Category Archives: News Releases

Rights Groups Respond to Charges Against Owner of Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, 202-805-0375, media@nilc.org
Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, 646-584-5281, Lisa@tnimmigrant.org
Jen Fuson, Southern Poverty Law Center, 334-956-8226, Jen.Fuson@splcenter.org

National & Local Civil Rights Groups Respond to Federal Charges Against Owner of Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place

MORRISTOWN, TN — James Brantley, the owner of Southeastern Provision, a meatpacking plant in Eastern Tennessee, pled guilty yesterday to federal charges of tax evasion and wire fraud. He is charged with evading nearly $1.3 million in federal payroll taxes over the past decade and neglecting to pay state and federal fees such as unemployment and workers’ comp premiums.

For years, Southeastern Provision has flagrantly violated laws that are intended to protect all workers in this country.  In addition to having been charged with tax evasion, the company is being investigated by both the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) to determine whether its employees’ working conditions were inhumane and unhealthful. These charges came to light after a massive raid of the plant in April, during which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents used aggressive, militaristic force to arrest nearly a hundred workers, including one U.S. citizen and several who have work authorization.

As a country, we must stand up and demand that any company that abuses its workers be held accountable for its actions to the full extent of the law. All too often, workers bear the brunt of this abuse and are used as scapegoats, while companies are able to continue to operate without consequence.

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):
“We are glad that Mr. Brantley is finally being held accountable for some of his egregious employment practices. But these charges could have been brought by the federal government and a plea deal reached without bringing armed ICE agents into the town and ripping 97 hard-working members of the community from their families. In the four months since the raid, we’ve worked alongside the 97 families who had been the only ones to suffer any consequences from the investigation. The families are still struggling to recover from the devastation of the raid, including many whose loved ones are still being held in detention or who have already been shipped out of the country. By conducting mass worksite raids in Tennessee, Ohio, and Nebraska, the government is instilling fear in workers and making them less likely to report the kind of egregious working conditions that persisted at Southeastern Provision.”

Jessie Hahn, labor and employment policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC):
“These latest charges and the pending investigations against Mr. Brantley shed light on a pervasive problem across the country in which the federal government has allowed low-road employment practices to go unchecked, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The federal government has choices in how it enforces immigration laws, and in this case ICE’s decision to conduct a large, militaristic raid was reflective of a larger pattern of attacking and destabilizing immigrant communities. Contrary to ICE’s representation that this kind of enforcement is designed to combat worker exploitation, ICE’s use of fear and intimidation tactics has the effect of empowering abusive employers and driving immigrant workers further underground.”

Michelle Lapointe, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
“The federal government responded to this employer’s widespread and pervasive violations of the law by ripping vulnerable and exploited workers from their families, detaining them, and threatening to deport them. This is wrong. When workers live in fear of deportation, they are intimidated from reporting unsafe and unfair working conditions. Southeastern Provision had been circumventing basic employment laws for years, including taking advantage of workers by not paying overtime for working over 60 hours per week, exposing workers to health and safety hazards, and denying basic human dignity at work. We hope this employer’s punishment is a lesson to employers to treat all workers with respect and ensure safe and dignified working conditions. And we hope the federal government sees that terrorizing immigrants into silence creates space for bad actors like this employer to flout the law.”

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP):
“Instead of targeting and arresting the workers, this administration and the state of Tennessee’s counterpart agencies must hold this employer fully accountable for violating not only tax laws, but for the egregious violations of basic worker protections done to simply inflate profits and undercut competitors. Employees at Southeastern Provision have experienced conditions and dangers that no worker anywhere should have to endure.”

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Trump Regulations Rig Immigration System for the Wealthy, Put Millions of Families at Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375
Barbara Semedo, CLASP, bsemedo@clasp.org, 202-906-8010

Trump Regulations Rig Immigration System for the Wealthy, Put Millions of Families at Risk

Press reports suggest Trump administration may soon propose sweeping change

WASHINGTON — Press reports suggest that the Trump administration may soon act unilaterally to put forward proposals that will restrict access to immigration for applicants with incomes under $60,000. The proposal, reported by NBC News and other outlets, places wealth over family, hard work, and potential as a criterion for who can contribute to the United States. For example, various leaked proposals would put immigrants at risk if they — or potentially their families, including children born in the United States — get health care under Medicaid or Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) or if they get help that is crucial to putting food on the table for millions of working Americans under the Earned Income Tax Credit. Earlier reports estimated that the regulation would impact 20 million people or more.

