 2013

Right’s Groups Urge Better Policy from “Gang of 8”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2013

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org
Cristina Parker, BNHR, 915-875-9107, cparker@bnhr.org
Ricardo Favela, SBCC, 760-468-4519, ricardo@alliancesd.org

An Incomplete Border Trip

Rights Groups Urge Senate “Gang of 8” Members to Adopt a Better Border Policy

NOGALES, AZ —  Four senators who have pledged to revamp the nation’s immigration laws visited the U.S.-Mexico border this week, prompting a broad coalition of immigrants’ and human rights organizations to urge lawmakers to enact better border policies that restore border residents’ basic rights.

In recent years, the Border Patrol has come under strong criticism by border communities for its lack of transparency in cases involving border agents’ use of excessive and disproportionate force. Since 2010, at least 20 civilians have been killed and several others have been seriously injured. Most cases remain unresolved.

The senatorial delegation arrived in Arizona yesterday, a day after Senator McCain cancelled a town hall meeting with residents who expected to raise concerns over Border Patrol conduct and less than 6 months after the deadly cross-border shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The teenage boy was fatally shot by Border Patrol agents while standing on the Mexican side of the border wall, near the area that was visited by the senators.

Local community organizations welcomed the senators’ visit but were disappointed that lawmakers did not take time to meet with border residents to learn about their experiences with harsh border security initiatives.

“Dialogue with border communities is fundamental in the development of commonsense immigration reform,” said Rev. Randy Mayer, Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, AZ. “Without fully understanding our communities, it will be difficult for the senators to establish a clear balance between national security concerns and the economic and social needs of the nation.”

“Accountability over the Border Patrol is vital to the region,” continued Rev. Mayer, who also is a leading member of the Arizona-Sonora Communities Coalition and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, two of the organizations urging lawmakers to adopt better border policies.

“Instead of only focusing on border security, the senators have the responsibility to assess the full context of the border, including how border communities contribute to the culture and economy of this country,” added Rev. Mayer.

An estimated 6 million people, or one in every 24 jobs, depend on trade with Mexico, for example. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that every minute of delay at the five busiest southern ports costs the U.S. economy $116 million, and the cumulative loss over the next 10 years could be as much as $86 billion.

A broad coalition of immigrant and human rights groups have urged members of the Gang of 8 to ensure that an immigration reform bill includes accountability and oversight mechanisms over U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries and to encourage more investment in modernizing the congested ports of entry along the southern border.

The coalition includes:  Border Network for Human Rights, National Immigration Law Center, Detention Watch Network, Rights Working Group, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, National Guestworker Alliance, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Southern Border Communities Coalition.

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Senate Hearing on Detention & Deportation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2013

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

Senate Hearing Exposes Broken Immigration Detention and Deportation System

Groups Urge Congress to Restore Due Process, Fairness in Immigration System

WASHINGTON —  The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today to expose our current immigration system’s disregard of due process and civil rights. Witnesses at the hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), explained that the immigration detention system fails to uphold basic due process rights and that the judicial system bars judges from using their judgment to determine whether an immigrant should be deported.

Attorneys and advocates who work with immigrants have long decried the country’s current detention and deportation system. Immigrants have been cut off from access to their lawyers and loved ones during lengthy detention, and judges have been forced to deport immigrants with U.S. citizen children for minor offenses.

“Immigrants’ cases work through the civil system, but there’s nothing civil about the way this country treats those who are fighting to remain with their families,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “By not providing immigrants with a fair day in court and access to lawyers to help them present their cases, we’ve shattered too many families and communities. Congress should take advantage of this golden opportunity to create immigration laws that restore dignity by ending programs that encourage immigrants to sign away their rights and reinstating a judge’s right to determine what’s appropriate for the immigration cases she reviews.”

Expert witnesses explained that current detention and deportation policies add tremendous expense to the federal budget, a fact highlighted earlier this year when the Migration Policy Institute demonstrated that the federal government spent more on federal immigration enforcement than on all federal criminal enforcement programs combined.

