Category Archives: News Releases

NILC Statement on President-elect Biden’s Selection of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2020

CONTACT
Tenoch Flores, [email protected]

NILC Statement on President-elect Biden’s Selection of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security

LOS ANGELES — Upon the announcement that President-elect Joe Biden will be nominating Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“We are thrilled with President-elect Biden’s historic selection of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This represents an exemplary choice that will not only serve our next president and the American people well, but also sends a strong signal to immigrant communities that the Biden administration fully intends to follow through on its commitment to undo the harms of the Trump administration.

“As an immigrant and a Latino, Mayorkas’s lived experience will prove an invaluable asset to the Biden-Harris administration. I know from first-hand experience, having partnered closely with him in implementing the successful DACA policy when he was head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and later from his time as deputy secretary of Homeland Security, that he is someone who will listen to the voices of immigrant communities and will remain responsive to their concerns. Mayorkas has a deep understanding of the complex immigration laws and policies impacting the country. He is compassionate, fair, and deeply committed to restoring due process to our system.

“As the next DHS secretary, Mayorkas will have one of the toughest jobs, given how much damage needs to be undone from President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, and he will also oversee critical issues resulting from climate change in overseeing FEMA, cybersecurity, and a broad range of responsibilities. Since he’s been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three times throughout his career, the Senate should swiftly move to confirm Mayorkas.

“We applaud the Biden-Harris transition team for their historic selection and look forward to working closely with Mayorkas to build a 21st century immigration system that is humane and fair and recognizes immigrants as a strength to our nation.”

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Immigrant Youth Hail Court Decision Rejecting Trump Administration’s Assault on DACA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2020

CONTACT
NILC: Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
MRNY: Yatziri Tovar, [email protected], 917-771-2818

Immigrant Youth Hail Court Decision Rejecting Trump Administration’s Assault on DACA

In August, New York immigrant youth amended their lawsuit to challenge Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf’s entire DACA memo

NEW YORK — Today, in the Batalla Vidal v. Wolf lawsuit, a federal court rejected the Trump administration’s latest attack on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The court found that the July 2020 memo issued by Chad Wolf, who claimed to be the acting secretary of Homeland Security, was invalid because he was unlawfully appointed. As a result of the decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should return the DACA program to its initial form — reopening DACA to first-time applicants, restoring work authorization and renewals to two years, and making travel on advance parole available to DACA recipients without restrictions.

The court also granted the plaintiffs’ request to be certified as the representatives of a nationwide class of approximately one million DACA-eligible individuals across the country. The court directed the parties to contact the court “immediately” to schedule a conference regarding next steps and any relief stemming from the legal opinion.

In August, DACA-eligible youth, first-time applicants, and DACA recipients filed a legal challenge against the Wolf memo, arguing that it unlawfully and drastically diminished the program, and that it was issued without legal authority. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA, the government should have restored DACA to its original terms. Instead, it issued the Wolf memorandum, which prohibited first-time DACA applications, cut renewals from two years to one, and drastically curtailed the ability of DACA recipients to travel abroad on advance parole. The plaintiffs asked the court to invalidate this latest attack on DACA so that the government would be required to process first-time DACA applications, two-year renewals, and advance parole requests. The court’s ruling today now makes that relief likely.

“This is an incredible victory for DACA recipients and first-time applicants like me,” said Johana Larios, plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Wolf and member of Make the Road New York. “DACA has opened so many opportunities for hundreds of thousands of youth, and now I hope to be able to go through with my application. With DACA, I hope to be able to return to school and feel safe from being separated from my young children.”

Javier. H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, organizational plaintiff in the case, said, “As we look forward to a Biden administration, we know this victory is just the beginning. Not only must the new administration immediately protect DACA and TPS [temporary protected status] holders and reverse all of Trump’s nativist polices, but also provide swift relief and a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented families across this country.”

“The court’s ruling today is a victory for the individual plaintiffs in this case and for Make the Road New York as well as for over one million DACA recipients and applicants,” said Medha Swaminathan, a law student intern with the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. “The Batalla-Vidal plaintiffs are fighting for all Dreamers, their families, and their communities. The court’s decision today reflects the tenacity, strength, and determination of the DACA movement in ensuring that the government respects the law.”

“The court has reaffirmed what we always knew: Chad Wolf was not authorized to perform the functions of an acting secretary when he issued the July 28 DACA memo,” said Trudy S. Rebert, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “This is a victory for our courageous plaintiffs, DACA-eligible youth across the country, and all of our communities. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that the Trump administration is accountable to the law and that immigrant youth remain safe and have the freedom to thrive here at home.”

The plaintiffs — Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcón, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, Carlos Vargas, Johana Larios, Ximena Zamora, Sonia Molina, M.B.F., and Make the Road New York — are represented by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, a part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.

The court’s memorandum and order is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Batalla-order-class-cert-Wolf-memo-2020-11-14.pdf.