Advocates decried the leaked proposed regulations during a press call earlier today. Quotes can be found below:

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center (NILC):

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ regulation is a major component of Trump’s extremist anti-immigrant agenda that seeks to decrease the number of brown families in this country. Whether it’s separating families at the border or separating families who have deep ties to our communities and country, including U.S. citizen children, these are all cruel policies and a cynical effort to use immigration as wedge issue in the midterm elections.

“This proposed regulation is a perversion of our country’s values of family unity and fairness. No parent should ever have to make the impossible choice between feeding their children, giving them healthcare, and having a future in this country.

“We’ve seen abuses like this before in our history — whether it was turning away Jewish families fleeing the Holocaust or discriminating against Irish Catholics. We cannot let history repeat itself. By working hard and building better lives for their families, immigrants have made and continue to make our country stronger every day. We must stand by our neighbors, friends, and communities across the nation to ensure that every family in this country has the basics they need to thrive.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP):

“As we’ve seen in the separation of children from their parents on the border, the administration’s policies towards immigrants too often target children for the greatest damage. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of long-term damage as their families’ lives, health, and economic security are upended.

“The common theme across these policies is their cruelty and reckless disregard for long-term consequences. With 1 in 4 American children living with an immigrant parent, the damaging consequences affect not only children themselves but the whole country.

“Compromising a child’s ability to thrive is not only immoral, it’s deeply damaging to the future of our nation.”

Shelby Gonzales, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP):

“One of our biggest concerns is that people who are eligible for programs such as health and nutrition will be frightened from participating in those programs that we know have immediate and long-term positive effects. As a result, we will see people who have medical needs forgo services, and families will go hungry.”

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Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, media@nilc.org, 202-384-1279
Bruna Bouhid, UWD, bruna@unitedwedream.org, 202-850-0812
Sandra Hernandez, MALDEF, shernandez@maldef.org, 310-386-5768

Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

WASHINGTON — Legal experts and immigrant youth leaders today discussed what is next in the legal defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and the enormous impact the cases will have on the lives of immigrant youth and their families.

Following a ruling Friday by the D.C. federal district court and ahead of a key federal court hearing in Houston this week, litigators explained the status of several DACA-related cases moving through the courts and the potential for ground-shifting developments on the horizon.

DACA recipients spoke about the importance of partial relief — now under threat — obtained through various legal victories, and the continued urgency for a permanent solution for immigrant youth following President Trump’s efforts to eliminate their DACA protections.

A recording of today’s call is available here.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “Thanks to the leadership of courageous DACA recipients, lawyers, and organizations who challenged Trump’s cruel and unlawful termination of DACA, more than 100,000 DACA renewals have been approved since January 2018, and tens of thousands more are in the pipeline. The relief provided by the courts so far — although limited and likely temporary — has been crucial, especially in the face of Congress’s failure to enact permanent protections for Dreamers. But now, even that limited relief has come under threat. The next weeks and few months could see developments in the courts that significantly alter the landscape for DACA recipients. It’s a critical time for DACA recipients, our communities, and members of the media to stay informed.”

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “MALDEF is proud to represent the 22 courageous leaders and DACA recipients who have intervened to defend DACA in the Texas case because the federal government cannot be trusted to do so adequately. This is a significantly different case than the challenge to DAPA from two years ago, so we expect the courts to continue to protect DACA until the Congress selects leadership who will actually lead by acting to permanently protect these hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who contribute so much to our country.”

Donald Verrilli, a partner and founder of the D.C. office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, and the U.S. Solicitor General from 2011 to 2016, said, “The government is hiding behind a weak and insubstantial legal rationale because it is unwilling to embrace the reality that it is abandoning DACA for reasons of policy, not reasons of law. This seems quite consistent with what the government is doing, for example, in the case — also filed by Texas — challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The government is unwilling to own its position that it is trying to use the courts to achieve. It is very hard to see that as anything other than a misuse of the judicial process to try to achieve policy objectives that once again the administration is not willing to affirmatively embrace.”

