Category Archives: March 2016

Lawsuit Seeks to Force Kansas to Disclose about Discriminatory Treatment of Refugees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2016

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

National Immigration Law Center Sues to Force Kansas to Disclose Information about Discriminatory Treatment of Refugees

LOS ANGELES — Kansas may not keep its unlawful discrimination against Syrian refugees a secret, according to a lawsuit filed by the National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, LLC, under the Kansas Open Records Act. The suit, filed after more than two months of requests and appeals, seeks to learn more about how officials are implementing Gov. Sam Brownback’s unconstitutional instruction to state agencies not to assist in the resettlement of certain individuals designated by the federal government as refugees.

Last November, Brownback issued an executive order instructing state officials to engage in discriminatory practices to make it difficult for Syrian refugees to begin new lives in Kansas. He has since issued a more ambiguous order that could have the same pernicious effect.

“Syrian refugees have fled unspeakable violence, undergone years of background checks, and want nothing more than to begin their lives anew in America,” said Melissa Keaney, attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Through his order, Governor Brownback may be pushing his state agencies to make their new lives in America even more difficult, if not impossible—and he has done so in secret. We filed this lawsuit today because the public has a right to know if the state is engaging in discriminatory, unconstitutional behavior.”

“Gov. Brownback’s latest executive order leaves out way more than it includes,” said Justin Cox, cooperating attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Nowhere does it explain the circumstances under which the state would conclude that a particular refugee is a security risk, who within the state would make that determination, or if it has already been made. For all that’s known publicly, Kansas could be barring refugees from the state solely because of their religion or country of birth.”

More than ten weeks ago, NILC requested information under the Kansas Open Records Act from the governor’s office and two agencies involved in administering federally funded benefits to refugees: the Kansas Department for Women and Children and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Under the law, state officials have three business days to act on a request for public records.

“This lawsuit demonstrates what is all too common: public officials routinely violate the Kansas Open Records Act, making a mockery of the law’s promise of governmental transparency,” said Rekha Sharma-Crawford, who is serving as co-counsel on the case. “Usually the public officials get away with ignoring the law, but not this time.”

NILC and Sharma-Crawford Attorneys hope that the lawsuit will compel the state to provide more information about how it is implementing the executive order in order to shine a public light on the state’s potentially unconstitutional, discriminatory actions.

The petition for declaratory and injunctive relief is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NILC-v-Brownback-KORA-2016-03-30.pdf.

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House of Representatives Further Politicizes Supreme Court Case on Immigration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2016

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre delatorre@NILC.org; 213-400-7822

House of Representatives Further Politicizes Supreme Court Case on Immigration  

WASHINGTON ­–The conservative-led House of Representatives upended regular order and pushed approval of a resolution authorizing the House to file an amicus brief opposing Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. Texas. The House voted 234-180, mostly along party lines, to approve the order, sidestepping typical House protocol for approval of amici briefs.

The vote, which even House Speaker Paul Ryan described as “a very extraordinary step,” underscores how conservatives are using every possible venue, including the courts, to pursue their partisan, anti-immigrant agenda, which tears apart families in our communities.

The politically driven lawsuit challenging the president’s executive authority to set priorities on immigration law enforcement was filed by conservative-led states. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on April 18.

“The House of Representatives once again proved that United States v. Texas isn’t about policy, but about politics,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Their actions fail to take into account that a wide, diverse swath of our country wants the court to allow these common-sense immigration measures to take effect. Last week, more than 200 of their colleagues in Congress, along with law enforcement leaders, state attorneys general, and myriad others filed briefs in the case affirming that support.

“Elected officials who oppose the president’s actions have an appropriate avenue to make their views known to the court: They can sign their names to an amicus brief in support of Texas. This resolution is completely unnecessary and, simply put, another crass example of scoring cheap political points off immigrant families.

“In this case, the law is clear: The president has full authority to manage immigration enforcement priorities. Speaker Ryan has just joined Texas and others in trying to push through the courts what they have failed to do through appropriate policy channels.”