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♦♦ More information about DACA and the Wolf memorandum’s restrictions is available from www.nilc.org/daca/

♦♦ Information for class members: nilc.org/dacaclassaction or www.nilc.org/daca-class-action-lawsuit

Civil Rights Advocates Win Reversal of Discriminatory City Utility Policies in Court Settlement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2020

CONTACT
NILC: Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
SCHR: Hannah Riley, [email protected], 470-867-7530


For more details about the settlement agreement, contact Mayra Joachin, NILC staff attorney, [email protected], 213-674-2830.


Civil Rights Advocates Win Reversal of Discriminatory City Utility Policies in Court Settlement

City of LaGrange, GA, ends local policies that had unlawful discriminatory impact on Black and Latinx residents

ATLANTA — Civil rights groups reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit against the city of LaGrange, Georgia, that eliminates discriminatory local policies that for years prevented many residents from being able to access basic utility services. The policies, which disproportionately harmed Black and Latinx residents, imposed burdensome identification requirements for utilities applicants and threatened residents with utility shutoffs if they owed unrelated court debt to the city.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Relman Colfax PLLC filed the lawsuit against the city of LaGrange in May 2017, alleging that the city’s discriminatory utility policies violate the Fair Housing Act and Georgia law. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Troup County Chapter of the NAACP, Project South, and seven impacted city residents.

“The discriminatory utilities policies adopted by LaGrange severely limited where Latinx immigrants and Black residents could live in the city and deprived them of access to critical services. Today’s victory is a great step toward ensuring that all residents of LaGrange have equal and fair access to essential utilities like gas, water, and electricity, and can live in housing of their choice,” said Mayra Joachin, staff attorney at NILC. “We are proud to stand with our plaintiffs, who boldly fought back against the city’s discriminatory policies and achieved justice for themselves and their neighbors. This outcome shows us that when communities come together, we can achieve victories that are good for all our communities.”

The city of LaGrange is the sole provider of electricity, gas, and water utility services to its residents. Unlike most municipalities in the country, the city does not levy property taxes — instead, municipal operations are largely funded through the city’s sale of basic utilities. Before the lawsuit was filed, the city required people applying for utilities to comply with two policies.

The first policy, which disproportionately affected Latinx immigrants, required applicants for utility services to provide certain identification documents issued in the United States to open an account. This policy barred many Latinx immigrant families in LaGrange from accessing essential utilities in their name.

“Access to water and sanitation services is a human right,” said Azadeh N. Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South. “No city should deny this essential service to its residents based on their immigrant status. We hope that this victory will lead other cities in the U.S. South that are currently engaging in human rights violations against their immigrant residents to change course.”

“This is a great victory for our community in LaGrange, and especially for the Latinx community, who for many years has been battling this very frustrating situation. After all this time in the dark, we finally see a light. I feel very happy to be part of this fight and this victory, which will help not only my family and my neighbors, but all the residents of our city,” said one of the John Doe plaintiffs, a resident of LaGrange who was directly affected by this policy.

The second city policy required that LaGrange residents pay any debts they owed to the city, including unrelated municipal court fees and fines, in order to initiate and/or maintain basic utility services. Residents with court debt were vulnerable to having their utilities turned off, sometimes with little advance notice. This policy disproportionately impacted Black residents: 90 percent of the residents subjected to the court debt policy were Black. (LaGrange’s population is only 48 percent Black.)

“This settlement is transformational,” said Ernest Ward, former president of the Troup County NAACP. “It brings much needed changes to LaGrange’s Black and Brown communities, while shining a light on the systemic problems in the city. It reinforces the racial justice work we’ve been doing for years, and the work that remains to be done.”

“An unpaid court fine should never endanger someone’s housing — but that’s exactly what was happening in the city of LaGrange before the community took action against these regressive, discriminatory policies,” said Atteeyah Hollie, managing attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. “The use of court debt to determine one’s access to lights, heat, and water is both unjust and inhumane, and we are glad to see the city recognize that.”

The case went all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. That Court’s decision — recognizing that having utilities is a critical part of what makes a home livable — was a major victory for the plaintiffs, but it also stands as a warning to other utilities providers that seek to limit access to their residents.

“We’re very pleased with the results of the settlement for our clients and all residents of LaGrange,” said Reed Colfax, partner at Relman Colfax PLLC. “The courage and persistence of the plaintiffs in this case will have wide-reaching effects around the country because of the Eleventh Circuit’s important decision confirming the broad application of the Fair Housing Act to all types of conduct that affect the ability to use and enjoy one’s home. This case will continue to improve the ability of community members to enforce their fair housing rights for years to come.”

“This is a monumental victory for residents of LaGrange and the civil rights advocates who have been fighting alongside them for the past few years to achieve justice,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director at NILC. “This ruling sends a clear message that these kinds of discriminatory and harmful policies will not stand — not just in LaGrange, but in any city across the country. We can no longer accept the criminalization of poverty. We are grateful for our courageous plaintiffs who have fought long and hard for this victory for themselves and their community. We know that when we join together to fight back, we win.”

