Category Archives: News Releases

Migrant Justice Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Vermont DMV

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, NILC, [email protected], 520-313-4921
– Will Lambek, Migrant Justice, [email protected], 802-321-8393
– Beth Nolan, ACLU-VT Communications Director, [email protected], 802-223-6304 x111

Migrant Justice Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Vermont DMV

Federal case over immigration information-sharing ends

MONTPELIER, VT — Human rights organization Migrant Justice and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles have reached a settlement in a federal antidiscrimination lawsuit. The Vermont-based farmworker group, accompanied by its legal team, announced the settlement Wednesday in a press conference in the state’s capital.

“With this settlement, the state of Vermont makes good on its promise to guarantee access to driver’s licenses without discrimination,” said Migrant Justice leader and suit plaintiff Enrique Balcazar. “Though justice delayed is justice denied for the many whose lives have been ruined by the DMV’s harmful collaboration with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], we firmly believe that this settlement will put an end to that abuse of power going forward. Vermont’s immigrant community can now safely exercise this hard-fought right.”

The case stems from the Vermont DMV’s practice of information-sharing and collaboration with federal immigration agents, particularly targeting Latino applicants. In 2013, after a campaign spearheaded by Migrant Justice, Vermont passed legislation creating a new class of driver’s license available regardless of immigration status, called “driver’s privilege cards.” Following the law’s implementation, DMV officials began routinely colluding with ICE in the immigration detention and deportation of many DMV customers, prompting one ICE agent to write to a DMV employee, “We’re going to have to make you an honorary ICE officer!”

Despite a 2016 settlement with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the DMV continued to discriminate against applicants and share information with immigration agents. In 2017, the DMV sent to ICE the driver’s license application of community leader Enrique Balcazar, on which a DMV employee had written “Undocumented,” an act that resulted in Enrique’s subsequent detention and potential deportation. Enrique is one of many human rights leaders in Vermont who have been targeted by ICE due to their activism, a pattern detailed in the lawsuit.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Migrant Justice farmworker leaders signed the settlement agreement to end the organization’s claims against the DMV. The lengthy and detailed settlement formalizes new regulations to restrict communication and information-sharing between the state department and federal immigration agencies. Furthermore, the DMV will be prohibited from retaining copies of birth certificates, passports, and other sensitive information of applicants for driver’s privilege cards. The DMV must retrain all personnel and hire an auditor for a minimum of 18 months to ensure compliance with the agreement.

ACLU of Vermont Attorney Lia Ernst said, “Today’s settlement puts a stop to the DMV’s history of close collaboration with Border Patrol and ICE and ensures greater protections for our immigrant communities. The settlement limits what information the DMV collects and under what circumstances that information can be shared with the federal government. We know, however, that the protections our clients fought for and won are only as strong as their implementation and enforcement. That is why this settlement also includes training, transparency, and accountability measures that ensure that those protections are realized. The ACLU and our allies have long fought for the rights of immigrants in Vermont, and this detailed, far-reaching, and comprehensive settlement helps further disentangle Vermont from the Trump administration’s deportation machine.”

Under today’s settlement, Vermont has adopted strong provisions protecting drivers’ personal information from unlawful disclosure. Across the country, states are increasingly recognizing it is necessary to vigilantly safeguard the information submitted to motor vehicle agencies to ensure the success of driver’s license programs, such as Vermont’s driver privilege card, increase public and road safety, and make a state more welcoming for all who call it home.

“We strive for communities in which all of us, regardless of where we were born, have access to the tools and opportunities necessary to thrive, including the ability to drive lawfully,” said Sarah Kim Pak, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “As a country and in our local communities, we cannot allow the weaponization of essential DMV and other government services, which require the disclosure of personal information and data, to infringe upon fundamental civil rights, to instill fear, or to bring harm to our families and neighbors. With this settlement, Vermont is taking a significant step toward safeguarding the rights, information, and data privacy of all its residents. We are proud to stand alongside our courageous plaintiffs and partners who have fought to secure this important victory for all Vermonters.”

“Today’s settlement is a testament to the power of every individual to demand and achieve accountability of public actors,” said Joel Cohen, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “We are hopeful that this agreement will serve as a model for other public agencies across the country to evaluate their information-sharing practices and adopt more robust antidiscrimination protections that ensure equal access to public services for all.”

