Category Archives: May 2013

Court Urged to Strike Down Anti-Immigrant Law

May 28, 2013

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-674-2832, [email protected]
Dana Vickers Shelley, SPLC, 334-956-8417, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU, 415-343-0785, [email protected]
Marjorie Esman, ACLU-LA, 504-522-0617, [email protected]

Immigrant Rights Groups File Amicus Brief Urging Louisiana Supreme Court to Strike Down Anti-Immigrant Law

NEW ORLEANS — Today the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Immigrants’ Rights Project (ACLU-IRP), and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana (ACLU-LA) filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief with the Louisiana Supreme Court in the cases of State v. Bonifacio Ramirez and State v. Marquez, challenging a state law that puts foreign exchange students and construction workers rebuilding the state after hurricanes Katrina, Isaac, and Rita at risk of a felony conviction for doing nothing more than drive a car.

“This law is clearly unconstitutional and places a tremendous burden on citizens and noncitizens alike,” said Meredith Stewart, SPLC staff attorney. “As federal lawmakers are working hard to fix our broken immigration system, such state attempts at regulating immigration are unproductive and are a drain on local law enforcement resources. We urge the Louisiana Supreme Court to find the law unconstitutional.”

“Judging people by how they look is un-American and against the law, and that is exactly what this misguided law requires,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU Foundation of Louisiana executive director. “It imposes criminal penalties on those who can’t provide documents on demand, without any other basis for suspicion. There is a good reason that similar laws in other states have been struck down. The people of Louisiana deserve better than this.”

Laws like Louisiana’s were dealt a blow in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Arizonav. United States, that key components of a similar, Arizona state law were unconstitutional and preempted by federal immigration law. Louisiana’s law is particularly pernicious because violations of it are classified as felonies.

“Like Arizona’s SB 1070 or Alabama’s HB 56, the law before the Louisiana Supreme Court provides a perfect example of an unworkable — and unconstitutional — state attempt to meddle in strictly federal immigration territory,” said Karen Tumlin, NILC managing attorney. “As the rest of the nation drives toward immigration reform, Louisiana should not be stuck in reverse.”

Louisiana’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to regulate immigration by dictating the circumstances under which immigrants have to carry documents regarding lawful presence. The law also allows state and local law enforcement agencies and state courts to determine and adjudicate a person’s immigration status. People who are deemed by a state or local law enforcement officer to be unlawfully present are subject to arrest and risk a felony conviction.

A copy of the amicus brief is available at

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S.744: Committee Markup Completed

May 21, 2013

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

Senate Bill Clears Major Legislative Hurdle

Advocates Gear Up for Floor Debate

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to allow S. 744, the bipartisan immigration reform bill, to be considered on the Senate floor. The committee considered hundreds of amendments to the legislation, many of which, if passed, would have killed the bill. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“The ‘Gang of 8’ bipartisan bill, historic in nature, has survived the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup process. Most of the worst amendments were rejected, and some of the approved changes to the bill would make the road to citizenship more achievable and restore civil rights.

“However, this multiday, marathon markup session has also given us a glimpse of the anti-immigrant movement’s playbook as the bill moves to the Senate floor. Today, Senators Sessions, Grassley, and Cruz launched a broad-scale attack on working class immigrant families, attempting to keep these families from utilizing the government programs that could help them in realizing their American dreams.

“The questions proposed by these kinds of amendments go beyond the core of an immigration bill. They will help shape what we, as a society, expect of our government. Our fundamental governmental assistance programs — student aid, health care, and nutrition assistance — should help all Americans, whether citizens or aspiring citizens, get on the first rung of the ladder of opportunity.

“Compromises can, and will, be made on this bill. As it heads to the Senate floor, we urge the Senate Gang of 8 to consider how our economy and society will be shaped by these compromises, and to reject short-term political gains that could have long-term policy consequences for our nation.”

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S. 744 Markup

May 20, 2013

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

Amendments That Make Law Enforcement Officers’ Jobs Harder Should Be Blocked

Salt Lake City Police Chief Opposes Amendment Requiring That Civil Immigration Status Information Be Entered into the National Crime Information Center Database

WASHINGTON — Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will enter the final phase of markup for S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. This week, senators will vote on amendments that would affect legalization, detention, and deportation components of this bill. Below is a statement from Chris Burbank, chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department, on Senator Jeff Sessions’s (R-AL) amendment 35, which would require that civil immigration status information be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database:

“As law enforcement officers, our first priority is to ensure the safety and security of the communities we protect and serve. The National Crime Information Center helps us accomplish this mission by providing officers with an effective and expedient way to determine whether individuals encountered or detained are a threat to the public or to the officers themselves.