The members of the litigation team include Reed Colfax, Alexa Milton, Atteeyah Hollie, Cody Cutting, Nick Barber, Mayra Joachin, Meredith Cabell, Kevin Herrera, Robin Goldfaden, Isabel Tessier, and Isabelle Charo. Former litigation team members include Jamie Crook, Maya Chaudhuri, Justin Cox, Karen Tumlin, Melissa Keaney, Sheila Miller, Joseph Wardenski, Abigail Moats, Francesca Simon, and Nowmee Shehab.

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Migrant Justice Settles Federal Lawsuit on ICE Retaliation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
– Will Lambek, Migrant Justice, (802) 321-8393, [email protected]
– Leah Lotto, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, (212) 633-6967, [email protected]
– Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, [email protected]
– Liz Valsamis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, (213) 229-7115, [email protected]
– S. Beth Nolan, ACLU of Vermont, (802) 279-0747, [email protected]

Migrant Justice Settles Federal Lawsuit on ICE Retaliation

Trump administration agrees to terms in First Amendment lawsuit days before election

BURLINGTON, VT — In the settlement of a major federal lawsuit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has agreed not to deport the immigrant activists who sued the agency after suffering retaliatory arrests, and to instruct officers not to target people “for exercising First Amendment rights.” Immigrant farmworkers with Vermont-based human rights organization Migrant Justice led a march today to Burlington’s federal courthouse to claim victory and file the settlement in Migrant Justice v. Wolf.

“With this settlement, we have shown that we won’t back down in the face of ICE’s abuses. They have tried to silence us by terrorizing our community and targeting our leaders, but we are here today to say that we will not be silenced,” said Victor Diaz, a Migrant Justice leader and plaintiff.

Today’s march mirrors a similar rally nearly two years ago when farmworkers marched on the courthouse to open the First Amendment claim. The 2018 suit alleged that ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted an unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest, and detain the organization’s members and leaders. Migrant Justice contended that those activities were undertaken in retaliation against the plaintiffs’ exercise of their rights to speech and assembly and in order to destabilize Migrant Justice.

The lawsuit claimed federal immigration authorities had targeted Migrant Justice leaders and members since at least 2014, as the organization was engaged in high-profile human rights organizing across Vermont and nationally. As part of a larger pattern of suppressing immigrant activism nationwide, federal immigration authorities infiltrated the meetings and private associations of Migrant Justice by using a civilian informant, invasively surveilled its members, and mined their social media pages for information. In an attempt to undermine the organization, ICE spread false information about it, including that staff were collaborating with the agency to locate and detain immigrant community members.

Plaintiffs were represented in the lawsuit by the ACLU of Vermont, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

“The Constitution protects our freedom to defend human rights and that includes protecting the farmworkers in Vermont who organized and won driver’s licenses and created their landmark Milk with Dignity Program,” said National Center for Law and Economic Justice Senior Attorney Leah Lotto. “Today’s settlement and victory for Migrant Justice shows how important it is to stand up against ICE’s wrongful actions targeting and detaining these and other activists fighting for equity in their communities.”

When the suit was filed in November 2018, ICE had detained more than 20 people actively involved in Migrant Justice, including the organization’s most prominent leadership. The lawsuit pointed to evidence of direct retaliation in nine of those cases. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit documented how, during the course of the arrests, ICE agents harassed and intimidated community leaders, referring to one as a “famous person” because of his activism, and named an additional member who would be “next.” ICE compiled dossiers on Migrant Justice leaders, including their social media pages and media appearances.

Three community leaders who have suffered from ICE’s targeted retaliation — Enrique Balcazar, Zully Palacios, and Victor Diaz — joined Migrant Justice as plaintiffs in the suit. All are in deportation proceedings after having been detained by ICE. Under the terms of the settlement, the federal government has agreed not to deport the three plaintiffs, by granting them deferred action, which will allow them to remain in the United States and obtain work permits. ICE will also pay damages of $100,000, to be divided among the plaintiffs.

“More than three years ago, ICE targeted me for my political activism and held me in detention for 11 days. They have been trying to deport me ever since,” said plaintiff Enrique Balcazar. “With this agreement, ICE is admitting defeat, allowing myself and others to remain in the country and accepting that they cannot target people for speaking out and organizing. We want this to become a precedent so that other groups and community leaders can organize without fear of retaliation. Because fear is not an option for our communities.”

Through the agreement, ICE must also tell its agents that immigrants, regardless of immigration status, are protected by the First Amendment and have the right to freedom of speech and assembly. The agency must send a memorandum to all employees in Vermont explaining “the obligations of this Office to act in accordance with the First Amendment, including its commitment to not profile, target on account of, or discriminate against any individual or group for exercising First Amendment rights.”