While the portion of the case against the Vermont DMV was settled today, the case continues against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Plaintiffs sued the federal agencies in November 2018 following an unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest, and detain Migrant Justice members and leaders. Those activities were undertaken in retaliation for plaintiffs’ First Amendment–protected speech and assembly and in order to destabilize Migrant Justice and its successful organizing of Vermont’s immigrant farmworkers.

Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farmworkers. The organization is a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with members Enrique Balcazar, Zully Palacios, and Victor Diaz, all of whom have been unlawfully targeted by ICE.

Plaintiffs in the suit are represented 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.

For more information, visit www.nilc.org/migrant-justice-et-al-v-nielsen-et-al/.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Migrant-Justice-v-Nielsen-settlement-2020-01-15.pdf.

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Immigrant Rights Advocates in New York File First Federal Lawsuit to Jointly Block Three Interrelated “Public Charge” Rules

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019

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

Immigrant Rights Advocates in New York File First Federal Lawsuit to Jointly Block Three Interrelated “Public Charge” Rules

Litigation represents broadest challenge to government’s attempt to redefine longstanding definition of “public charge”

NEW YORK — Today, immigrant rights advocates in New York filed Make the Road New York v. Pompeo, the first federal lawsuit seeking to jointly block three interrelated “public charge” rules promulgated by the Trump administration. These rules seek, independently and together, to wholly transform the United States’ longstanding family-based immigration system, which allows all immigrants to seek a new and better life in the United States regardless of their means, into a system that favors the wealthy and discriminates against people of color. These radical proposed changes violate the immigration statutes, and the Constitution.

The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the National Immigration Law Center, the Legal Aid Society, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP 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 five individual plaintiffs.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of the following three rules:

I. The Department of State (DOS) January 3, 2018, changes to the public charge provisions of its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) governing consular processing, which led to a twelve-fold increase in visa denials, largely against nonwhite immigrants;

II. The DOS October 11, 2019, Interim Final Rule, which changes the public charge regulations that pertain at the point of consular processing and would require DOS to apply the same enjoined DHS “public charge” criteria to immigrants who must undergo consular processing before entering the country to unify with their parents, children, and spouses;

III. The “Presidential Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the Health Care System,” issued on October 4, 2019, which would bar entry to any immigrant who cannot demonstrate the ability to obtain certain types of private health insurance within 30 days of arrival.

“The Trump administration aims to transform immigration in the U.S. from a system that prioritizes keeping families together to a privilege for the wealthy,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Ghita Schwarz. “Unsurprisingly, like so many other Trump policies, these immigration rules harm people of color the most. The courts should not allow the administration to circumvent numerous court injunctions, based on determinations that the public charge criteria are likely unlawful and unconstitutional, simply by applying that criteria via different agencies.”

“Public charge has meant people wholly unable to take care of themselves for over 100 years in the U.S., not members of working families who may use government benefits to supplement their income. We will not allow Trump’s xenophobic interpretation to proliferate across the nation,” Susan Welber, Staff Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “We will challenge every new attempt to redefine public charge, and consequently, the very fabric of this country, and look forward to fighting in court on behalf of our clients and all low-income noncitizens and their families.”

“The Trump administration’s multiple attempts to restrict family-based immigration by executive mandate are an unlawful and discriminatory attack on diverse low-and moderate-income families of color,” Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “These actions dramatically alter longstanding immigration policy, and undermine the goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other health insurance programs established by Congress. We stand with our plaintiffs and their families and with immigrant communities across the country as we continue to fight against these dangerous, unlawful, and racially motivated attacks.”

“We wholeheartedly reject the administration’s shameless attempts to impose a racist wealth test on our immigration system,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.  “We’ve seen in the first round of public charge litigation that the law is on our side on this issue, and we urge the courts to stop this latest attempt by the administration to deny status to immigrants based on a reckless and illegal attempt to redefine ‘public charge.’”

“The FAM Revisions, the DOS IFR, and the Health Insurance Proclamation are the latest bricks in Trump’s invisible wall that is cruelly separating immigrant families across the United States,” Elise de Castillo, Legal Director of CARECEN – NY. “The detrimental impact of all three policies is not only felt by those who are needlessly separated from their loved ones, but also by organizations such as ours, dedicated to serving and providing clear legal advice to immigrant families and communities, and the local communities across the country that are being denied the social and economic benefits new Americans would bring to them.”

“The U.S. immigration system is based on family unity. These new public charge rules tear families apart, preventing citizens from reuniting with parents and children,” CLINIC’s Executive Director Anna Gallagher said. “We are a nation founded on faith-based values. There is no place in this country for requiring a wealth test for families trying to be reunited.”

