Category Archives: May 2014

Customs & Border Protection’s Use of Force

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2014

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

Release of Customs and Border Protection Report a Good First Step Towards Transparency

WASHINGTON — After months of continuous pressure from border communities and civil rights advocates, the Obama administration today released the Police Executive Research Forum’s (PERF’s) review of use-of-force protocols within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The review confirmed what many leaders living along the U.S.-Mexico border have long asserted: that the nation’s largest law enforcement agency lacks accountability and transparency for even deadly actions.

Last year, CBP officials publicly declared their reluctance to adopt some of the policy changes recommended in the recently disclosed review. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center: 

“The release of the PERF report comes at a particularly poignant time for border and civil rights advocates, as this week marks the fourth anniversary of the brutal beating and murder of Anastasio Hernandez at the hands of CBP agents — a murder that has never been fully acknowledged by authorities.

“Communities along the border, like all communities, should be able to live free from fear that the color of their skin or the way they speak English will lead to harassment or worse by law enforcement officers. The Obama administration’s decision to release the PERF report is a good first step toward restoring transparency at the border. They must go much further and adopt all the recommendations made in the PERF report, along with others, to restore accountability to a region that has for too long been a rights-free zone. Our nation’s border residents, along with their Mexican and Canadian neighbors, deserve nothing less than to be treated with dignity and have their rights respected by federal government agents charged with the important task of monitoring our borders. The administration must ensure that CPB agents respect human life and the communities they serve.”

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CAMBIO Statement on Immigration Review Delay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2014

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

CAMBIO: Changes to Ensure Due Process and Accountability at Department of Homeland Security Must Not Be Delayed

Administrative Reforms Should Not Undermine Legislative Process

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s announcement to suspend his review of immigration enforcement policies delays critical reforms needed to guarantee the most basic due process protections and accountability mechanisms.

The promise of legislative reform should not be impacted or undermined by the President’s responsibility to ensure the Department of Homeland Security’s policies and practices uphold Constitutional protections.

Member organizations of the Campaign for an Accountable Moral and Balanced Immigration Overhaul (CAMBIO) released the following statements in response to the President’s announcement:

Marielena Hincapié, executive director, National Immigration Law Center

“Our current detention and deportation system flies in the face of our values for due process and fairness under the law, all while separating families at a record breaking pace. President Obama and DHS leadership have failed to restore accountability to this department for nearly six years, and any delay – whether for political or policy purposes – is simply unacceptable.

“The only permanent solution to fix our immigration system lies within the halls of Congress. However, communities along the border and in the interior should not continue to suffer civil rights abuses while Congress acts. The cost – to our families, to our economy, and to our society – is simply too high. The time for reform, from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is now.”

Christian Ramirez, director, Southern Border Communities Coalition

The President must continue to address the much needed policy reforms within the Department of Homeland Security. There are 15 million U.S. citizens living under the boots of Customs and Border Protection, an agency with a well-documented pattern and practice of abuse and violence.

“Both U.S. and Mexican citizens are dying at the hands of border patrol agents gone rogue. We look to the President for leadership now to ensure that there isn’t one more senseless, violent death. We don’t need to wait for legislation to protect the lives of border communities and guarantee accountability.

“The president must and can ensure that the nation’s largest law enforcement agency is held to the highest standards of professionalism and accountable for its actions.

The President must instruct CBP to immediately release both the findings and recommendations that address the agency’s pattern of abuse, as well as the use-of-force policies that have been withheld from the public for too long.”

Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office

“The President must stop allowing DHS to terrorize immigrant communities in the name of being tough on immigration. Each day reform is delayed, thousands are unjustly detained, deported and torn apart from their families. DHS’ actions have created a humanitarian crisis and a deportation system that can only be described as inhumane.”

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Access to Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2014

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

Obama Administration Reaffirms Commitment to Education for All Students

Updated Guidance Will Help Ensure that Discriminatory Policies Don’t Close Schoolhouse Doors

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced updated guidance designed to ensure that children’s constitutional right to education is protected. The guidance makes clear that policies mandating that parents or children provide specific proof of identification or other documents that immigrants living in the United States without authorization may not have are not permissible for the country’s public school systems.