“This important law enforcement tool should not be cluttered with information concerning civil issues. Just as a law enforcement officer would have no need to determine whether someone has paid their taxes in the previous year, officers should not be forced to wade through civil immigration matters to determine whether the individual the officer has stopped has an outstanding criminal warrant for their arrest.

“It would be, at best, foolish, and at worst, dangerous, to add an extra administrative hoop for police officers to jump through in an era of increasing cuts to already diminished police forces across the country. I strongly urge members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject any attempt to litter the NCIC with extraneous information. In police work, every second matters. We shouldn’t be forced to waste time in the performance of our duty to the communities we serve.”

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S. 744 Markup: Monday, May 20

May 20, 2013

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Tackles Controversial Amendments

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee entered its final week of markup on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. Today the committee discussed and voted on amendments to Title III , which would affect immigration enforcement and labor policies. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who attended today’s markup:

“Senator Leahy said it best: What this committee does on immigration law reflects who we are as a country and as a people. Some of today’s votes are an accurate reflection of our society’s needs — dangerous amendments that would have made life much more difficult for working families were rejected, and an amendment to increase protections for children and parents in detention was accepted.

“However, today’s votes also demonstrated that the road to citizenship must be fiercely protected, and not just by the Gang of 8.  Senators Sessions and Grassley offered a number of amendments that would push working families already teetering at the poverty line into destitution and would severely impact U.S. citizen children. Although the senators’ misguided efforts were thwarted today, they could come back later in the legislative process. We hope the bill’s champions — on both sides of the aisle — will stand with this country’s values and needs and oppose any effort to make an already difficult road to citizenship impassible.”

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Immigration Reform: E-Verify Amendments

May 16, 2013

Adela de la Torre, 213.400.7822, [email protected]

NILC Responds to E-Verify Amendments

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today began marking up Title III of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744). The senators’ discussion focused on E-Verify, an online employment eligibility verification system that the bill would require all employers in the U.S. to use. Some senators offered amendments that would increase the system’s worker protections, while others offered amendments that would require employers to use the system before it is actually ready for every employer in the U.S. to use. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“The Senate Judiciary Committee reserved a substantial amount of time to discuss E-Verify, and for good reason: Mandatory E-Verify would affect every single American worker, immigrant and U.S.-born alike.

“We remain deeply concerned that E-Verify is not yet ready for prime time. No worker, especially in this economy, should lose her job simply due to a governmental error.

“Senator Grassley offered a barrage of amendments, and revisions to these amendments, that would have resulted in American workers facing complications and delays due to errors in the immigration system’s databases. Thankfully, many of these amendments were rejected, especially the most radical among them, which would have had the effect of repealing an important Supreme Court decision. Once again, the Gang of 8 held strong in mostly protecting the core of the agreement.

“Unfortunately, Grassley’s money-wasting proposal to require the Department of Homeland Security to report people who are flagged by E-Verify as unauthorized to work was approved. This is both a waste of time and money, both for the federal government and for the countless American workers who will be ensnared by this new regulation.

“On the other hand, Senator Franken understands that these burdens could be especially devastating for workers who cannot fix an E-Verify error in a timely way. This important protection for workers can and should get its moment before the committee soon.”

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Driver’s Licenses & DACA in Arizona

May 16, 2013

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-400-7822, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU National, 415-343-0785 or 646-438-4146, [email protected]
Alessandra Soler, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6006 or 602-301-3705, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, MALDEF, 202 466-0879, [email protected]

Mixed Federal Court Ruling on DREAMers Shows Why Congress Must Reform Immigration Law

Court Says Arizona Violates Constitution by Discriminatorily Denying Driver’s Licenses to DREAMers, but Fails to Block State Policy

PHOENIX, AZ — A federal district court today stopped short of ordering Arizona to make driver’s licenses available to young immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, even though it ruled that the state has no rational basis under the law to deny driver’s licenses.

The policy to deny licenses, issued through an executive order by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, was challenged by a coalition of civil rights groups on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth–led organization, and five individual immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

“This decision not to block the policy hurts not just Arizona’s DREAMers, but Arizona’s communities and economy as well. We will not give up the fight to stop Arizona’s discriminatory policy against its own youth,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.