Greisa Martinez, deputy executive director of United We Dream and a DACA recipient, said, “Last week, D.C. federal district judge John Bates ruled that Trump’s decision to kill the DACA program was wrong — and we agree. When immigrant youth and our allies fought to create DACA to protect us, we knew that it was the right thing to do. From the start, the program and this idea that immigrants should be protected and not deported came under harsh attack from those who want to see mass deportation. In spite of this, the courts and common sense have shown that DACA works. As Trump tries everything he can to kill protections and feed more immigrants to his deportation force, Congress must vote to defund the deportation agencies and pass legislation to protect immigrants in a way that is permanent and clean from enforcement. In the face of uncertainty and danger, immigrant youth and our allies are determined to #LiveUnafraid and continue our fight to defend our communities.”

Eliana Fernandez, a DACA recipient and plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen and an immigration case manager at Make the Road New York, said, “I joined the lawsuit against Trump’s decision to end DACA to fight for my family and community. As a result of the injunctions obtained, more than 100,000 Dreamers like me have been able to continue renewing DACA, which provides us protection from Trump’s deportation force. As a mother, having been able to renew my DACA this past July means — for now — that I can continue to be with my children, have a job, pay for my mortgage, and continue to fight for my community.”

A recording of today’s call is available at https://wp.me/a7gMAF-4ze.

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Groups Challenge the Waiver Component of Trump Administration’s Muslim Travel Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279, media@nilc.org

Groups Challenge the Waiver Component of Trump Administration’s Muslim Travel Ban

SEATTLE — In response to the June 26, 2018, U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, Iranian American Bar Association, Lane Powell PC, National Immigration Law Center, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Washington State, have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the Muslim travel ban waiver process on behalf of organizational plaintiffs OneAmerica and PARS Equality Center, as well as individual plaintiffs from all of the Muslim-majority countries subject to the travel ban.

The current waiver process is inconsistent and arbitrary, and so few visa applicants have actually been granted a waiver, that the process by which waivers are supposedly granted has become mere window dressing for the ban itself. This lawsuit seeks to hold the Trump administration accountable for its failure to implement a good-faith, lawful, and constitutional waiver process so that families who qualify for waivers under the terms of the presidential proclamation that established the ban actually receive waivers and are issued visas.

“We will continue our fight against Trump’s discriminatory Muslim ban, but, in the meantime, countless families are suffering needlessly due to the administration’s failure to implement a coherent visa waiver policy,” said Esther Sung, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “We’re suing today to hold the Trump administration accountable.”

Since December 2017, countless individuals and families have been denied a visa and a waiver under the Muslim travel ban without notice of the process, an opportunity to submit evidence, or consideration under the waiver scheme. According to the U.S. State Department, only 2 percent of applicants have received waivers, and former U.S. consular officials have called the process “fraudulent.”

“The administration’s sham ‘waiver’ and its haphazard process have failed to provide a fair and meaningful opportunity for relief from the travel ban, which continues to separate families and upend lives,” said organizational plaintiff PARS Equality Center’s managing attorney. “The courts have been an important bulwark to protect the rights of those targeted by this administration’s discriminatory immigration policies, and we hope they continue in this important role today.”

The purpose of this lawsuit is to force the government to clarify and implement a waiver process for those individuals who would otherwise be permanently banned from entering the U.S. The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the government to provide a meaningful opportunity to access what is, for most, the only means to reunite with family under an otherwise permanent ban.

This lawsuit is part of a larger attempt to fight against the Muslim travel ban and represents affected communities for every Muslim-majority country targeted in the ban. Through this lawsuit and additional measures, the co-counsel organizations will continue to push for equity and accountability, and fight the travel ban through every possible avenue — in court, on the streets, and through mobilization and policy/legislative change. Having national travel bans on entire groups of people based on religious belief or countries of origin devalues America’s shared cultural emphases on equality and acceptance.

The complaint filed yesterday in PARS Equality Center, et al. v. Pompeo, et al. is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PARS-Equality-Ctr-v-Pompeo-complaint-2018-07-31.pdf.

The exhibits attached to the filed complaint are available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PARS-Equality-Ctr-v-Pompeo-complaint-exhibits-2018-07-31.pdf.