“Access to attorneys and courts and a basic set of rules for how we’re all treated in the justice system are central tenants of American values,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Congress has an opportunity to create an immigration system that honors these beliefs for years to come. Any legislative immigration reform must ensure that people who are seeking immigration status or fighting deportation have access to counsel and the opportunity to have their cases heard by judges. Congress also needs to use this opportunity to eliminate disproportionate punishments that lock people up or sentence them to permanent banishment simply for migrating to make a better life for their families. Finally, Congress must fulfill its responsibilities in our nation’s checks-and-balances system by enacting legally enforceable standards for how the Department of Homeland Security treats people in the immigration detention system.”

The hearings come shortly before Congress goes on a two-week recess, where they will discuss upcoming immigration reform legislation with their constituents. These districts include hundreds of thousands of families that have been separated by deportation policies, and millions more that hope to soon be on the road to citizenship. Immigration reform legislation is expected to be introduced in both chambers in the near future.

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Nominee for Secretary of Labor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2013

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

Secretary of Labor Nominee Is a Strong Supporter of Immigrant Workers

Tom Perez’s Voice Will Be a Valuable Contribution to the Immigration Debate, Says Marielena Hincapié of National Immigration Law Center

WASHINGTON — President Obama today announced that Tom Perez, the current assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, would be his nominee for secretary of labor. Before assuming his post at the Department of Justice, Perez served as secretary of labor in Maryland. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“We applaud the Obama administration for nominating Tom Perez for this important position that greatly impacts low-wage immigrant workers. Tom has dedicated his career to defending the basic rights of all people, no matter where they were born. Nowhere is this type of dedication more necessary than in the chief federal official in charge of enforcing our labor laws. We hope that, as the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, he will continue in former Secretary Hilda Solis’s footsteps and fight to ensure that immigrant workers are not left vulnerable to exploitation at the workplace and that abusive employers are not permitted to have an economic advantage over those businesses that play by the rules.

“Under his leadership, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has protected our constitutional rights by challenging racial profiling laws in Arizona, Alabama, and elsewhere. Tom’s voice—as an advocate for workers, families, and immigrants—will be a valuable contribution to the immigration reform debate as it heats up on a national level. We call on the Senate to confirm this nomination promptly.”

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Inclusive, Humane Immigration Reform Urged

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2013

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org

Hundreds of Groups Urge Congress to Enact Inclusive, Humane Immigration Reform

Aspiring Citizens Should Have Responsibilities — and Rights — of All Americans, Say National Immigration Law Center and Others

WASHINGTON  — More than 360 organizations from 28 states today sent a letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress urging that programs and public services that meet basic human needs be included in commonsense immigration reform. Groups signing onto the letter include the AFL-CIO, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the National Association of Social Workers, the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the National Immigration Law Center.

“All Americans — whether U.S.-born or aspiring citizens — should have equal access to affordable health care,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Those on the road to citizenship should be afforded the same rights — and responsibilities — as their fellow Americans, and no less. Immigration reform that fully integrates the 11 million citizens-in-waiting will strengthen our families and communities.”

“At Church World Service, we work to eradicate hunger throughout the world,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service. “The gospel vision of multiplying loaves and fishes tells us that there is enough for all. Now is the time for Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform, and CWS affirms that it is better for the holistic health of our communities to ensure access to health care for immigrants as they pursue a path to citizenship.”

These organizations are members of the national campaign to promote equal access to health care and other safety-net programs.

“It is in the best interest of all Americans and our economy to ensure that immigrants are able to integrate fully into society, succeed in the workforce, and share in labor and economic protections,” said Alan Houseman, executive director of CLASP. “CLASP looks forward to working alongside our immigrant and anti-poverty allies to ensure that access for aspiring Americans to key health and nutrition programs is a part of immigration reform.”

Organizations from New York to Hawaii signed the letter, which was addressed to President Obama and the members of Congress engaged in immigration reform negotiations. Groups from crucial swing states, including North Carolina, Colorado, and Ohio, also have joined the campaign, signaling widespread interest in ensuring that the nation’s immigration laws create stable, thriving, and healthy communities.

“Today, as in the past, immigrants are helping to strengthen our nation,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “To keep our democracy strong, we must not exclude immigrants from the health care and other services they need.”

The campaign represents a broad coalition of organizations invested in fighting poverty and promoting sound public health policy. The organizations have asked Congress to create immigration policy that mirrors America’s values and promotes economic security for all low-income families. This can be achieved by ensuring that the following components are included in immigration reform legislation:

  • A core safety net for citizens and immigrants residing in the U.S., which will reinforce efforts to achieve national progress in health and nutrition.
  • Access to key programs and public services that meet basic human needs, including health services and insurance, and nutrition assistance.
  • Investment in robust efforts to integrate immigrants into their communities.