The National Immigration Law Center has long advocated for stronger guidance to help school administrators protect children’s access to education. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Today’s updated guidance provides much needed and long overdue clarity to ensure that all children, no matter where they (or their parents) were born, are able to enroll in and attend public schools. We applaud the Obama administration for stepping up efforts to prevent school districts from violating the spirit of Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court decision protecting this important right to a K-12 education.

“However, this guidance will be effective only if it is known by all school administrators and actually utilized. The Departments of Education and Justice must engage in all necessary outreach to prevent school districts from continuing troubling practices of adopting policies that serve only to close schoolhouse doors to children of immigrants.

“A quality education is the ultimate anti-poverty program. We will continue to work with parents, educators, and advocates across the country to fight for equal educational access for all children, and invest in our future.”

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2014 FirstGEN Fellows Summer Class

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2014

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Lawyers’ Committee, and National Immigration Law Center Announce 2014 FirstGEN Fellows Summer Class

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), and the Washington, D.C., office of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) are excited to announce the 2014 FirstGEN Fellows summer class: Karla M. Davis, who attends MidAmerica Nazarene University (2014); Genesis Garfio, who attends Columbia University (2017); Nirvana Felix, who attends the University of California, Berkeley (2017); and Juan Rangel, who attends the University of Notre Dame (2015). We congratulate the 2014 FirstGEN Fellows cohort.

FirstGen Fellows logoFirstGEN Fellows is a 10-week summer program for undergraduate students interested in social justice careers who are the first in their immediate families to attend an institution of higher education. Fellows gain hands-on experience working on civil rights matters as full-time policy and advocacy interns in Washington, D.C., while also participating in a parallel training program. FirstGEN Fellows creates a greater community of advocates by linking emerging leaders with existing ones and creating a FirstGEN Fellows alumni network. Each fellow receives a $1,000 stipend.

Karla DavisKarla Davis attends MidAmerica Nazarene University in the Kansas City metro area. While studying corporate communications, marketing, and graphic design, she discovered a passion for social justice issues. As a nontraditional and minority student, Davis recognizes the need to advocate for marginalized groups and hopes to dedicate both her personal and professional life to such causes. Davis is actively involved in her community and has served in a variety of capacities — as a youth member of the National League of Cities, an intern at the Olathe Latino Coalition, as well as the president of her university’s Student Diversity Council, whose purpose is to empower students to stand up against the injustices of today. Davis will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., thanks to the generous donation in memory of Claire Robinson.

Nirvana FelixNirvana Felix attends the University of California, Berkeley, as a social welfare major with intended minors in public policy and education. She is currently part of an organization on campus called Inside the Living Room, which assists immigrants and refugees in completing political/LGBTQ/domestic violence asylum. Felix is passionate about empowering and educating people of color, especially Pilipin@s, in their endeavors to maneuver their way towards higher education and beyond. She currently interns for the bridges Multicultural Resource Center and has assisted in the planning and implementation of the Graduate School Tour, a weeklong trip during which undergraduate students are given the opportunity to tour various East Coast graduate schools. Felix hopes to one day work for a nonprofit organization focused on education reform. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, and will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee.

Genesis GarfioGenesis Garfio is a DREAMer who attends Columbia University. She is studying political science and economics in the prelaw track. Garfio is a member of Chicano Caucus, an organization dedicated to provide members of the Columbia University student body who self-identify as Chican@, Mexican, or Mexican-American, with an environment that will help them to fulfill their educational goals and to promote cultural consciousness. She is also a member of the Columbia Democrats. Garfio is heavily involved with the LGBTQ community on campus and serves as an SAT/college prep tutor for students in Harlem. She considers Houston, Texas her home, but is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. She will be placed with the Washington, D.C., office of the National Immigration Law Center.

Juan RangelJuan Rangel studies at the University of Notre Dame and is majoring in political science and Latino studies. He has been involved with student government throughout all three years at Notre Dame, and this year he served as the student body chief of staff, which included chairing the Immigration Task Force. Rangel also founded and serves as the president of the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy, which works to educate students about immigration issues and advocate at the local, state, and national levels. He interned last summer with the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education at the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is originally from Mexico but calls Central California home. Rangel will be placed with the Washington, D.C., office of the National Immigration Law Center.

CLINIC, the Lawyers’ Committee, and NILC welcome the second class of FirstGEN Fellows and our first joint cohort.