A recording of a telephonic press conference about this filing held earlier today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Muslim-ban-waiver-lawsuit-teleconf-2018-08-01.mp3.

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Groups Respond to Court Ruling Allowing Refugee Ban Lawsuit to Proceed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2018

PRESS CONTACTS
Adela de la Torre, NILC, 202-384-1275, delatorre@nilc.org
Henrike Dessaules, IRAP, 646-459-3081, hdessaules@refugeerights.org
Bill Swersey, HIAS, 212-613-1349, bill.swersey@hias.org
Deb Frockt, Jewish Family Service of Seattle, 206-861-3148, dfrockt@jfsseattle.org
Mindy Berkowitz, Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, 408-357-7455, mindyb@jfssv.org

Groups Respond to Court Ruling Allowing Refugee Ban Lawsuit to Proceed

SEATTLE — This past Friday, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart issued a decision allowing plaintiffs to seek certain discovery in Jewish Family Service v. Trump, which challenges the Trump administration’s refugee ban issued on October 24, 2017. This decision will allow the plaintiffs to find out whether the suspensions in the refugee resettlement process are continuing in another form.

While Judge Robart had largely blocked the government’s ban on processing refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries back in December 2017, refugee admissions from those countries have ground to a near halt. The individual plaintiffs, including an Iraqi man hiding in Egypt who had worked as a translator for the U.S. military and a Somali refugee trying to be reunited with his wife and young son, have not gotten any closer to finding relief despite years of waiting. Meanwhile, the United States has accepted the lowest number of refugees in any year since the establishment of the Refugee Act in 1980.

Jewish Family Service v. Trump was brought on behalf of Jewish Family Service of Seattle, Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, and nine individual plaintiffs by attorneys at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); Perkins Coie LLP; HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees; and individual attorneys Lauren Aguiar, Mollie M. Kornreich, and Abigail Shaheen Davis.

In response to the ruling, the counsel and plaintiffs issued the following statements:

Rabbi Will Berkovitz, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Family Service of Seattle: “The United States is on track to resettle the smallest number of refugees since Congress unanimously passed the Refugee Act of 1980. We are hopeful that with this ruling, a very lucky few will have the chance to be reunited with their families in the U.S. Jewish tradition says, To save one life is to save the world. This ruling offers a glimmer of possibility that lives will be saved and human beings of all faiths, from any country of origin, will once again be able look to America as a welcoming beacon.”

Mindy Berkowitz, Executive Director, Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley: “The refugee families in our care are so desperate to be reunited with their loved ones. They hope beyond hope that by permitting our case to proceed to discovery that their brothers, wives and parents can join them in a life of freedom in the U.S.”

Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS: “HIAS welcomes the court’s ruling. Family unity is a human right guaranteed by international and U.S. law. Yet whether we are talking about asylum-seekers at the border or refugees resettled to the U.S., the Trump administration has actually dedicated taxpayer resources to tearing or keeping families apart. We at HIAS are grateful that the court has once again stepped in to prevent the administration from getting away with its cruel and lawless anti-family policies.”

Mariko Hirose, Litigation Director, IRAP: “By allowing our case to proceed to discovery, the court recognized the plight of thousands of refugees who have been devastatingly impacted by this refugee ban. This ruling further proves the need for heightened transparency from an administration that has proactively stalled the refugee resettlement program and continues to vilify refugees, particularly Muslim refugees, who are seeking safe haven in the United States.”

Melissa Keaney, Staff Attorney, NILC: “This ruling should serve as a reminder that the fight for fairness and equality for refugees is alive and well. We are committed to getting the transparency and accountability that our clients — and those like them — deserve.”

The order can be viewed here.

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Trump Administration Must Reunite Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279, media@nilc.org

Trump Administration Must Reunite Families

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has missed a court-ordered deadline to reunite all parents and children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. government earlier failed to meet a July 10 deadline to reunify children under the age of five with their parents. Hundreds of children remain separated from their parents who came to this country seeking safety.

Diana Pliego, policy associate at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration again has failed to remedy a crisis it created when it began its ‘zero tolerance’ policy of criminalizing people seeking refuge in our country. After subjecting families to unthinkable pain and trauma, the administration should be doing everything possible to ensure that every child it took is back with their parent. Instead, it has cynically deemed hundreds of parents ‘ineligible’ for reunification, and hundreds were deported back to danger without their kids. Many of these parents have been misled or pressured into signing away their rights.