“The First Amendment enshrines the right of all individuals to speak and assemble peaceably without fear of retaliation or discrimination by the government on account of race or immigration status,” said Joel Cohen, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “This settlement underscores that the government will be held to affirm its commitment to upholding these fundamental rights for all.”

“Zully, Enrique, Victor, and Migrant Justice members have been at the forefront of the fight for immigrant rights in Vermont. Their willingness to raise their voices, share their stories to advocate for change, and organize to ensure immigrants can live with dignity and thrive strengthens our communities and is fundamental to our democracy,” said Trudy S. Rebert, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Today’s settlement agreement sends the message that all of us have First Amendment rights and no one should be retaliated against for exercising those rights — our democracy depends upon it.”

“The actions of ICE against Migrant Justice and its members cannot be divorced from the federal government’s, including ICE’s and other enforcement agencies’, disgraceful history of unlawfully targeting, surveilling, and disrupting grassroots movements for racial justice and civil and human rights. From COINTELPRO and the government’s actions against leaders in the movement for Black liberation in the 60s and 70s, to its current attacks on Black Lives Matter advocates, immigrant leaders in the Sanctuary Movement, and advocates at the southern border, the federal government has demonstrated a pattern of retaliation against dissenters across movements. It is up to us to hold our government to account for this unlawful conduct. This lawsuit and settlement is one tool to do just that, and ICE is on notice that we will continue to fight for the rights of Migrant Justice, its members, and other civil and human rights defenders,” said Lupe Aguirre, a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The 2018 lawsuit had also named the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles as a defendant due to the state agency’s discriminatory practices of sharing immigrants’ information with ICE. In January, plaintiffs reached a separate settlement with the DMV, formalizing new regulations to restrict communication and information-sharing between the state agency and federal immigration agencies. The settlement also prohibits the DMV from retaining copies of birth certificates, passports, and other sensitive information of applicants for Driver’s Privilege Cards and requires the agency to retrain staff and hire an external auditor to monitor compliance with the agreement.

Today’s settlement brings the federal lawsuit to a close, just days before the presidential election. Said Migrant Justice spokesperson Thelma Gómez, “ICE’s abuses did not start under this administration and they won’t end next week, whoever wins the election. We have achieved something great today, and we must keep organizing to confront these abuses. Because it is only when we unite to defend our rights that we win justice.”

The settlement agreement is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Migrant-Justice-v-Wolf-Settlement-Agreement-redacted-2020-10-28.pdf.

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New York Undocumented Youth File Lawsuit Challenging Wolf’s DACA Memo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
– Yatziri Tovar, [email protected], 917-771-2818
– Ramis Wadood, [email protected], 203-432-4800

New York Undocumented Youth File Lawsuit Challenging Wolf’s DACA Memo

NEW YORK — Immigrant youth New Yorkers today filed a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s latest attempt to dismantle Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The filing in federal court challenges the administration’s July 28, 2020, memo, arguing that the memo unlawfully and drastically altered the program and that it was issued without authority by the purported acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf. The new challenge amends an existing lawsuit, Batalla Vidal v. Wolf, which culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court victory for immigrant youth in June. This is the first legal challenge to the entire Wolf memo.

“For a second time, the Trump administration has robbed me of the opportunity to apply for DACA. After coming within days of applying for DACA in 2017, I was hopeful after the Supreme Court decision in June that I would finally be able to access DACA — and get a stable job, provide for my family, and breathe a sigh of relief knowing I wouldn’t be at risk of being separated from my children,” said Johana Larios, a DACA-eligible individual who applied for DACA before July 28 but whose application will not be processed under the new memo, and a member of Make the Road New York. “Just like me, there are thousands of other youth who are stuck in the same situation, and that is why I decided to join this lawsuit. We’re ready to fight for DACA because our home is here.”

Larios is one of four new individual plaintiffs harmed by the administration’s latest actions on DACA who are joining the lawsuit. The new plaintiffs also include Ximena Zamora, a member of Make the Road New York who qualifies for DACA but is unable to apply under the new memo; M.B.F., a DACA applicant who submitted her application prior to the new DACA memo but who, like Ms. Larios, will now not be considered for the program; and Sonia Molina, a current DACA recipient whose renewal application is pending and is now subjected to a one-year renewal. They join plaintiffs Make the Road New York and members Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcón, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, and Carlos Vargas.

“For the past three years, the Trump administration has continuously attacked DACA, leaving immigrant youth like me at risk of being separated from our loved ones,” said Sonia Molina, DACA recipient and member of Make the Road New York. “DACA opened the doors to many opportunities. I have been able to finish college, help support my family, and give back to my community, even if just in two-year increments. The recent DACA memo is a direct attack on me and thousands of DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth. We urge USCIS to reopen DACA to new applications, and fully reinstate renewals to a two-year period.”