“The Trump Administration’s recent attempts to unlawfully undermine and restrict family-based immigration threatens serious harm to immigrant families who are trying to reunite with eligible relatives both living in the United States and abroad. African Services Committee represents some of the most vulnerable populations who will be devastated by the implementation of these illegitimate policies,” said Franco Torres, Supervising Attorney at African Services Committee. “African Services Committee will continue to challenge these arbitrary and capricious attempts to redefine public charge into a virtual wall that prevents lawful immigration and family unification.”

BACKGROUND

The State Department rules closely track the changes made to “public charge” determinations under the blocked Department of Homeland Security rule, redefining a public charge from those who are predominantly reliant on government aid for subsistence to include anyone who is likely to use any amount, at any time in the future — even long after becoming a U.S. citizen — of various cash and non-cash benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and federal housing subsidies. The rules challenged today apply to immigrants who must undergo consular processing, including immigrants who must temporarily leave the U.S. in order to obtain LPR status. Thus, though immigrants obtaining their green card from within the U.S. are not subjected to the DHS rule because it is enjoined, intending immigrants seeking immigrant visas through consular processing are threatened by nearly identical provisions via the State Department rule. The lawsuit states that denials of admissions and permanent status on public charge grounds rose dramatically — by twelve-fold following the change — denials of immigrants from some countries rose from single digits in 2016 to thousands in 2019. According to one study, 81 percent of the world’s population would fail to satisfy the wealth test that is a factor in the public charge determination under the State Department’s proposed Interim Final Rule (IFR).

The lawsuit also challenges a presidential proclamation that bars entry to immigrants who cannot demonstrate an ability to obtain private health insurance within 30 days of arrival or financial resources to pay for foreseeable medical costs. Attorneys say this, too, is a wealth test for immigrants, and note that the proclamation provides no support for assertions that immigrants are more burdensome to healthcare resources than U.S. citizens.

The changes to State Department public charge criteria and the healthcare proclamation are racially discriminatory, the lawsuit says — driven by racial animus, and having a disparate impact on nonwhite immigrants. The complaint references Trump’s longstanding hostility to non-white immigrants from what he has referred to as “shithole countries.” It further describes how the challenged changes originated in a policy memo by the Center for Immigration Studies, “a far-right group founded by white supremacist John Tanton and dedicated to immigration restrictionism.” The architect of Trump’s immigration policies, White House Advisor Stephen Miller, is similarly associated with white nationalist groups. The revised “public charge” criteria include vague evaluations of English proficiency, and lawyers say that the new criteria and the health insurance requirement disproportionately impact immigrants with disabilities and those from countries with low incomes and largely non-white populations.

The complaint filed today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Make-the-Road-NY-et-al-v-Pompeo-complaint-2019-12-19.pdf. Information about the lawsuit is available at www.nilc.org/make-the-road-new-york-et-al-v-pompeo-et-al/.

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Spending Compromise Hurts Immigrant Communities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2019

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

Spending Compromise Hurts Immigrant Communities

WASHINGTON, DC — Ahead of the vote in the House of Representatives on a governmentwide spending bill, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The final U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill will ultimately allow this administration to continue to inflict widespread harm on immigrant communities and flagrantly abuse its power right under Congress’s nose. We applaud the work of our Defund Hate coalition partners and members of Congress who fought to ensure that the bill did not concede to more of President Trump’s wish list.

“Unfortunately, because the bill gives the administration continued permission to transfer funds however it chooses, this makes any attempts to set limits on the number of people in detention and the amount of funds spent on a border wall meaningless. While the bill tries to mitigate some of this harm by including important oversight provisions, it ultimately does shamefully little to outweigh the dangers of Congress writing a blank check to DHS.

“The fact that House Democrats are poised to pass articles of impeachment based partially on this president’s abuse of authority makes it even harder to accept that they would consider a DHS spending bill that they know will invite more abuse of authority.

“Congress is meant to serve as a check on government spending — to ensure that the executive and his cabinet don’t misuse funds on pet projects or an agenda that is out of sync with our values. But this deal weakens our system of separate and coequal branches of government and opens up the country’s bank account so that Trump can abuse taxpayer dollars however he likes in order to fulfill his racist agenda — which includes a wasteful and xenophobic border wall and locking up immigrants in horrific detention conditions that have resulted in record numbers of deaths.

“This deal tacitly signals that Congress has conceded to the wall and to locking up record numbers of immigrants. Anyone committed to ending this administration’s abusive policies and practices must vote no on this bill.”