You may learn more about FirstGEN Fellows by going to facebook.com/FirstGENFellows and following @FirstGENFellows onTwitter and Instagram.

About the National Immigration Law Center

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center envisions a society in which all people — regardless of race, gender, income level, or immigration status — have the opportunity to live freely, work safely, and thrive in society. The organization’s advocates and attorneys use a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to achieve this vision. For more information about the National Immigration Law Center, visit www.nilc.org, and follow on Twitter @NILC_org and Facebook.

About the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Embracing the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger, CLINIC promotes the dignity and protects the rights of immigrants in partnership with a dedicated network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs. For more information about the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., visit www.cliniclegal.org, and follow on Twitter@ClinicLegal.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We celebrated our 50thanniversary in 2013 and continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education and environmental justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @LawyersComm and like us onfacebook.com/lawyerscommittee.

 

NILC Media Inquiries Contact: To coordinate interview opportunities with NILC, please contact Adela de la Torre, 213-674-2832 or 213-400-7822 or delatorre@nilc.org.

CLINIC Media Inquiries Contact: To coordinate interview opportunities with CLINIC, please contact Maura Moser, 301-565-4830 ormmoser@cliniclegal.org.

Lawyers’ Committee Media inquiries Contact: To coordinate interview opportunities with the Lawyers’ Committee, please contact Stacie Royster, 202-662-8317 or sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org.

Non-media inquiries: If you have questions regarding the FirstGEN Fellowship program or are interested in serving as a partnering organization, guest speaker, or would like to financially support this program please contact Alejandro T. Reyes at 202-662-8321 orareyes@lawyerscommittee.org.

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Fees in Alabama Cases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2014

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

Alabama to Pay $580,000 in Legal Bills for Unconstitutional Anti-Immigrant Laws

Settlement Signed in Suit Over Law That Threatened to Leave Immigrants Homeless

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama has agreed to pay $230,000 in legal bills incurred by civil rights groups that sued the state over a provision of its anti-immigrant law that threatened to push people out of their homes.

The agreement announced today means that the state has now agreed to pay $580,000 to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs in two successful challenges to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law known as HB 56.

“This agreement is another reminder of the high cost of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law to taxpayers,” said Samuel Brooke, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But this law cost immigrant families much more in terms of the fear and discrimination they endured.”

Alabama agreed last year to pay $350,000 in attorneys’ fees as part of the final settlement of HICA v. Bentley, a separate lawsuit brought by a broader civil rights coalition that permanently blocked many provisions of HB 56. Today’s agreement in Central Alabama Fair Housing Center v. Magee brings to $580,000 the total amount Alabama will pay in legal fees to civil rights groups it fought in court. This figure does not include the salaries and expenses Alabama paid for its own defense of the discriminatory and unconstitutional law.

“Today’s settlement closes another ugly chapter in Alabama’s legal history,” said Alvaro Huerta, National Immigration Law Center staff attorney. “This settlement, along with last year’s settlement, shows that the state is beginning to recognize that anti-immigrant laws like HB 56 are just too costly, both fiscally and morally. We hope their elected officials in Washington, DC, take note and abandon efforts to revive racist policies like these and instead work toward fixing our broken immigration system.”

This agreement stems from a 2011 lawsuit challenging a provision of HB 56 that barred “business transactions” between the state and anyone who cannot prove their citizenship or lawful status. Before this suit blocked the provision, individuals attempting to renew their mobile home registration tags but unable to prove their status could have been charged with a felony because they would have been considered an undocumented immigrant attempting to engage in a “business transaction” with Alabama.

“This lawsuit put a swift end to a cruel, discriminatory, and unlawful effort to drive immigrant families out of their homes,” said Justin B. Cox, American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney. “Today’s news underlines that this fundamentally flawed legislation was not only unconstitutional, but also quite costly.”

This practice threatened immigrant families — regardless of their immigration status — with eviction. Mobile home parks often require homeowners to have a current decal or face eviction from the park. A federal judge temporarily blocked the provision in 2011. The legislature rewrote it in 2012 so it would not apply to the mobile home tags, essentially resolving the substance of the lawsuit.