“The Trump administration has mishandled this crisis at every step. We must demand that it reunite every family it separated. Parents who were deported without their kids must be allowed to return and given a fair opportunity to make their case. The administration has a moral responsibility to right this horrid atrocity it created.”

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NILC Demands Information from the Government about Treatment of Jailed Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, (202) 805-0375
Lindsay Toczylowski, Lindsay@ImmDef.org, (213) 634-7181

National Immigration Law Center Demands Information from the Government about Treatment of Jailed Children

LOS ANGELES — The National Immigration Law Center today filed a Freedom of Immigration Act (FOIA) request on behalf of Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) to demand that the government shed light on whether its treatment of jailed immigrant children and their parents accords with U.S. law. This move comes after ImmDef was repeatedly cut off from its clients, notwithstanding their due process rights. In several cases, Imm Def has learned that its clients were sent to be reunited in family jails, potentially subjecting these children to prolonged and unnecessary incarceration.

The FOIA request seeks information about the government’s policies, practices, and contracts governing “Stage II” of the government’s family reunification efforts. This includes policies governing how reunited families’ immigration cases are treated, and whether and how these families are allowed to pursue alternatives to incarceration.

“The Trump administration has done nothing but obfuscate and mislead the American public throughout this whole manufactured crisis, and we — along with these children — deserve the truth,” said Josh Rosenthal, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “All of us, regardless of where we were born or how old we are, have the right to be treated fairly under the law. ImmDef’s experience with this administration makes it clear that these children’s rights are not being protected — and we need to know why.”

The groups have asked for the government to provide information in an expedited way, citing the growing urgency of the situation these children face.

“We are representing parents and children impacted by these policies, but instead of a government that protects families, our clients have encountered a government that puts its draconian agenda over their well-being,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “The government’s practices of moving our clients without notice and stopping all communication between client and attorney would be an abhorrent miscarriage of justice in any instance. The fact that the government is showing such callous disregard for its own laws and policies regarding the treatment of children and families seeking reunification is even more appalling.”

This FOIA request was filed shortly after the deadline a U.S. district court in San Diego had set for the federal government to reunite families it had forcibly separated. Current estimates indicate that only 34 percent of families have been reunited, and several hundred parents have been deported without their children.

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NILC Responds to Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2018

CONTACT
Email: media@nilc.org
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149

NILC Responds to Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

LOS ANGELES — President Donald Trump today announced the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The announcement comes just over a week after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he would soon retire.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court is essential to maintaining the strength and integrity of our democracy. Its role in upholding the rights and values that we, as a nation, cherish most cannot be overstated.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s record makes it clear that he cannot be entrusted to uphold the awesome responsibility to be independent, open-minded, and to fairly weigh critical legal questions that have broad and significant impact on the lives of all who call the United States home. Kavanaugh’s legal writings and recent dissents speak for themselves: he thinks immigrant communities should be Constitution-free zones, and that reproductive justice should be curtailed.

“Especially at a time when the president and his administration have so freely traversed the boundaries of legality, the Senate has a responsibility to protect all its constituents. This includes the most marginalized, such as women, people of color, LGTBQI, workers, and the immigrant families, that live in their communities. If they do so, the majority of Senators should find that Judge Kavanaugh is unfit to serve in the highest court in the land.   

“The next Supreme Court justice must demonstrate a commitment to defend the rights of all people in the United States, as provided by the Constitution, and to serve as an independent check on the presidency regardless of who occupies the White House. Judge Kavanaugh cannot demonstrate such a commitment. The Senate has a responsibility to reject his nomination.”

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DACA Recipient Marco Villada Back Home in the U.S. after Six Months Stranded in Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2018

CONTACT
Email: media@nilc.org
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

DACA Recipient Marco Villada Back Home in the U.S. after Six Months Stranded in Mexico

LOS ANGELES — A married couple forcibly separated by a Trump administration misapplication of immigration law has been reunited after months of legal advocacy and community pressure. Marco Villada Garibay is back home with his husband, Israel Serrato, in California, following an emotional reunion at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday.