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New Jersey To Join Growing Number of States Extending Access to Driver’s Licenses for All Residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2019

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

New Jersey to Join Growing Number of States Extending Access to Driver’s Licenses for All Residents

New Jersey is the 15th state to pass legislation extending access to driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of immigration status

TRENTON, NJ — The New Jersey State Legislature voted today to pass critical legislation that expands access to driver’s licenses to all residents who are otherwise eligible, regardless of immigration status. Once the governor signs the legislation into law, it is estimated that 500,000 more New Jersey residents will now be newly eligible to drive with a license.

This major policy victory for immigrant families in New Jersey comes the same week that New York’s Green Light Law goes into effect, expanding access to driver’s licenses in that state regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and just a few months after Oregon passed similar legislation. New Jersey is the 15th state to pass licenses-for-all legislation. With the bill’s passage, most immigrants in the United States will now live in a state that issues licenses to all, regardless of immigration status

“This victory is life-changing for hundreds of thousands of immigrant families throughout the state of New Jersey who will now have the opportunity to live more freely and fully in their communities,” said Jackie Vimo, NILC economic justice policy analyst. “Access to driver’s licenses has long been a core ask from immigrant communities. For everyday working families, a driver’s license is more than just about any other document — it means they are able to drive to work, take their kids to school, visit the doctor, go to church, all without the added fear that a broken tail light might lead to deportation. Today’s win is another milestone in a growing movement to advance policies that allow immigrants to live more fully in their communities throughout New Jersey and across the country.”

“I am in awe of the power of immigrant communities here in New Jersey. We launched the Let’s Drive New Jersey campaign in January 2018, building on the progress and infrastructure we had built during the years before. It has been a long fight to achieve this victory,” said Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.  “We couldn’t have done this without the support of our partners and advocates across the country. Every time one state wins, another state gets closer and closer — and that’s really what these fights are about. I’m proud that New Jersey will be joining the other 14 states across the country that have passed this groundbreaking legislation, and I’m excited for what this means for our fight going forward.”


The NILC Winning in the States initiative aims to tangibly improve the lives of immigrants in the communities where they live and to help change the national narrative around immigration. NILC is investing in building power in these communities to accelerate the progress being made. We are creating a structure for advocates across the country to share resources and support each other so that, together, we can ensure that every immigrant living in the United States can feel safe and supported in their community. Learn more: https://www.winninginthestates.org


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Appeals Court Ruling Reckless, Advocates Warn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2019

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
Beverly Quintana, AAPCHO, 510-500-5944, [email protected]

Appeals Court Ruling Reckless, Advocates Warn

WASHINGTON, DC — A federal appeals court Monday lifted the second of four court orders blocking implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge regulations, which threaten the health, nutrition, and housing of millions of families. Yesterday’s order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit follows last week’s ruling by the Ninth Circuit lifting another injunction.

One nationwide injunction remains in place, keeping the rule blocked for now. The administration has asked the Second Circuit to lift that order, and it has asked the Seventh Circuit to lift the remaining, more limited injunction in place in that circuit, which would allow the administration to implement the regulations.

“Just this past October, courts across the country blocked this devastating regulation from harming families, and for good reason: it is both legally and morally bankrupt. As a lawyer, and as an immigrant, I am deeply disappointed,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Although this is a difficult day for the legal battle, the public charge regulation remains blocked and the fight to protect immigrant families is far from over. We will continue to fight — both in the courtroom and along with our communities — for dignity for all.”

“The public charge regulations are about telling immigrant families that if you’re not white and you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome — that means it’s against the law,” Hincapié said. “We will continue to fight Trump’s effort to redefine who is considered worthy of being an American and what we look like as a nation. We won’t stop until we win and all families have the opportunity to live healthy lives and thrive.”

The public charge regulations were finalized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August, despite receiving a record-breaking 266,000 public comments, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the proposed changes to the regulations. The regulations represent a drastic departure from how the public charge test was previously administered, and they were opposed by experts who predicted that they’d result in large-scale increases in poverty, hunger, and unmet health and housing needs.

Since then, the regulations have already done considerable harm. In addition to the first uptick in America’s child uninsured rate in more than a decade, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last month that about half of community health centers reported people declining or cancelling coverage because of the public charge regulations. Anecdotal accounts nationwide suggest similar harm with respect to anti-hunger programs. Experts expect the fear resulting from the appellate rulings will deepen the chilling effect.