“Children of immigrants are one-fourth of the kids in America, so getting immigration reform done means getting it right for kids,” Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “And protecting access to health care and other critical services is an important part of making reform work for kids.”

Groups representing Latinos and Asian Americans also joined the campaign, noting that their communities are too often among those least likely to have access to affordable health care and basic nutrition.

“Access to health insurance and basic preventive care is vital for immigrant Latinas’ reproductive health, the well-being of our families, and our nation’s future,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “We look forward to working with policymakers to find commonsense solutions that keep our families healthy and our communities strong.”

“The Asian & Pacific American Islander Health Forum calls on Congress to pass a commonsense immigration policy reform package immediately that includes a clear road to citizenship and access to affordable health care,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of APIAHF. “For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a fair and just immigration process is urgently needed as 60 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of Pacific Islanders are foreign-born. Our current immigration system flies in the face of our nation’s principles of equality and justice, and has taken a huge psychological toll on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have invested deeply in America, but are prevented from realizing their full potential.”

The National Immigration Law Center envisions a society in which all those living in the United States — regardless of country of origin, gender, or socioeconomic status — can live, work, and raise their families with dignity. More about the National Immigration Law Center’s immigration reform priorities is available at www.nilc.org/nilcirpriorities2013.html.

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Injunction Against Anti-Jornalero Provision Upheld

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2013

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

Victory for First Amendment: Ninth Circuit Blocks Anti–Day Labor, Anti-Speech Provisions of SB 1070

Ruling Is Another Setback for Anti-Immigrant Laws

PHOENIX, AZ — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the provisions of SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant racial profiling law, that seek to criminalize the solicitation of day labor work should remain blocked. The court held that the provisions likely violated day laborers’ First Amendment free speech right to solicit work on public streets.

Today’s opinion reaffirms that the freedom to speak in seeking work is a constitutionally protected right. The decision also recognizes that the explicit intent of the anti–day labor provisions of SB 1070 is to drive immigrants from the state of Arizona — not, as the state had argued in court, to preserve traffic safety.

In response to the victory, Victor Viramontes, MALDEF national senior counsel, who argued the case before the court stated, “Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vindicated the rights of day laborers to peacefully solicit work, and confirmed that Arizona’s illegal attempt to mute them should be blocked. Courts will not tolerate laws banning day labor solicitation, and other jurisdictions considering similar laws should take note of this important ruling, which establishes legal precedent for the western United States.”

“With today’s ruling, Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law has suffered yet another major defeat in the courts,” said Omar Jadwat, supervising attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “And while Arizona has been spinning its wheels in a vain attempt to defend its fundamentally unconstitutional anti-immigrant law, the rest of the country has moved on, with legislators coming together across party lines to build a commonsense immigration system that benefits us all.”

“Today’s news reaffirms that Arizona’s ‘solution’ really just brings its residents costly legal problems,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “Rather than defend laws that judge people by how they look, the Arizona’s elected officials should join some of their colleagues in Arizona and in Washington, DC, by advocating for commonsense solutions to fix our outdated immigration process.”

“Arizona’s SB1070 is not just an attack on immigrants and day laborers, it is an assault on cherished constitutional rights, including the right to free speech,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. He continued, “Once again, day laborers have done work for Arizona and for the country by defending our Constitution. We will not stop until SB 1070 is completely erased from the books and until civil rights are fully respected in Arizona.”

“We have always known that the criminalization of day labor is immoral, unjust, and a violation of human rights. Today, it should be very clear that the Constitution forbids such criminalization too,” stated Salvador Reza of Tonatierra, a plaintiff  organization in the litigation.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys include a coalition of civil rights organizations that have an established a tradition of fighting to protect first amendment rights for all members of society and have been at the forefront of the battle to challenge all of the discriminatory and unconstitutional provisions in SB 1070.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), ACLU, MALDEF, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) are part of a civil rights coalition representing labor, domestic violence, day laborer, human services and social justice organizations in the case Valle del Sol v. Whiting.

The court’s order is available at  www.nilc.org/document.html?id=859.

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