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NILC Urges Senate to Vote Quickly on Supreme Court Nominee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2016

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

National Immigration Law Center Urges Senate to Vote Quickly on President’s Supreme Court Nominee

WASHINGTON — In response to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee announcement today, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The president has nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court today. Garland clearly possesses a sharp legal mind worthy of the highest court in the land. Many may be disappointed that President Obama did not use this opportunity to nominate a judge with a strong track record on progressive issues, or a judge who can add to diversity on a court that still fails to represent the richness we see in our communities. However, there is no doubt that Garland is extremely experienced, with a 19-year tenure at the DC Circuit Court. We firmly believe the Senate should move swiftly to confirm him. This isn’t about partisan politics; it’s about carrying out constitutional duty.

“There are millions of lives—including those of low-income immigrants and their families—across the country whose futures depend on the Supreme Court fully functioning, and they cannot wait another year. The nation relies on the highest court to fully review, consider, and judge the most important issues of our time, and as long as we have only eight justices on the bench, justice cannot be fully served.”

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DHS’ Stepped-up Targeting of Families and Kids Fleeing Violence Denounced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2016

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre delatorre@nilc.org

DHS’s Stepped-up Targeting of Families and Kids Fleeing Violence Denounced

WASHINGTON — Just one day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) vowed to “offer vulnerable populations in Central America an alternate, safe and legal path to a better life,” it made the chilling revelation that, since late January, it has arrested 336 youth who came here as unaccompanied children fleeing some of the most horrific violence in the Western Hemisphere.

A new media report highlights some of these arrests, conducted as part of “Operation Border Guardian,” and the wave of fear that has gripped schools, churches and communities where these youth live. North Carolina has been particularly hard hit by these raids.

DHS has targeted these teens in aggressive early morning raids taking place in homes and at school bus stops. These arrests, like those of more than 120 Central American and Mexican mothers and young children that took place over New Year’s weekend, have deepened fears that keep children from going to school and parents from going to work or grocery stores, and that deepen the mistrust of government in immigrant communities, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Despite massive public outcry from immigrant, labor, faith, and congressional leaders in response to the early January raids, DHS continues to dig in its heels and forge ahead with these arrests, claiming that these youth represent an enforcement priority.

“There is simply no justification for targeting for arrest vulnerable kids fleeing violence. These enforcement actions urgently call into question what DHS’s priorities are,” said Avideh Moussavian, a policy attorney for NILC.

“These are kids who haven’t had a fair day in court, had no idea how to navigate our complex immigration system, and are often left trying desperately to fight their cases while locked up and cut off from their loved ones and support networks,” Moussavian added.

Strong public opposition to these enforcement actions have been voiced by faith and community leaders, including members of Congress.

Earlier this year, NILC and other groups issued a fact sheet and overview of experiences of 13 Central American and Mexican families during the raids at the start of the year. Based on interviews, the groups found:

• All these families are survivors of violence and trauma in their home countries and are deeply afraid of being sent back.

• 12 of the 13 have meritorious claims for protection and have not yet pursued all the legal remedies available to them.

• Project attorneys quickly filed notices of appeal and stay requests with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Acknowledging the severity of the situation, the BIA immediately issued stays of removal for all 12 families who requested them. In at least three of these cases, families were spared deportation only after literally being pulled off deportation flights at the very last minute.

NILC again calls on DHS to stop all raids against families and children fleeing violence in Central America, including those who have never appeared before an immigration judge.

Also, DHS must:

• Respect the legal rights of immigrant families during any enforcement actions, including constitutional and statutory rights, and avoid sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals, and churches.

• Facilitate access to counsel and ensure a fair day in court before an immigration judge to any immigrant fearing persecution.

• Respond to this as an urgent humanitarian situation and explore root causes for the violent conditions these families are fleeing. While this population overwhelmingly qualifies for asylum, DHS should also consider other protective measures, such as temporary protected status (TPS), as part of a humanitarian response.

• Use appropriate prosecutorial discretion pursuant to its own enforcement priorities rather than apply a blanket approach to all recent border crossers.

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Coalition’s Brief Urges Supreme Court to Let Immigration Relief Programs Go Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2016

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

In Landmark Case, U.S. v. Texas, 326 Civil Rights, Immigration, and Community Groups Urge Supreme Court to Let Immigration Relief Programs Go Forward

Brief features profiles of families whose lives would improve if immigration directives were allowed to take effect

WASHINGTON — A diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, urging the court to lift the injunction that blocked the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014.

The Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit against the president’s executive actions was brought by 26 states. Late last year the federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” the brief filed by the civil rights groups argues. “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying.”

The brief was filed by the National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Council, the Service Employees International Union, the Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and 320 other immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor and service-provider organizations.

In the brief, the groups outline how families and communities would benefit from the initiatives. The brief provides examples of parents and individuals who would be able to contribute more fully to their communities if the immigration initiatives were allowed to take effect.

Among those impacted by the injunction are people who immigrated to the U.S. as children, did not meet the age and arrival date rules under the original DACA program (announced in 2012), but would qualify under the expanded program. These individuals continue contributing to their communities as they await relief from the courts. Also profiled are parents such as Dr. Alina Kipchumba, who came to the U.S. from Kenya 21 years ago, earned her Ph.D., and gave birth to a son in the U.S. She had work authorization but fell out of status when her son, who was born with a serious heart condition, had to undergo multiple heart surgeries that would not have been available in Kenya. Her son’s cardiologist warned that returning to Kenya would be a “death sentence” for her son.

“The stories in the brief illustrate the myriad ways that prospective beneficiaries of DAPA and expanded DACA could contribute to our country if given the chance. These initiatives constitute a lawful exercise of executive discretion, and we hope that the Supreme Court will affirm that in no uncertain terms,” said Melissa Crow, Legal Director, American Immigration Council.

“Groups from more than 40 states and all walks of life agree: we as a country are better off if we allow these initiatives to move forward,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “U.S. citizen children whose parents would qualify for this temporary relief from deportation will gain much-needed economic and emotional stability if the court allows these common sense measures to take effect.”

Advocates note that the Supreme Court should not be used to settle a political debate, with anti-immigrant activists trying to push through the courts what they haven’t been able to accomplish through the political process.

“This is a suspect legal challenge brought by Texas and followed up with support from the governors of Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina to tear apart families,” said Juan Cartagena, LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel. “The president has clear legal authority on this matter. The purpose of the president’s action is to help immigrant families, many of which have mixed status, come from out of the shadows. These governors need to get out of the way and let the president do his job.”

The harmful effects of the injunction on families must be seriously considered, other advocates emphasized.

“We trust that the Supreme Court will recognize the historic tragedy of the detention and deportation machinery that rips families apart and erodes our justice system,” said María Rodríguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a partner of the Advancement Project. “The partisan battles waged by corporate interests and immigration demagogues, including Florida’s Pam Bondi, have done great harm to American tradition and families alike. Unfortunately, their extremism does not exist in a vacuum. It concretely affects thousands upon thousands of children and parents who either fear being torn apart or are condemned to live without one another because of deportation. Communities across the nation stand with immigrant families who need relief immediately and for policymakers to end detentions and deportations. We hope that the court will see the motivations behind the effort against DACA and DAPA, and the nefarious effects it has on vulnerable families.”

“President Obama’s deferred action policies would provide administrative relief to hardworking immigrant families who live in our communities and contribute to our economy every day,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “But because of this politically motivated, anti-immigrant lawsuit, the president’s initiatives have been frozen, forcing millions of parents and children to continue to live in the shadows, in constant fear of deportation and being separated from their families. We are confident the Supreme Court will uphold the president’s actions.”

“The lives of real people and their American-born children — not some political targets used in talking points on a campaign trail — are at stake in this case,” stated Rocio Saenz, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “We hope the stories of immigrants who reflect our American past and success speak to the justices of the court. But above all, we hope justice prevails against the politics of hate. Far too many families have waited to cross this threshold. It’s time our country set the path forward as we ultimately continue to fight for our north star, lasting immigration reform.”

The full legal brief is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/US-v-TX-amicus-immigrant-labor-civilrights-2016-03-08.pdf.

Links to amicus briefs filed by other interested parties in support of the president’s immigration initiatives can be found at www.nilc.org/issues/immigration-reform-and-executive-actions/united-states-v-state-of-texas/amicus-briefs-filed-in-u-s-v-texas.

For more background on the legal challenges to executive action on immigration, see www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/understanding-legal-challenges-executive-action.

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