“By fueling fears, as families all over our country gather together for the holidays, this reckless order puts the food, medical care, and homes of millions at risk,” said Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and a member of the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign steering committee. “The regulation itself directly affects only a small number of people, but the Trump administration is counting on fear to amplify the harm. Don’t let Trump win — fight fear with facts and make the best decision to protect your family. Then keep fighting, by making sure you’re counted in the 2020 census and, for the millions of U.S. citizens in immigrant families, by registering to vote and to turning out on election day.”

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NILC and NILC Immigrant Justice Fund Welcome New Board Members

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2019

CONTACT
Alex Gilliland, [email protected], 650-823-4575

NILC and NILC Immigrant Justice Fund Welcome New Board Members

LOS ANGELES — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) each has added a new member to its board of directors: Angela Banks now serves on NILC’s board, and Ginette Magaña serves on IJF’s board.

“The NILC and IJF boards set the strategic direction of our organizations, and the additions of Angela and Ginette will ensure that we continue to lead with a values-based approach that makes a real difference for immigrant communities and our country,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of NILC and IJF. “Now more than ever, NILC and IJF are needed to fight for the rights of immigrants and ensure that our communities can thrive. Ginette and Angela bring crucial skills and talents to our boards from their leadership in the social and immigrant justice movement, and I’m eager to work with them to help propel our organizations forward.”

“As a legal scholar and researcher, I know that NILC’s litigation work and its effort to shift the narrative around immigrants and immigration is extremely important, and I’m honored to join the board,” Banks said. “NILC serves a critical role defending and advancing the rights of immigrants, especially as those rights come under attack, and I look forward to working with this team to drive change in the immigrant rights movement.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining the board for the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. Since my time in the Obama White House, I’ve admired the litigation, advocacy, and narrative-change work the organization is engaged in,” Magaña said. “Now more than ever, our country needs a bold vision for the future of immigration, and I look forward to working to advance this goal.”

Angela M. Banks is the Charles J. Merriam Distinguished Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. She’s an immigration and citizenship expert whose research focuses on membership and belonging in democratic societies.

Prior to joining the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law faculty, Banks was a professor of law at William & Mary School of Law. She has also served as the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow for Law Teaching at Harvard Law School; as legal advisor to Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal; as an associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, DC (now WilmerHale); and as a law clerk for Judge Carlos F. Lucero of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

She received a B.A. in sociology from Spelman College and a master of letters in sociology from the University of Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar. Banks is a 2000 graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review and the Harvard International Law Journal.

Ginette Magaña is president and founder of Talavera Strategies, a strategic communications and public affairs consulting firm. With more than 15 years of multicultural outreach and experience in electoral campaigns, government, private sector, and nonprofits, Magaña provides high-level strategic advice to engage and mobilize the public, manage issues, and help organizations thrive.

Previously, Magaña served as director of corporate affairs at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, where she oversaw the company’s national award–winning corporate social responsibility initiative program. Prior to that, she led President Obama’s engagement with the nation’s Latino community and worked on immigration-related issues in her role as senior associate director of public engagement at the White House.

From her outreach and communications role in the U.S. House of Representatives to her numerous leadership roles on various campaigns, including President Obama’s successful reelection campaign, to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Magaña has worked to engage the Latino community on key policy and advocacy issues.

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Senate Letter Challenging Trump “Junk” Insurance Mandate Applauded

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 23, 2019

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

Senate Letter Challenging Trump “Junk” Insurance Mandate Applauded

WASHINGTON — United States Senators Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), ranking Democrats on key Senate committees with jurisdiction over health care, today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar challenging a proclamation requiring that immigrant visa applicants overseas obtain health insurance, but barring them from purchasing health coverage for which they qualify under U.S. law.

The proclamation, issued by the White House on October 4, “punishes middle- and low-income immigrants by going after health care benefits they are legally entitled to obtain,” the senators wrote. Adding that “the President’s proclamation is a direct attack on those who are most vulnerable, and on the health care system itself.”

As the senators noted, the proclamation is aligned with the Trump administration’s “public charge” regulation, which was blocked by federal courts earlier this month. That regulation would threaten the health of nearly 26 million people nationwide, according to independent estimates.

Responding to the senators’ letters, the National Immigration Law Center released the following statement by its senior policy attorney for advocacy, Sonya Schwartz:

“Senator Murray and Senator Wyden took action today to protect the nation’s health and our health care system. Like the public charge regulation and other bricks in Trump’s ‘invisible wall,’ this proclamation puts people’s health at risk to send a message that if you’re not white or wealthy, you’re not welcome here. This reckless, dangerous, anti-immigrant, anti-health agenda must be stopped.”