The July 28 memo directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject all first-time DACA applications, reject all requests by DACA recipients for permission to travel outside the U.S. through advance parole except in extremely narrow circumstances, and shorten renewals and work authorization from two years to only one year. The memo applies both to future applications and applications filed with USCIS before it was issued, including from new applicants who requested DACA after the Supreme Court decision in June 2020 should have resulted in the program being reopened.

“Immigrant youth won a monumental victory at the Supreme Court, but the Trump administration insists on trying to lawlessly dismantle and end DACA,” said Javier. H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “Trump’s latest attack is an imminent threat to thousands of eligible immigrant youth who are being denied the opportunity to apply for DACA for the first time, and threatens the livelihood of hundreds of thousands who have been safeguarded under the DACA program. For the past three years, we have fiercely fought alongside immigrant youth and we will continue to do so every step of the way.”

The plaintiffs — represented by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School — are asking the court to invalidate the July 28 memo and require the government to process first-time DACA applications, advance parole requests, and renewals under the terms of the original DACA program.

“These abhorrent and unlawful attacks on DACA show the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to ignore the Constitution and the laws governing federal agencies in order to inflict harm on immigrant communities,” said Camila Bustos, a law student intern in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. “Our clients defeated the administration last time, and they’ll do it again.”

Over the past eight years, DACA has opened opportunities for nearly 800,000 immigrant youth to work, attend school, better support their families, and make even greater contributions to their communities. As a result of the Trump administration’s unlawful attacks on DACA, an estimated 300,000 eligible immigrant youth have been denied the opportunity to apply for it.

“The July 28 Wolf memo was another cruel and divisive move that unlawfully upends the lives of more than a million immigrant youth while Trump continues to dismantle DACA,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “With our courageous plaintiffs and co-counsel, we continue fighting back. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that the Trump administration is accountable to the law and immigrant youth remain safe and have the freedom to thrive here at home.”

Today’s filing is available here.

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Federal Court Greenlights New DACA Challenge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), 213-375-3149, [email protected]
– Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York (MRNY), 917-771-2818, [email protected]
– Ramis Wadood, Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School, 203-432-4800, [email protected]

Federal Court Greenlights New DACA Challenge

NEW YORK — Today, a federal court in Brooklyn approved a request from Make the Road New York and immigrant youth with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to sue the Trump administration over its newest attempt to end DACA.

At a court hearing earlier today, plaintiffs in Batalla Vidal v. Wolf explained that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) July 28, 2020, memo, which drastically altered DACA, suffers from several legal and constitutional defects. Not only did the Trump administration once again sidestep the procedures required to take such an action, but it also stripped DACA applicants of their due process rights. Moreover, plaintiffs questioned the authority of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to alter the DACA program in the first place, since he is not serving lawfully in his position.

The court granted the plaintiffs’ request to file an amended complaint challenging the new DACA memo in the coming weeks. The court also indicated that the parties should quickly move forward with additional briefing and ordered the parties to come back to the court by next week with a proposed schedule. The court granted a similar request from 16 states and the District of Columbia.

“We applaud the judge’s decision to allow our amended complaint to challenge Trump’s latest reckless effort to end DACA,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “The Trump administration’s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court decision and to fully restore DACA — places hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth at risk of deportation and denies new applicants an opportunity for temporary but life-altering relief. For the last three years, we have fought against Trump’s cruel attacks on undocumented youth, and we are ready to continue to fight tooth and nail to defend and protect immigrant youth and all immigrants.”

Batalla Vidal v. Wolf was the first legal challenge to President Trump’s 2017 termination of DACA. That case — in which the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Make the Road New York (MRNY), and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School represent six DACA recipients and MRNY — culminated in a monumental victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in June, in which the Supreme Court held that the Trump administration violated federal law by improperly terminating DACA in 2017.

“The Trump administration’s newest attack on DACA is as unlawful as its first,” said Armando Ghinaglia, law student intern in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, who argued for the plaintiffs today in court and who himself has been a DACA recipient. “By issuing this memo so haphazardly, the Trump administration sidestepped its legal and constitutional obligations. Our plaintiffs won’t let that stand.

Under the July 28 DHS memo, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reject all first-time DACA applications. While USCIS will continue to process DACA renewal applications, renewals and work authorization will be granted only for one year at a time instead of for two years. While the per-application fee remains the same, the change effectively doubles the fee for DACA renewals.

“We’ve been fighting Trump’s unlawful attempts to dismantle DACA from the beginning, and our fight continues,” said Araceli Martínez-Olguín, supervising attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “As Trump doubles down on his efforts to harm immigrant youth and immigrant communities, even in the middle of a public health and economic crisis, we remain steadfast to ensure that immigrant youth are secure here at home. We’ll keep fighting alongside our plaintiffs and communities to stop Trump’s harmful, divisive, and hateful actions.”

Over the past eight years, more than 700,000 immigrant youth have been able to use DACA to work, attend school, better support their families, and make even greater contributions to their communities. As a result of the Trump administration’s unlawful attacks on DACA, an estimated 300,000 eligible immigrant youth have been denied the opportunity to apply for it.

