Category Archives: February 2023

NILC Celebrates the Confirmation of Araceli Martínez-Olguín to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279

NILC Celebrates the Confirmation of Araceli Martínez-Olguín to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

WASHINGTON — Sara K. Gould, interim executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Angela M. Banks, Chair of NILC’s Board of Directors, issued the following statement on the confirmation of Araceli Martínez-Olguín, a supervising attorney at NILC, to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California:

“We applaud the historic confirmation of Araceli Martínez-Olguín, our dear friend and colleague, to serve as a federal judge in the Northern District of California. Today the Judiciary gained an exemplary jurist with deep experience defending justice and advancing gender, economic, and racial equity. In addition to her many professional accolades and successes, her lived experience as a Latina immigrant brings a crucial perspective to the federal judiciary.

“Beyond her qualifications, at NILC we have come to know Ms. Martínez-Olguín as a distinctly thoughtful colleague who brings profound care and dedication to everything she does. We know she will be a superb judge who will work to advance equal justice for all.”

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NILC Calls on Senate to Confirm Julie Su for U.S. Secretary of Labor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279

NILC Calls on Senate to Confirm Julie Su for U.S. Secretary of Labor

WASHINGTON — Kica Matos, executive vice president of programs and strategy at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s nomination of Julie Su for Secretary of Labor:

“Deputy Secretary Julie Su, a fierce ally and strong advocate for workers, is preeminently qualified to lead the Department of Labor. Throughout her career in public service, Su has demonstrated a commitment to championing low-wage workers regardless of their immigration status. Her impressive track record includes redefining effective labor law enforcement, pioneering successful approaches to combat worker misclassification and retaliation, and winning policy changes protecting garment workers in California. She understands that strong enforcement of labor laws, across industry and regardless of immigration status, ultimately strengthens all American workers and the labor market.

“President Biden promised to create a cabinet that looks like country. As a woman of color and a daughter of immigrants, Su embodies the diversity of our nation. If confirmed, she would be a key figure in helping to strengthen worker organizing and effective labor law enforcement. We wholeheartedly endorse her for the position and call on the Senate to confirm her without delay.”

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Federal Court Approves Classwide Settlement of Civil Rights Lawsuit Challenging Workplace Raid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2023

CONTACT
National Immigration Law Center, Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Southern Poverty Law Center, Anna Núñez, [email protected], 334-201-9236
Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, Mallika Vohra, [email protected], 865-363-9188

Federal Court Approves Classwide Settlement of Civil Rights Lawsuit Challenging Workplace Raid

A federal court approved the settlement, which provides for over $1‌‌‌‌ million to workers targeted by federal agents because of their ethnicity

CHATTANOOGA, TN — On Feb. 27, a federal judge approved a final settlement in a class action lawsuit challenging an April 2018 workplace immigration raid at a meat processing plant in East Tennessee.

The settlement provides over $1 million to workers detained in the raid, which was, at the time, the largest workplace raid in nearly a decade. The plaintiffs – represented by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and several private practice attorneys acting on a pro bono basis – allege that armed U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officers illegally targeted the Latinx workers for detention, excessive force and false arrest.

“Someone asked me if I am happy about the result of this case,” said Martha Pulido, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and resident of Morristown, Tenn. “The question brought me back to that day. Everything was normal, and then in an instant everything changed. Now, I live with the aftermath of that bad experience. It will stay with all of the families forever. I am not happy, but I am content to see that justice prevailed over injustice. I am thankful to the legal team and the class members, who stuck together throughout this time. We will always remember that we are one.”

In August, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee certified the case as a class action in a precedent-setting decision, paving the way for classwide relief for the unlawful policing and racial profiling alleged in the lawsuit. Class members are approximately 100 Latinx workers who were detained during the workplace raid.

Today, the court granted the plaintiffs’ and individual defendants’ motion for final approval of the settlement of the class-action claims against federal agents from the IRS and DHS (including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] and U.S. Customs and Border Protection). The court determined the settlement was reasonable and the relief provided to the class was adequate. Over 95 percent of class members submitted claims forms to access the settlement’s benefits.

“Nearly five years after the raid that tore apart families – but galvanized a community – the final approval of this class settlement is a milestone in the fight for justice,” said Michelle Lapointe, deputy legal director at NILC. “Our courageous plaintiffs and class members worked long hours in grueling conditions to provide food for this country. While the settlement cannot heal the wounds caused by the violent 2018 raid, we are pleased with this hard-fought vindication of their rights and the power of community organizing.”

“Today, justice was served to the Latinx workers, and their community, who took a stand against federal agents targeting them because of their ethnicity,” said Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The unprecedented, court-approved settlement demonstrates that we, as a nation, will not tolerate racial profiling. That type of policing goes against not only our rights but also our values. We look forward to the workers receiving the relief the settlement provides.”

The devastating impacts of the 2018 raid were far-reaching, but the community came together to demand justice. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) was on the ground within hours, working to reunite families, locate detained individuals and meet families’ immediate needs.

