Category Archives: January 2015

Court Blocks Arizona DACA Driver’s License Ban

January 23, 2015

Victoria Johnson,773-818-9222, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, MALDEF, 202-466-0879, [email protected]
Isabel Alegría, American Civil Liberties Union, 646-438-4146, [email protected]
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-492-8540, [email protected]

Federal Court Permanently Blocks Discriminatory Arizona Ban on Driver’s Licenses for Immigrant Youth

PHOENIX — Late yesterday, a federal district court judge in Arizona permanently blocked a ban on drivers’ licenses for immigrant youth ordered by Governor Jan Brewer. The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for DREAMers in Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups challenging the state’s denial of licenses to immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under a federal program.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and MALDEF challenged the executive order and related policies in court, alleging that the ban violates DACA recipients’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law as well as the principles of federal supremacy in the area of immigration policy and law.

The discriminatory policy was ordered by Governor Brewer in 2012 shortly after the Obama administration announced its DACA program. In July 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the policy was likely unconstitutional and that the group of young people — who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S. — are seriously impaired by their inability to get drivers’ licenses.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Arizona’s motion to stay the Ninth Circuit decision. On December 22, 2014, Arizona began issuing driver’s licenses to DREAMers for the first time. And, last night, the Arizona district court reached its final resolution on the case, finding the policy violated the DREAMers’ equal protection rights, and entered a permanent injunction of the discriminatory ban.

“Once again, DREAMers have made history in Arizona,” said Korina Iribe, local campaigns field organizer for ADAC. “Despite the continuous challenges that our state government poses against us and our families, the ADAC has continued to empower and organize our communities. Thanks to that, we have defeated Governor Brewer’s discriminatory actions against our right to drive. We are hopeful that our new Governor, Doug Ducey, will not follow Brewer’s steps and refrains from further appeals of this decision. This will show if he is on the side of justice and common sense, or on the side of Brewer’s failed tactics.”

“This is a great victory for young immigrants who courageously challenged this discriminatory ban on their ability to get driver’s licenses. The court’s decision also reaffirms the constitutional principle of equal protection under the law,” said Nicholas Espíritu, NILC staff attorney.

“The court’s order protects the equal rights afforded to all persons in this country,” said Jorge Castillo, MALDEF staff attorney. “It also ensures that our clients will be able to drive to work or school, fulfilling the purpose behind their grant of deferred action.”

“We hope this is the last nail in the coffin for Arizona’s unconstitutional, discriminatory policy against immigrant youth,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “DREAMers can now get on with their lives and fully contribute their talents to their communities and the state.”

A copy of today’s decision is available from

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House Border Bill Unrealistic

January 21, 2015

Victoria Johnson, [email protected], 773-818-9222

House Panel’s Border Bill Too Unrealistic to Be Taken Seriously

WASHINGTON — The House Homeland Security Committee will consider today a border security bill, H.R. 399, that calls for massive spending and sets goals too unrealistic to be taken seriously, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

At a time when Congress is being called upon to enact immigration reform with pragmatic solutions, the House proposal would instead damage the economies of border communities, the human and civil rights of Americans, and the ability of any president’s administration to protect and secure our nation.

The following is a statement by NILC Executive Director Marielena Hincapié:

“Let’s be clear. This is not a plan to strengthen border security, but an outrageous attempt to obstruct any meaningful discussion and debate about real, commonsense immigration reform.

“In this proposal, Congress takes over the micromanagement of border security construction and management by mandating $10 billion over the next decade for fencing, road construction, and other construction and technology projects. Government and defense contractors would likely benefit from the proposal.

“Who loses? Americans, including border communities and anyone wanting real immigration reform. The militarization from the border to 100 miles inland strips residents and immigrants of human and civil rights. Border communities would be left out of any planning discussions and see their economies and communities suffer.

“The House bill ignores three critical facts. First, for more than a decade, the U.S. government has spent billions of dollars to secure the border, making this proposed expenditure a wasteful exercise. Second, apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are at their lowest levels in 40 years. Third, the existing level of spending and enforcement has led to civil and human rights abuses and needless deaths.

“The new House bill is not good policy, as it will not lead to long-term immigration reform. Instead, it is bad politics. If Congress is really serious about using $10 billion in taxpayer funds, it should invest in economic programs that help all Americans struggling to make ends meet.

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Response to State of the Union Address

January 20, 2015

Victoria Johnson, [email protected], 773-818-9222, or
Gebe Martiniez, [email protected], 703-731-9505

State of the Union Rightly Balances Scales of Social and Economic Justice

WASHINGTON — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) commends President Barack Obama for presenting a State of the Union Address that rightly balances the scales of social and economic justice.

Among the invited guests in the House Chamber for the president’s speech was NILC Immigration Policy Attorney Kamal Essaheb, a former undocumented youth. Essaheb was the guest of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA.