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Advocates Applaud Court Order Blocking Trump Public Charge Regulations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2020

CONTACT
– Hayley Burgess, NILC, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
– Barbara Semedo, CLASP, 202-906-8010, [email protected]

Advocates Applaud Court Order Blocking Trump Public Charge Regulations

WASHINGTON, DC — A federal court today issued nationwide injunctions, blocking any implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge regulations, which threaten the health, nutrition, and housing of millions of families. One order bars implementation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s public charge rule, while the other bars implementation of a companion rule issued by the U.S. State Department. The orders, issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, come as the COVID-19 death toll approaches 150,000.

“Today the federal courts have once again blocked the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant measures,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director for the National Immigration Law Center. “The court rightly recognized that, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take care of everyone in our country, and that President Trump’s public charge regulation is not just cruel but also dangerous to the health and well-being of our nation. We stand with our courageous plaintiffs in their victory before the court and will continue our work to ensure that everyone — regardless of their race or birthplace — has access to the testing, health care, and economic relief they need. We will only get through this crisis if we come together and take care of everyone in our communities.”

Research confirms that the public charge policy has undermined access to health care for millions in immigrant families, even before the coronavirus pandemic. Frontline health care workers have urged Congress to block its implementation as a critical element of effective coronavirus response.

“Scaring millions away from health care is dangerous during the best of times, and during a pandemic, it’s disastrous,” said Olivia Golden, executive director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “By ensuring that everyone can access care without fear, today’s ruling protects America’s immigrant families and improves our nation’s response to the COVID-19 threat.”

The same court blocked the regulation in October 2019, but the U.S. Supreme Court lifted that injunction, allowing the Trump administration to implement the policy in February 2020. In March, the administration announced an exception to the DHS public charge regulation for testing and treatment related to COVID-19. In April, litigants challenging the policy, including the New York attorney general, the attorneys general of other states, and New York City, asked the Supreme Court to reconsider that decision in light of the pandemic. The Supreme Court declined but gave litigants leave to file again with the trial court. Today’s rulings follow oral arguments on that motion. The Trump administration has not yet indicated whether it will appeal.

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Two Nationwide Injunctions Block “Public Charge” Rules Amid Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
– Alejandra Lopez, The Legal Aid Society, (917) 294-9348, [email protected]
– Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, –[email protected]
– Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York, (917) 771-2818, [email protected]

Judge Issues Two Nationwide Injunctions Blocking “Public Charge” Immigration Rules Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

New injunctions will allow immigrant communities across the U.S. to safely access critical health care and public assistance during health crisis

NEW YORK, NY — Today, a Manhattan federal court issued two nationwide injunctions temporarily blocking the Trump administration’s “public charge” rules. An injunction issued against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prevents DHS from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The ruling came after immigrant rights attorneys successfully argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the DHS public charge rule lethal to immigrant communities by chilling the use of health care and other benefits. The court also enjoined the U.S. State Department from applying its parallel “public charge” rules, including the president’s Health Care Proclamation, to applicants for visas at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

“Since the Trump administration announced the public charge rules, it has caused immense harm to our communities — harm that intensified, as our country is in the midst of a health crisis,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director at Make the Road New York. “The public charge rules by both DHS and DOS attacked our loved ones by imposing a racist wealth test on the immigration system, leaving working immigrants to choose between vital services or remaining together with their families. At Make the Road, we have seen the devastating effect this rule has on families scared to seek out healthcare and basic forms of assistance from food pantries and even their children’s schools. We applaud the court’s decision and will continue to fight to stop the Trump administration’s reckless and inhumane attacks on immigrants.”

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the same New York court’s October 2019 decision to block DHS’s “public charge” rule. As a result, DHS began enforcing the rule on February 24, 2020, just before the coronavirus outbreak became a nationwide pandemic. The new injunction against DHS was issued in response to a joint motion filed by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Legal Aid Society, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who joined New York State Attorney General Letitia James, representing the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont and the City of New York in arguing that immigrants should not be deterred from accessing health care and government benefits and services, especially during this unprecedented health crisis.

The second nationwide injunction was issued in a separate case challenging the State Department’s public charge rule as well as the president’s Health Care Proclamation requiring visa applicants to show proof of private health insurance. Because of the ruling, immigrants seeking to go through consular processing will not be subject to the public charge test utilized by the State Department. That case was brought on behalf of individual and organizational plaintiffs by the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Legal Aid Society, the National Immigration Law Center, and Paul Weiss. Today’s ruling is the first decision fully addressing these policies, and it enjoined those policies indefinitely.