“Today’s ruling is a testament to the incredible power and resiliency of immigrant workers and their communities,” said Lisa Sherman Luna, executive director at TIRRC. “Violent enforcement tactics like workplace raids are designed to keep immigrant families living in fear, but these plaintiffs and class members refused to stand by when they knew their rights had been violated. This settlement sends a clear message: No matter who we are or where we are from, we all deserve the freedom to work and live safely in our communities.”

Under the $1.175 million settlement, class members will receive a total of $550,000 and, upon request, a letter from ICE confirming their membership in the class that can be included in any applications for immigration relief. The settlement also requires the United States to pay $475,000 to the six individual plaintiffs to resolve their FTCA claims, including excessive force and unlawful arrest, and $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses to SPLC and NILC.

“This settlement exemplifies that courage and perseverance can bring justice and resolution,” said Eben Colby, a pro bono attorney on the lawsuit.  “It is a consequential moment in addressing illegal targeting of workers due to their ethnicity, as well as overly aggressive and abusive enforcement activities. We are pleased that the court system provided dozens of Latinx workers with what they are owed. This settlement is a historic step in advancing dignity and justice for all immigrant workers.”

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BACKGROUND:
Isabel Zelaya, et al. v. Robert Hammer, et al. was filed on Feb. 21, 2019. Plaintiffs are represented by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), pro bono attorneys Eben P. Colby, Jeremy A. Berman, Arthur R. Bookout and the law firms of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison and Sperling & Slater. On April 5, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Morristown Police Department, executed the largest workplace immigration raid in nearly a decade, detaining approximately 100 Latinx workers at an east Tennessee meat processing plant, violating their civil rights.

Plaintiffs’ and Individual Defendants’ Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement Agreement and Notice to Class Members and Incorporated Memorandum

Joint Stipulation and Settlement Agreement and Release

About the National Immigration Law Center
Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is the nation’s leading organization exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income. Using their litigation and policy expertise, NILC challenges unjust laws and policies that marginalize low-income and other vulnerable immigrant communities. In order to amass the political power necessary to hold decision-makers accountable for making policy changes real and lasting, NILC is also focused on building a stronger, more inclusive immigrant justice movement and fostering intersectional alliances across communities.

About the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to build power, amplify our voices, and organize communities to advocate for our rights in order to build a stronger, more inclusive Tennessee where people of all nationalities, immigration statuses, and racial identities can belong and thrive. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.

About the Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

NILC Solidifies Executive Leadership Team with New Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy and Executive Vice President of Operations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2023

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

NILC Solidifies Executive Leadership Team with New Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy and Executive Vice President of Operations

WASHINGTON — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) today announced that Kica Matos has joined as executive vice president of programs and strategy, and Tasha Harris as executive vice president of operations. Matos and Harris join NILC and IJF’s executive leadership team, which plays a crucial role in advancing NILC’s mission.

Before joining NILC and IJF, Matos served as vice president of initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice. She previously held the role of director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change. Additionally, she served as deputy mayor in the city of New Haven, where she oversaw the city’s community programs and launched new initiatives including prisoner re-entry, youth and immigrant integration.

Kica Matos, executive vice president of programs and strategy, said: “I am proud to join an organization that for decades has fought for the rights of immigrants, who make up the fabric of communities across America, yet continue to confront injustices that shock the conscience. There are so many critical issues that NILC is working on that I am excited to support, whether in the courts, standing next to our allies in the labor and civil rights movements, or joining community leaders in grassroots battles at the local, state, and federal levels. Together we will protect workers’ rights, fight beside immigrant youth, and champion new laws so that we all have the freedom to thrive.”

Prior to her arrival at NILC and IJF, Harris was vice president of operations at NeighborWorks America, where she guided enterprise-level project management, executive engagement, and cross-departmental projects for seven years.

Tasha Harris, executive vice president of operations, said: “I am excited to join NILC at a pivotal time in its journey and use my expertise in operations, human resources, and finance to help drive meaningful change for immigrants and their loved ones. I look forward to working with this team to advance justice and equity and achieve impact for our communities.”

Sara K. Gould, interim executive director of NILC and IJF, said: “With the additions of Kica Matos and Tasha Harris, our organizations have gained two deeply experienced advocates who will drive forward NILC’s mission to advance the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members. Together with others on the executive leadership team, they will serve important roles in helping NILC and the IJF achieve the transformational change that is needed to meet this moment in history.”

Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University.

Matos has a bachelor’s degree from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, a master’s from the New School, and a juris doctorate from Cornell Law School. She was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Albertus Magnus College in 2017 and the University of New Haven in 2019. Matos was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of fame in 2021.

Matos and Harris join NILC and IJF’s executive leadership team that includes Victoria R. Ballesteros, executive vice president of strategic communications and narrative, and Peter Wilderotter, interim executive vice president of development, with Sara K. Gould serving as interim executive director.

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