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Courts Block Trump Public Charge Regulations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2019

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

Courts Block Trump Public Charge Regulations

WASHINGTON, DC — Federal courts today issued national injunctions blocking any implementation of the Trump administration’s “public charge” regulations, which threaten the health, nutrition, and housing of millions of families. The orders, issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, find, in part, that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail at trial. A third court arrived at similar legal findings but limited the scope of its injunction. As a result, the public charge regulations, which were scheduled to be implemented on October 15, are blocked across the country.

“CLASP applauds the work of the committed litigators, brave plaintiffs, and numerous amici who worked together to fight back in the courts,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “The public charge rule is rooted in discrimination and racial animus, targets lawfully present immigrants, and sends the message that only wealthy and white immigrants have a place in the United States. But today, once again, the courts have stepped in to stop this administration in its attempt to implement a policy that divides us as a nation and damages the lives of millions of immigrants, their families, their children and their communities. Today’s ruling means a temporary halt in the implementation of the public charge rule. The rule will not be implemented as scheduled on October 15th. We encourage immigrants to continue to seek the services they need to take care of their families and to ensure their children’s health and economic security.”

The regulations were finalized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August, despite receiving a record-breaking 266,000 public comments, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the proposed rule. The regulations represent a drastic departure from how the public charge test was previously administered and are opposed by experts who predict large-scale increases in poverty, hunger, and unmet health and housing needs if they take effect. They would have taken effect on October 15. As a result of today’s orders, the regulations will not be implemented, and families can continue to access the services they need.

“Today’s decisions by numerous courts blocking Trump from implementing the public charge rule are a great victory for our courageous plaintiffs and others who joined lawsuits filed across the country, from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York. These orders will preserve dignity for countless families, who will be able to continue making empowered decisions about their well-being without concern,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We have known from day one that this racially-motivated public charge rule is unlawful. The public charge attack is about sending one message: If you’re not white or you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome. We will continue to fight to defend children and their families until the public charge rule is ultimately struck down, because it has no place in a country that’s supposed to be the land of freedom and justice for all.”

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Eleventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging Georgia City’s Policies Unlawfully Restricting Access to Basic Utility Services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2019

CONTACT
Alexandra Gilliland, [email protected]
Hannah Riley, [email protected]

Eleventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging Georgia City’s Policies Unlawfully Restricting Access to Basic Utility Services

ATLANTA — The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday issued a unanimous opinion and order vacating the 2017 decision of a U.S. district court in Georgia in Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, et al. v. City of LaGrange, thus allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

In May 2017, the National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a lawsuit against the city of LaGrange, Georgia, alleging that the city’s discriminatory utility policies violate the Fair Housing Act. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Troup County Chapter of the NAACP, Project South, and seven affected individuals. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit In December 2017.

The city of LaGrange is the sole provider of electricity, gas, and water utility services to residents of the city. Unlike most municipalities in the country, LaGrange does not levy property taxes, a policy decision that the city routinely touts to recruit new employers and residents. Instead, municipal operations are largely funded through the city’s sale of basic utilities to its residents.

The city requires that utility customers comply with two policies in order to initiate and maintain those basic utility services. First, both applicants and current customers must pay any debts they owe to the city, including unrelated municipal court fees and fines, to maintain their utilities. Under a city ordinance, residents with municipal court debt cannot obtain electricity, gas, or water, and current customers who owe court debt to the city may have their utilities turned off, sometimes with little advance notice. Second, the city requires an applicant seeking to open a new utility account to present a valid state- or federally-issued photo ID, which many Latinx residents in LaGrange are categorically ineligible to obtain.

The disproportionate impact of these policies on Black and Latinx communities is clear: 90 percent of the residents subjected to the court debt policy were Black (LaGrange’s population is only 48 percent Black), and Latinx immigrants are overwhelmingly impacted by the city’s policy of requiring photo identification in order to obtain utilities.

“This is a tremendous victory for the Black and Latinx communities in LaGrange who have suffered because of the city’s discriminatory utility policies,” said Mayra Joachin, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Everyone, regardless of their nationality or socioeconomic status, should be able to access gas, water, and electricity. Policies like these are regressive and often hurt immigrant and low-income communities of color the most. Today, the judges reminded us that policies affecting access to essential utilities are protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, and we’re encouraged to see such a clear decision.”