In his decision today, Judge George B. Daniels wrote: “Much has significantly changed since January 27. Today, the world is in the throes of a devastating pandemic, triggered by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. In six months, approximately 16.5 million people around the globe have been afflicted by the disease caused by this virus. That disease (COVID-19) has claimed over 650,000 lives worldwide. In the United States alone, COVID-19 has spread rapidly, infecting over four million people. Close to 150,000 American residents have died. All of these staggering numbers continue to climb on a daily basis…. Thousands continue to die indiscriminately. Attempting to effectively combat this plague has immediately come in conflict with the federal government’s new ‘public charge’ policy, a policy which is intended to discourage immigrants from utilizing government benefits and penalizes them for receipt of financial and medical assistance.”

Susan Welber, staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said: “Today’s decisions are a great victory for our plaintiffs and immigrant communities which have been disproportionately impacted by the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Immigrants, especially people serving as essential workers combating the spread of the coronavirus, need access to life-saving healthcare, food assistance, and other essential services in order to both tackle the pandemic and protect their families without fear of immigration consequences. The Court’s nationwide injunction against the Department of State public charge rule also protects immigrant families across the nation. We hope the court’s decisions sends a clear message to the government to withdraw these unlawful, racist, and anti-family rules, and that if they don’t, we will continue to fight them in court.”

Brittany Thomas, Bertha Justice Fellow with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “In times like this, today’s decisions signify great victories for the plaintiffs and immigrant communities, who can now access life-saving benefits without fear. The Court’s issuance of a nationwide injunction halting the public charge rule issued by the Department of State signifies a rejection of this administration’s radical position that they are above the law. We are pleased that the Court recognized the public charge rules as yet another attempt by this administration to undermine congressional authority and harm immigrant communities of color in the process. Today, immigrant communities throughout the entire country are protected and can focus on staying healthy and safe.”

Joanna E. Cuevas-Ingram, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said: “By implementing these regulations, the Trump administration has shown flagrant disregard for both the rule of law and community health in the middle of a pandemic. The Court’s decision recognizes that every member of our communities, including immigrants, must be able to access the tools they need to keep themselves healthy and safe. This is a great victory and we will not rest until these hateful, unlawful, and discriminatory regulations are gone for good.”

BACKGROUND

Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli challenges changes to the public charge provisions implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and was filed by The Legal Aid Society, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP on behalf of Make the Road New York (MRNY), African Services Committee (ASC), Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

Make the Road New York v. Pompeo challenges changes to the public charge provisions of the Department of State (DOS) Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and a DOS Interim Final Rule, which changed public charge regulations that affect immigrants who must undergo consular processing before entering the country. The Legal Aid Society, Center for Constitutional Rights, National Immigration Law Center, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP brought the case on behalf of Make the Road New York (MRNY), African Services Committee (ASC), Central American Refugee Center New York (CARECEN-NY), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), and individual plaintiffs.

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National Immigration Law Center Welcomes New Board Members

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2020

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375

National Immigration Law Center Welcomes New Board Members

WASHINGTON, DC — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has added two members to its board of directors: Dr. Omolara Uwemedimo and Mr. Axel Caballero.

“The NILC board sets the strategic direction of the organization, and the additions of Omolara Uwemedimo and Axel Caballero will ensure that we continue to lead with a values-based approach that makes a meaningful difference for immigrants and our country,” said Marielena Hincapié, NILC executive director. “NILC is unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that all communities, including immigrants, can thrive.  Omolara and Axel bring crucial perspective and talents to our board from their leadership in the social justice movement and in narrative and culture change, as well as their work to help bring visibility to our communities’ stories. I’m excited and honored to work with them to help propel our organization forward.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the ambitious and inspiring work of the National Immigration Law Center,” Dr. Uwemedimo said. “As a clinician and public health advocate who has served immigrant populations throughout my career, NILC’s resources and tools have been pivotal to my work. For years, NILC’s work has ensured that I can be the best advocate for immigrant families. I hope to use my position on the Board to provide as much value as possible to this necessary work.”

“The National Immigration Law Center serves a critical role in defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families,” Mr. Caballero said. “Especially at a time when certain politicians scapegoat and dehumanize immigrants, NILC’s visionary and multifaceted leadership is needed in the fight for immigrant justice more than ever. I’m thrilled to be joining NILC’s board and look forward to working to advance the organization’s vision for a more just, inclusive and welcoming society.”

Dr. Omolara Uwemedimo serves as the founding director of the Global and Immigrant Health Training Program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, NY, a position she’s held since 2013.

She is a social justice pediatrician, advocate, and researcher who is passionate about health equity. She has committed her career to empowering families of color through culturally-responsive clinical care, research, education and advocacy in the U.S. and extensively in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Uwemedimo has held several administrative leadership positions, including serving as codirector of the Resident Scholarly Oversight Committee at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and as a member of the Global Health Pediatric Education Group Steering Committee for the Association of Pediatric Program Directors. In addition, she has served as an adjunct professor in the MPH Program at Hofstra University and as an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center. Uwemedimo is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academic Pediatric Association and the Association of Pediatric Program Directors.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from the City University of New York, where she graduated magna cum laude. She received her M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine and completed her residency training in pediatrics at the Boston Medical Center/Children’s hospital Boston. She completed a research fellowship in health services research while completing a master’s degree in population and family health at Columbia University.