NILC Executive Director Marielena Hincapié issued the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress:

“Tonight, President Obama addressed realities that exist in our country, and particularly in immigrant communities: the divisions between Americans born in the U.S. and those of us who were not — and between the very wealthy and the very poor.

“At NILC, where we advocate with and on behalf of low-income immigrants and their families, the policy agenda presented to Congress could not be more relevant to the communities we represent and to our entire nation.

“We applaud President Obama for using his well-established executive authority to provide temporary relief from deportation to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children without documents and parents of U.S. citizen children and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Like all Americans, the immigrant community wants fairness restored to our immigration system so that needless deportations do not continue to separate families with longstanding community and family ties in the U.S.

“Equally important are the president’s proposals to improve access to education and workers’ rights, which will provide everyone the support they need to fulfill their human potential.

“Social justice goes hand in hand with economic and racial justice, and the president offered several proposals to balance the scales between the haves and have-nots. The American Dream of economic opportunity is enhanced by equal access to education, and the president’s proposal to make community college free for responsible students is just one example of a program that would meet our nation’s goals for equality and to reestablish the American middle class.”

“Access to affordable health care, family medical leave, and workers’ rights have yet to be realized by millions of immigrants who live just outside the boundaries of eligibility, and  President Obama should continue pressing forward with an agenda that seeks to  correct decades of injustice.

“Our growing economy makes this agenda realistic, and these programs will, in turn, strengthen our economy even more. It is now up to Congress to prove it can govern by seriously considering the president’s words. We urge Congress to leave aside partisan politics and attacks on immigrants and Americans struggling to make ends meet, and to engage in a meaningful legislative agenda that brings liberty and justice to all.”

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the only advocacy organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. NILC advances its mission through policy analysis and litigation, along with education and advocacy. Over the past three decades, NILC has won landmark legal decisions protecting fundamental rights, thwarted policies that would have devastated the lives of low-income immigrants and their family members, and advanced major policies that reinforce our nation’s values of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

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Support for Immigration Relief

January 15, 2015

Adela de la Torre, [email protected], 213-400-7822

Local and National Leaders Show Support for Immigration Relief

WASHINGTON — Legal experts, law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and advocates who deal daily with issues affecting immigrants made the case on Thursday for allowing President Obama’s immigration relief programs to go forward as planned.

During a telephonic press briefing organized by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the immigration reform advocates noted the harm that would come to the economy and to community safety and policing initiatives if a court delays the start of the administrative relief initiatives.

A recording of the call can be downloaded from

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank joined the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, and 27 law enforcement leaders, which states that a court order blocking the start of the president’s programs “would negatively impact public safety and make it harder for police to do their jobs.”

“I stand with police chiefs throughout the nation who applaud the president and say ‘yes, this is a fantastic first step, and it is a step in the right direction in order to remove bias from our profession,’” Burbank said Thursday. “We need now more than ever to be legitimate in the eyes of our community; and that’s all community members — regardless of their race or their nationality or what language they speak.”

Following Burbank, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis spoke about the programs’ impact on the economy.

“Clearly, bringing hard-working and honest undocumented immigrants and families out of the shadows is the right thing to do because of the values and principles of our country,” Solis said. “It’s also highly beneficial for the national and local economies.”

Also on the call was Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and founder of Define American, who is awaiting the start of the programs to apply for temporary relief from deportation so he can be considered lawfully present in the U.S.

“Like all other undocumented people I have been excited and also anxious about what’s going to happen,” said Vargas. “This lawsuit and yesterday’s vote in the House of Representatives are trying to scare us, are trying to tell us that this is something that can be stopped, but I think what we do know in the course of American history is that you cannot stop progress.”

Judy Chu, a United States representative from California, discussed the political and legal attacks on immigrants, noting that such attacks may continue but will not be successful.

“Today’s hearing in Texas is the latest attack. And no matter the result today, they will not be successful. Because we know we are in the right legally,” said Chu. “We know we are in the right morally. And, most importantly, we know that the millions of hardworking aspiring Americans living here today are already deeply integrated into our economy and communities, and they are not going anywhere. Finally, after years of fighting, millions of hard-working immigrants will have the chance to work legally and live in dignity.”

NILC, Define American, the American Immigration Council, Service Employees International Union, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Immigrant Justice Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Obama Administration. They argued that the U.S. economy would be harmed if a court were to delay the executive action.

“Lawsuits are long, complicated affairs that span many months or years and usually consist of victories and setbacks for both sides,” said Hincapié. “We at the National Immigration Law Center — along with scores of legal scholars and experts — are confident that the courts will ultimately determine that President Obama’s immigration policy is legally sound, and that the expansion of DACA and the new DAPA program for parents will be a success.”

A recording of the call can be downloaded from
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House GOP Leads Attack on Immigrants

January 14, 2015

Adela de la Torre, [email protected], 213-400-7822

NILC: GOP-led House Vote Is Nothing More Than a Partisan Attack on Immigrants

WASHINGTON — In a mostly party-line vote, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved measures that would dismantle President Obama’s immigration initiatives going back three years — initiatives that help children, keep families together, assist spouses of U.S. military personnel, and provide humanitarian relief.