“The court’s order could not have been more clear — housing discrimination is unlawful regardless of whether it occurs before or after someone moves into their home. This is a win for everyone committed to achieving fair housing practices in Georgia and beyond,” said Atteeyah Hollie, senior attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“We are truly excited about the decision handed down yesterday,” said Ernest Ward, former president of the Troup County NAACP. “It was huge for our disenfranchised community members, who are continually impacted by the barriers associated with poverty. We have a reason to be excited, but at the same time, we have a reason to be sad. Sad because lawsuits do not change the heart of a person, and we desire a time in our community when one doesn’t have to litigate equality.”

“We are thrilled with this decision from the court,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and policy director of Project South. “Access to water and sanitation services is a human right. No city should deny this essential service to its residents.”

Yesterday’s order is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Georgia-NAACP-v-LaGrange-11th-Cir-order-2019-10-10.pdf.

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DACA Recipients, Broad Coalition of Immigrants’ Rights Organizations Launch “Home Is Here” Campaign Ahead of Crucial Supreme Court Hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2019

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected]
Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York, [email protected]
Josh Dorner, Home Is Here Campaign, [email protected]

DACA Recipients, Broad Coalition of Immigrants’ Rights Organizations Launch “Home Is Here” Campaign Ahead of Crucial Supreme Court Hearing

Campaign to spotlight what’s at stake for 700,000 DACA recipients, their families, our communities, the economy, and our country if the Supreme Court allows unlawful termination of DACA to proceed

WASHINGTON, DC — Ahead of the November 12, 2019, U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in three consolidated cases regarding President Trump’s unlawful termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA recipients and a broad coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations today launched the Home Is Here campaign to highlight what is at stake for 700,000 DACA recipients, their families (including 256,000 U.S. citizen children), our communities, the economy, and our country if the Court overturns the lower court rulings currently allowing DACA renewals to continue.

“For the past seven years, DACA has been an incredibly successful program, providing temporary protection from deportation and peace of mind to nearly 800,000 young people who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. These Dreamers are part of the fabric of our country, but their futures are once again hanging by a thread as DACA heads to the Supreme Court,” said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of the Justice Action Center, manager of the Home Is Here Campaign, and part of the counsel team for McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal. “Ending DACA was both immoral and unlawful, as multiple courts across the country have found. We will continue to fight for DACA recipients and their families whose home is here, in the United States.”

Organizations participating in the campaign include CASA, the Center for American Progress, Community Change/FIRM, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), FWD.us, Justice Action Center, Make the Road New York, NAKASEC, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and United We Dream (UWD).

The Home Is Here campaign tells the stories of and commits to protect DACA recipients who arrived in the United States as children and their families. Over the past seven years, more than 700,000 immigrant youth have been able to work, attend school, better support their families, and make even greater contributions to our communities and our country because of the temporary protection from deportation granted by the DACA program. If DACA ends, DACA recipients would be added to the list of those targeted in the deportation dragnet and threatened with deportation to a country that they may not remember and where they may not even speak the language, sparking a new wave of family separation crises nationwide. Their homes are here in the United States.

The campaign will underscore why DACA is legal, constitutional, and highly successful through events across the country over the next six weeks, including DACA renewal clinics and other efforts to encourage DACA recipients to renew their protections as soon as possible, digital storytelling, paid advertising, organizing, and rallies at the Supreme Court and in multiple cities across the country on November 12.

On November 12, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, and Trump v. NAACP. The lower courts in each of these cases ruled that the Trump administration’s September 2017 termination of the DACA program is unlawful. Nationwide injunctions and other court orders in place have allowed DACA renewals to continue since early 2018; however, no new first-time applications have been considered or granted since the attempted termination. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected between January and June 2020.

The deputy solicitor general of California, Michael Mongan, and noted Supreme Court advocate Ted Olson, solicitor general of the United States under the George W. Bush Administration, will argue on behalf of a number of individual DACA recipients and the other plaintiffs in these cases, including the regents of the University of California, Microsoft, Princeton University, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Current DACA recipients are encouraged to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to consider their renewal options. More information is available at www.RenewMyDACA.com. Americans can also contribute to a DACA recipient in need of the $495 renewal fee by visiting www.GoFundMe.com/DACA.

KEY DACA FACTS

­– DACA recipients, on average, arrived in the United States at the age of 7 and have lived here for 20 years. More than a third arrived before age 5. They are our classmates, our coworkers, and our friends. Most know no other country as home.