Axel Caballero is vice president of talent and artistic and cultural innovations at WarnerMedia. In this role, Caballero oversees the WarnerMedia portfolio of investments with leading artistic and cultural institutions in each of the cities where the company operates, as well as WarnerMedia’s 150, an initiative designed to support artistic expression, talent, and content innovation and incubation across all disciplines.

Caballero previously served as the director of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at HBO and as the executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP). Before joining NALIP, he had been active in a number of media and campaign projects, spanning Latino media fairness and equality to immigration and human rights, with a focus on the development of short films and documentary films. Caballero is the founder and executive producer of Cuentame, Latino Lens and Goodness Films, as well as founder of the Spanish-language opinion site Metafora Politica. He has produced and directed over 500 short films and videos, with an emphasis on telling Latino stories by and for Latinos throughout the general market.

Caballero was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. He holds a B.A. in political science, law and society, and visual arts studies from University of California, San Diego. He received his master’s in international law and human rights with a focus on advancing rights through visual mediums from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

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Congress Urged to Include Tax-paying Immigrant Families in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2020

CONTACT
– Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected], 202-805-0375
– Erica Jordan, America’s Voice, [email protected], 704-654-2134

Immigrants’ Rights Advocates and Experts Urge Congress to Include Tax-paying Immigrant Families in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

WASHINGTON, DC —  As Congress returns to work this week in the midst of a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, immigrants and advocates urged members of Congress to introduce a COVID-19 relief package that would provide critical financial and other support to all, including tax-paying immigrants and their families who were excluded in previous bills.

When Congress passed the COVID-19 relief package in March, millions of tax-paying immigrants were excluded from qualifying for financial relief, and many U.S. citizens were also excluded based on the immigration status of their family members. As a result, millions of U.S. citizens and taxpayers did not receive the financial help that their tax money paid for and on which tens of millions of people have depended to survive.

“The COVID-19 crisis has placed unparalleled strains on the country’s most vulnerable families, including immigrant families. In the CARES Act, Congress explicitly excluded immigrant families from qualifying for stimulus payments, if any taxpayer in the family filed taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). That means that millions of U.S. citizen spouses and children were denied stimulus payments because one member of the family pays their taxes using an ITIN, not a Social Security number,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This is punitive, hurts communities and public health, and is just plain wrong. Congress must act swiftly to right some of the wrongs in the last COVID bill and work across party lines to make sure that this recovery is truly a recovery for all.”

“My mother was one of the first to get fired at her job when the COVID-19 outbreak severely hit the States. In addition, my disabled father couldn’t find work before COVID, and his health condition and age make him susceptible to the virus, leaving him with no options but to stay home. This situation has left me as the sole income provider of a household of five,” said Luz Chavez-Gonzales, DACA recipient and member of United We Dream. “Despite a Supreme Court ruling, the Trump administration has made it clear that they want to deport immigrants like me. For now, DACA allows me to work and provides me with some peace of mind from the threat of deportation. Right now, with a health crisis and the uncertainty of Trump ending DACA, my family could lose our only source of income. Congress must extend protections from deportation for DACA, TPS holders, and other immigrants in the next COVID-19 relief package, so I can keep working to help provide for my family.”

“Like many families all over, we’ve been impacted by this pandemic. Even though we pay taxes like everyone else, we’ve been denied help when we need it most. It’s not fair. And we simply can’t continue like this. We’re very worried about what we’re going to do. We’re not asking for any special treatment, only that we don’t get cast aside. Our communities are suffering and our future and the future of our children hang in the balance,” said Lorena, Colorado resident, mother, and restaurant worker who files taxes using an ITIN.

“Enough is enough! The fact is that Washington has passed three stimulus packages that have shamefully excluded more than 1.2 million immigrant New Yorkers — including American children and spouses of immigrant taxpayers. Meanwhile immigrants continue to serve on the front lines of New York’s COVID-19 outbreak, ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of every single one of us, and contributing billions of dollars in taxes,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Once again, Senate Minority Leader Schumer has the opportunity to ensure that our elected leaders stop playing partisan politics with our lives and finish what the House Democrats started by pushing for passage of the Heroes Act. All New York families need relief, now more than ever, and the cost of inaction is too high.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin, said: “Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin has launched a campaign to support immigrant essential workers across industries. We immediately saw the extreme hardship that many families are enduring. In the absence of action from the federal government, Voces created a fund to support undocumented and mixed status families that did not qualify for previous stimulus funds. Due to high demand, the fund was quickly depleted. We need Congress to act now, and we call on Senator Tammy Baldwin to vote for an inclusive stimulus package that includes all Wisconsin workers.”

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Recording of today’s press call about this issue: https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SENATE-2020-07-21.mp3

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