The anti-immigrant measures that would strip funding for the president’s immigration programs were inserted into the $39.7 billion spending bill for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The following is a statement by National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié:

“House leadership continues to say they want to find solutions to fix our immigration system, but their actions prove otherwise. There is no denying the intent of the legislation approved today by the GOP-led House: to push back against President Obama’s executive action on immigration by instilling fear in immigrant communities, and to advance policies that could result in millions of Americans who are part of our economic and social fabric being ripped away from their families and our communities.

“In its zeal to attack our immigrant families, the House imperils public safety, our economy, and national security. The bill would force states and localities to comply with failed immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities, even though local leaders know they harm public safety. It strips funding from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the proposed DACA expansion, and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), even though the new DACA/DAPA initiatives would raise the GDP by $90 billion to $210 billion over 10 years.

“By starting the new congressional session with an attack targeted specifically against immigrants — and risking our national security in the process — the House has again provided us a sad reminder of why the public remains deeply dissatisfied with Congress and political gridlock. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s call for policies that encourage ‘self-deportation’ failed, and so will the House GOP’s call for mass deportation.”

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Law Enforcement Amicus Defending Deferred Action

January 12, 2015

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

NILC Lauds Police Chiefs′ Legal Defense of Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative on Immigration

WASHINGTON — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) lauds the decision of law enforcement leaders to inform the federal court of their perspective in support of President Obama’s executive action on immigration on the grounds that blocking it would negatively impact public safety and make it harder for police to do their jobs.

The law enforcement amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) brief was filed by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, and 27 law enforcement leaders in the case State of Texas et al v. United States. Texas and 24 other states have filed a lawsuit to block the president’s initiative that would allow eligible parents of U.S.-citizen children and parents of lawful permanent residents to apply for temporary deferral of deportation and work authorization (the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, program). The president’s executive action would also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

In their court filing, the police chiefs make two key arguments in favor of the executive action:

“[The] Deferred Action Initiative will improve public safety by encouraging community cooperation with police, an essential element to effective policing and improving public safety … [and] provide individuals with the opportunity to obtain verified and secure identification, which aids law enforcement in carrying out its day to day duties…. [A] preliminary injunction [against the Deferred Action Initiative] would cause significant harms and would injure the public interest.”

NILC staff attorney Melissa Keaney noted that while the executive action is being attacked in the courts by the president’s opponents seeking to score political points, those actions have consequences in all communities.

“No one should play political games with public safety. These law enforcement leaders have stepped forward to say that the deferred action initiative has solid benefits for community policing,” Keaney said. “The courts, the politicians, and the public should heed the warning of police chiefs that an injunction to block the deferred action will hurt efforts of local police to build trust with community members.”

States from across the country also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Obama administration today. This bipartisan brief, which was filed by states with the largest immigrant populations, including California, New York, and Washington, emphasizes the economic and societal benefits of implementing DACA and DAPA.

A hearing in the case is set for January 15 in Brownsville, TX. Law enforcement leaders who have joined the amicus include:

• Major Cities Chiefs Association, which is a professional association of chiefs and sheriffs representing the largest cities in the United States, serving more than 68 million people.
• Police Executive Research Forum, which is a national membership organization of police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies dedicated to improving policing and advancing professionalism through research and involvement in public policy debate.
• Chief Art Acevedo, City of Austin, Texas, Police Department
• Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles, California, Police Department
• Chief Richard S. Biehl, Dayton, Ohio, Police Department
• Chief Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City, Utah, Police Department
• Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr., Lake County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office
• Sheriff Tony Estrada, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Office
• Commissioner William B. Evans, Boston, Massachusetts, Police Department
• Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Harris County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office
• Sheriff Marlin Gusman, New Orleans Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff’s Office
• Chief James Hawkins, Garden City, Kansas, Police Department
• Chief Dwight Henninger, Vail, Colorado, Police Department
• Chief Michael C. Koval, Madison, Wisconsin, Police Department
• Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr., Durham, North Carolina, Police Department
• Sheriff Leon Lott, Richland County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Department
• Sheriff Bill McCarthy, Polk County, Iowa, Sheriff’s Office
• Chief Roy W. Minter, Jr., Peoria, Arizona, Police Department
• Lieutenant Andy Norris, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Office
• Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Seattle, Washington, Police Department
• Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Police Department
• Chief Greg Suhr, San Francisco, California, Police Department
• Chief Ron Teachman, South Bend, Indiana, Police Department
• Chief Michael Tupper, Marshalltown, Iowa, Police Department
• Sheriff John Urquhart, King County, Washington, Sheriff’s Office
• Sheriff Lupe Valdez, Dallas County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department
• Chief Roberto Villaseñor, Tucson, Arizona, Police Department
• Chief Robert White, Denver, Colorado, Police Department
• Sheriff Richard D. Wiles, El Paso County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office

The law enforcement amicus brief is available at

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