– DACA recipients are parents to nearly 256,000 U.S. citizen children, and nearly every DACA recipient is part of a mixed–immigration status family. Ending DACA would rip apart hundreds of thousands of families.

– DACA recipients contribute significant federal, state, and local tax revenues that help provide important benefits to millions of Americans:

QUOTES FROM PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center: “For hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth whose home is here, DACA opened the door to opportunities and the stability many of us take for granted. For seven years, DACA has been transformative in the lives of DACA recipients who have grown up here, for our communities, and for our country as a whole. Allowing Trump’s unlawful and cruel attempt to end DACA to move forward would vastly compound the already devastating consequences of Trump’s relentless actions to criminalize, disenfranchise, and shut our doors to immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and other communities of color. In this critical moment, we’re reinvigorated and determined to keep fighting for DACA alongside immigrant youth and our partners across the country. We call on you to join us in this fight.”

Martin Batalla-Vidal, lead plaintiff in the Batalla Vidal v. McAleenan lawsuit to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and member of Make the Road New York: “Because of DACA, for the past seven years I have been able to go to school, work at my dream job, and remain with my family in the United States. The Trump administration’s cruel and unlawful termination of DACA has caused chaos and uncertainty in young immigrants across the country. DACA has been a valuable policy that has allowed hundreds of thousands to work, to go to school, and pursue their dreams. Next month, we hope the court will listen to voices of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants like me, whose lives are at stake. The court should uphold the rule of law by rejecting the Trump administration’s reckless attack on DACA and leave this vital policy in place.”

Gustavo Torres, CASA Executive Director: “CASA is proud to be a part of the #HomeIsHere campaign. We cannot allow the termination of DACA for over 700,000 young people who have been living and working in the United States for decades. Several federal courts have already ruled that Trump’s September 2017 attempt to end the DACA program was completely unlawful. On November 12th, we will go to the Supreme Court and continue to fight against this injustice. Our families are emboldened by knowing they are on the right side of history. We cannot let them down.”

Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress: “We are united with our partners in the fight to defend DACA, and with it, the future of hundreds of thousands of young people who are woven into the fabric of our communities. Over the past six years, CAP’s research has demonstrated that DACA works, helping to strengthen national, state, and local economies and unlock tremendous human potential. Like every lower court that has ruled on the question so far, the U.S. Supreme Court should halt the Trump administration’s illegal efforts to end DACA so that we can work together to build a fair, humane, and workable immigration system that advances the nation’s interests and values.”

Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA: “There have been key moments in our nation’s history when our hearts and minds join as one to form a strong union. One of those moments was the start of DACA, which welcomed so many Americans-in-waiting into this society. But, some key moments can mean danger especially if fear and hatred reign. This is one of those moments and it calls for us to defend the progress we have made. This is why together, as a movement and a society, we are rising up for DACA.”

Lorella Praeli, Vice President of Community Change: “DACA created a way for undocumented youth to fearlessly live their lives. We have to come together to build a country where all of us are free to thrive and where everyone has full citizenship. That’s what Home Is Here is about: fighting together to expand the circle, not close it.”

Maria Praeli, Government Relations Manager at FWD.us: “The Supreme Court’s decision will have life-altering consequences for DACA recipients like me, our families, and our communities. Millions of people across the country will be impacted by the decision. Dreamers have shown immeasurable bravery as we fight for the right to continue contributing to the only country that most of us have ever known. FWD.us is proud to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dreamers, and the millions of our friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors across the country who have made their voices heard in support of Dreamers.”

Becky Belcore, Co-Director of NAKASEC: “Many people are unaware that thousands of Asian Americans are DACA recipients and that this is a core issue within our community. We know that the vast majority of Americans support our young people. It is critical in this moment that all Americans show their support for the DACA program and call on the Supreme Court to rule on the right side of history!”

Cristina Jiménez, Executive Director & Co-Founder of United We Dream: “For the over 700,000 DACA recipients and our families: our home is here. We will be loud and unapologetic about our hopes, dreams, and fight for justice, and we won’t be scared by Trump’s personal mission to detain and deport as many people as possible. Immigrant youth are not bargaining chips and the Supreme Court should not be a tool for his mass deportation agenda either. Our communities are organizing nationwide to defend DACA and create a country where everyone has the freedom to thrive. The Supreme Court should uphold the three courts’ rulings that have kept DACA in place and not greenlight putting immigrant youth in the crosshairs for family separation.”

DACA RESOURCES

For more information, visit the Home Is Here website, HomeIsHere.us.

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