“The court recognized that the state of Alabama acted with an intent to discriminate against Hispanics,” said Foster Maer, LatinoJustice PRLDEF senior litigation counsel. “We welcome this settlement as the best means to undo the harms inflicted on Hispanics. We must be vigilant that race does not ever again enter into Alabama’s political decision making.”

The lawsuit over the mobile home tags provision exposed the discriminatory nature of HB 56. When a federal judge issued the temporary injunction against the provision in 2011, his ruling described the legislative debate over HB 56 as “laced with derogatory comments about Hispanics.” U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling also said that it’s likely the entire law was “discriminatorily based.” The judge cited examples of lawmakers delving into ethnic stereotypes and using “Hispanic” and “illegal immigrant” interchangeably.

“Judge Thompson’s ruling made clear that defendants cannot cloak unlawful racial or national origin discrimination behind facially neutral conduct that denies or restricts housing opportunities on the basis of immigration status,” said Stephen Dane, an attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC.

The lawsuit challenging the provision was filed in 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery. It was brought by a coalition that included the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Latino Justice / PRLDEF, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC. Many of these groups also filed HICA v. Bentley.

Copies of the briefs, memos, and court orders filed in this case are available from www.nilc.org/hb56sec30housing.html.

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Obamacare Enrollment Data

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2014

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

National Immigration Law Center:
ACA Enrollment Data Indicates More Work Must Be Done

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration today provided a more complete picture of the racial and ethnic makeup of the people who have signed up for health insurance through the federal exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. Of the 5.4 million people who bought insurance through the federal marketplace, approximately 404,000 and 298,000 people self-reported that they were Latino or Asian American, respectively. These numbers do not include demographic information for immigrant-rich states such as New York and California, which have their own state marketplaces and are not required to report race and ethnicity information.

Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which has worked on reducing barriers to immigrants’ access to the federal marketplace:

“While the demographic information released today is limited — this information does not include the race or ethnicity data for nearly one-third of those who enrolled through the federal marketplace but declined to divulge race or ethnic background, for example — it provides an important snapshot of who is gaining coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

“While any increase in coverage is important, these numbers also validate the concerns we and others have raised for months: The federal marketplaces simply put up too many barriers that prevent immigrant families from buying insurance for themselves or their loved ones. Although some of these barriers have been removed in recent months, corresponding with the late surge in enrollment, others continue to prevent people from getting the coverage they are required to have.

“We hope these sobering statistics will provide renewed incentive to make the improvements so many of us have called for: a complete technical fix to the website that has tripped up so many immigrant families, improved access for people who don’t speak English well, and increased resources for trusted community groups that are best positioned to help immigrants and limited–English proficient individuals apply.

“We will continue to work with partners across the country to ensure that the promise of the Affordable Care Act — to provide as many people as  possible access to affordable, quality health care — becomes a reality for all eligible residents.”

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Tuition Equity in Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2014

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

Sunshine State Brightens Prospects for All Students

Florida Senate Approves Tuition Equity Measure for State Institutions of Higher Education

TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida Senate today approved HB 851, a bill that would allow Florida students who meet certain criteria, regardless of their immigration status, to pay in-state tuition at public colleges or universities. This move brings Florida one step closer to becoming the twentieth state with a tuition equity law or policy. Once Florida’s tuition equity bill becomes law, over 75 percent of foreign-born residents will reside in a state that has a tuition equity law or policy in place. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“The historic vote by the Florida legislature guarantees a brighter future for Floridian students, who finally will have greater equality in accessing higher education. The Sunshine State is a governor’s signature away from joining Texas, California, Oklahoma, and many other states that recognize the benefits of ensuring that all students have access to an affordable education. What a difference three years makes: Many of the same legislators who supported this commonsense bill also supported, three years ago, a draconian anti-immigrant proposal similar to Arizona’s infamous racial profiling law, SB 1070.

“This change in policy didn’t come easily. Florida’s immigrant students, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and their allies fought long and hard to show their elected officials that inclusive legislation like the measure approved today will help all Floridians grow stronger together.

“Florida’s elected representatives in Washington, DC, should take note. Their colleagues in Tallahassee have seen that good policy is also good politics. Now it’s time for congressional representatives to do the same—to abandon anti-immigrant proposals such as the SAFE Act once and for all and adopt inclusive policies that move our nation forward.”

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