“I’m immensely grateful to all the people who have taken the time to learn about the situation my husband, Israel, and I were in and who supported us through this difficult time,” Villada said. “I’m very happy to be back home and to put this painful period behind us. We were in limbo for half a year. Now, we can finally start planning for our future.”

Villada, who was previously a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, had been stranded in Mexico since January, when U.S. consular officials in Ciudad Juarez unlawfully denied his application for a spousal immigrant visa and barred him from returning to the U.S. In April, Villada and Serrato — represented by the National Immigration Law Center, the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, and Mayer Brown LLP — challenged that decision in federal court.

After an outpouring of support from tens of thousands of Americans, including several members of Congress, the Human Rights Campaign, and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), consular officials called Villada back for a follow-up interview. The U.S. State Department later reversed its denial and issued Villada’s visa. The Washington Post broke the news of his return home.

“We’re glad that the federal government has reversed its unjust decision and that Marco will finally be able to return home to the U.S. where he belongs,” said Nora Preciado, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “This is a testament to the efforts of so many people who spoke out against the government’s unfair treatment of Marco and in support of bringing him back. But we also know this never should have happened and that it has caused irreversible harm.”

Villada, 35, arrived in the U.S. when he was six years old and has lived most of his life in Los Angeles. He and Serrato, a U.S. citizen, were married in 2014, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The couple has been working for years to adjust Villada’s status to lawful permanent residency.

“Sadly, we know that there are countless people with similar stories that won’t end up with the same good news,” said Stacy Tolchin, one of Villada’s attorneys. “So many people are living in excruciating uncertainty because of this administration’s attacks on immigrant communities, on families, and on due process and the rule of law. As we celebrate Marco’s return, we are also thinking of all the families who haven’t been so lucky.”

“Marco’s case is not at all unique — wrongful immigration decisions are far too common,” said Andrew Pincus, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP. “Our Constitution and laws require fair decision-making processes, with strong judicial oversight. And we need permanent protection for Dreamers.”

After Villada was barred from reentering the U.S., the couple was forced to leave their home and sell off many of their belongings in order to keep up with their financial obligations. Serrato moved in with a friend and Villada was taken in by family members in Mexico.

In the six months since Villada was unjustly barred from coming home, he missed out on celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with his parents. His brother, who is an active duty military service member, was deployed for a second tour in the Middle East. Villada wasn’t able to attend his only sister’s quinceañera, which the family had been planning and looking forward to for years. And Villada and Serrato spent their fourth wedding anniversary apart.

“This experience has been hugely disruptive for me and Israel, and for the people we love the most,” Villada says. “We have a lot of rebuilding to do, and we can’t take back time, but we’re hopeful and excited for what comes next.”

“I hope everyone experiencing uncertainty and fear right now, including DACA recipients, can hang on to hope,” Serrato says. “Even in the hardest times, there are people out there working to make the U.S. a better place for all of us. Reach out to people and organizations in your area doing this work. Get involved in and support these efforts, even if you’re not personally impacted.”

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Another Republican Anti-Immigrant Bill Fails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Another Republican Anti-Immigrant Bill Fails

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives today resoundingly rejected Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) bill proposing sweeping, harmful changes to our immigration system in exchange for woefully inadequate protections for Dreamers. Ryan’s bill fell nearly 100 votes short of those needed to move forward, garnering even less support than another White House–endorsed bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that was overwhelmingly defeated last week.

Diana Pliego, a policy associate at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“This is the third time the Republican-controlled Congress has rejected a White House­–sponsored immigration proposal. Republican leadership has failed yet again at solving the crisis Trump created when he ended the DACA program.

“For months, Republican congressional leaders have gone out of their way to stop any bipartisan proposals to resolve the uncertainty facing immigrant youth. Today’s vote sends a clear message that political games and extremist, anti-immigrant, partisan bills won’t get the job done. A real solution requires real compromise, which means working across the aisle.

“The need for Congress to pass a permanent solution for Dreamers has not gone away. People’s lives continue to hang in the balance as congressional leadership continues to use immigrant youth as political pawns.

“Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda has had its day on the floor. It has failed and failed and failed again. It’s past time for Congress to get serious and pass the Dream Act.”

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