Civil rights groups and Arizona DREAMers are committed to continuing to pursue this case in the courts until this unconstitutional policy is permanently  ended.

“This is an important ruling for Arizona’s DREAMers, and everyone who seeks justice, but we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision not to immediately block this harmful policy. It keeps young immigrants from contributing to their communities, to the state and to the nation,” said Jenny Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“Every day of our lives, we’re helping our families, the businesses in our communities, and working to take our place as teachers, scientists, and professionals in Arizona,” said Dulce Matuz, director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “To be successful, we need drivers’ licenses. They have become a necessity in life.”

The civil rights coalition argued that Arizona’s driver’s license policy is unconstitutional because it unfairly singles out young immigrants granted deferred action under DACA, when Arizona’s policy allows all other immigrants granted deferred action and a work permit to apply for licenses.

“Although we’re disappointed by the court’s refusal to immediately block this discriminatory order, we will continue to pursue this important fight until all DREAMers are treated with dignity and respect,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “At a time when the majority of Americans support fair and inclusive immigration policies, Arizona continues to stand out as an outlier by treating these young, hard-working immigrants differently because of who they are. We are confident that in the end the courts will side with DREAMers  and uphold equality.”

An estimated 80,000 youth in Arizona, and 1.76 million nationwide, are eligible for the DACA program.

While the DACA program helps provide a lifeline for many immigrant youth who have been living in the United States in fear because of their immigration status, it does not negate the need for Congress to enact federal legislation that provides a roadmap to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people, including young people who came here as children commonly known as Dreamers, who are seeking to integrate fully in to American life.

In addition to NILC, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, and MALDEF, the legal team includes the Phoenix office of Polsinelli Shughart, P.C.

More information about the case, including a copy of the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (filed Nov. 29, 2012), as well as the court’s order issued today, is available

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Immigration Reform: Poison-Pill Amendment Rejected

May 14, 2013

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected], or
Gebe Martinez, 703-731-9505, [email protected]

Judiciary Committee Rejects Poison Pill Visa Cap Amendment to Senate Bill

WASHINGTON — An amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that would have capped the number of visas available for workers was solidly rejected Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

By a 17-1 vote, the committee turned aside the Sessions amendment, which reflects the views of the most extreme anti-immigrant voices in the immigration debate and would have driven a stake through the heart of the Senate’s immigration reform bill. The only senator who voted in favor of the amendment was Sessions himself.

Below is a statement from Don Lyster, director of the National Immigration Law Center’s Washington, DC, office:

“We are pleased that the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to keep its commitment to commonsense immigration reform by striking down ‘poison pill’ provisions that are designed to kill the bill before it ever reaches the Senate floor.

“The rejection of the Sessions amendment was particularly important because it caused other conservatives on the committee to reaffirm the fact that immigration is a fundamental pillar of our society and our economy.

“We look forward to the Senate’s consideration of provisions that would protect workers, such as one by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that would provide whistleblower protections to H-2B temporary workers. In order for the immigration system to work and to place employers and workers on a level playing field, immigrant workers must be able to live and work free from fear that they will be retaliated against if they report worksite abuses by employers.”

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NILC Statement on Markup of Senate Bill

May 9, 2013

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

National Immigration Law Center Statement on the First Day of Senate Markup

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on the first of several proposed amendments to S. 744, the bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced two weeks ago. Amendments to the “triggers” and components of Title I (also known as the border component of the bill), as well as a vote on the manager’s amendments, were brought forward and addressed. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who attended today’s proceedings:

“The Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrated its commitment to commonsense immigration reform today, rejecting poison pills such as Senator Grassley’s proposal to delay putting aspiring citizens on the road to citizenship by placing onerous border triggers in the bill.

“Throughout today’s session, we heard competing visions for our nation’s immigration system. Some senators, led by Senators Sessions and Grassley, presented a retread of the scare tactics they have successfully used to feed an insatiable detention and deportation appetite that has had a devastating impact on families and local communities.

“Fortunately, common sense prevailed: the majority of the committee heeded the demands of the majority of Americans to finally bring our immigration system in line with our societal and economic needs and values. This landmark bill will face many additional tests, but we are pleased to see that voices of reason focused on solutions to fix our immigration system prevailed today.”

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