Category Archives: November 2011

Sheriff’s Attempt to Dismiss FOIA Lawsuit Rebuffed

November 29, 2011

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Carl Berquist, CHIRLA, (310) 279-6025
B. Loewe, NDLON, (773) 791-4668

Court Overrules Sheriff’s Motion to Prevent  Rights Advocates from Seeking Information About Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Today, the Los Angeles Superior Court rejected Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s attempt to block rights advocates’ request for information under the California Public Records Act. The Sheriff had sought to keep confidential, information about the Sheriff’s participation in federal deportation programs.  The lawsuit was brought by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).  Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Office of Sanjukta M. Paul.

Jessica Karp of NDLON said, “Today’s decision is a victory for the people of Los Angeles.  We have the right to know how much of our tax dollars the Sheriff is spending to facilitate deportations that separate families and we will continue to pursue that right in this case.”

As Los Angeles County faces the likelihood of running out of jail space within the next month, the judge’s decision means that the Sheriff may soon be forced to reveal the number of inmates who are being held in county jail for purely civil immigration violations.  The Sheriff may also be forced to admit the cost of the County’s participation in the federal Secure Communities deportation program and the number of people who have been deported through the County jails.

Carl Bergquist of CHIRLA added, “As we have seen in similar cases, both locally and nationally, these attempts to withhold information from the public may be undemocratic but ultimately they prove to be futile. We have a right to know how and why our elected Sheriff – in a time of declining crime – is collaborating with the federal government to deport community members who in no way, shape, or form are threats to public safety.”

After years of requesting public documents through the California Public Records Act, NILC, NDLON, and CHIRLA in June announced that they were taking legal action to obtain information about the Los Angeles County’s ties to federal immigration enforcement efforts. The lawsuit, which names Baca as a defendant, charges that the sheriff violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to disclose information about his dealings with ICE.

“Whether foreign or native born, Angelenos deserve to know how the Sheriff Baca – an elected official – has chosen to use his precious resources,” said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Information about the Sheriff’s law enforcement priorities should be made public to all those living within this county. We hope Sheriff Baca and his attorneys will promptly comply with the law and shed light on his department’s secretive practices with ICE.”

Plaintiffs’ counsel, Sanjukta M. Paul, said, “I am very pleased by the Court’s order today, which overruled the County’s motion on each and every issue the County raised.”

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Federal District Court Halts Discriminatory Practice

November 23, 2011

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (213) 674-2832; [email protected]

Federal District Court Halts Discriminatory Practice

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today, the federal district court in Montgomery temporarily blocked a section of Alabama anti-immigrant law HB 56 that threatens to push families who cannot prove lawful status out of their homes. A civil rights coalition filed a lawsuit challenging this application of Section 30, which demands ‘papers’ for everyone applying for mobile home tags they need to remain in their homes.

“Latino Alabamians, 30 percent of whom occupy mobile homes, will have something to truly be grateful for this Thanksgiving,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “Today’s ruling is a victory that will prevent people from being pushed out of their homes.”

Several prominent elected officials who supported HB 56, testified at the hearing including the law’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), Representatives Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) and Kerry Rich (R-Albertville). Also testifying were Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee, and Elmore County Probate Judge Jimmy Stubbs.

“We are extremely pleased that this court has blocked this ill-conceived provision of this law,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This case really shows the truly terrible ways that HB56 is playing out in the real world. There’s little doubt that this law was intended to drive Latinos out of the state, and that its effects have been to devastate the Latino community in Alabama.” This provision, which criminalizes business transactions between state officials and people who cannot prove citizenship or immigration status, would have left undocumented immigrants in an impossible position: attempt to renew the mobile home tags they need and risk being charged with a felony under HB 56, or refrain from renewing tags before the November 30 tag renewal deadline – thereby losing the right to occupy or move their homes in the eyes of the state.

“Today’s decision recognizes just some of the harms of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law,” said Justin Cox, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The law encourages racial profiling by targeting Latino families and attempting to force them out of their homes and communities. The ruling is a step in the right direction, but we will continue to try to block this draconian law in its entirety.” The ruling on the injunction motion in the larger civil rights coalition suit challenging HB 56 is currently before the Eleventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. A hearing to appeal a lower court’s decision to allow several provisions of the law to go into effect, including Section 30, has been set for March 1, 2012.

“The federal fair housing act is one of the strongest, most comprehensive civil rights laws on the books,” said Stephen Dane, an attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC. “Those who try to end run its requirements do so at their risk.” The decision comes on the heels of a massive rally in Birmingham to repeal all of HB 56. The rally, which was attended by civil rights leaders, community organizers, and several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, marked the launch of a campaign to repeal HB 56.

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Call to End Discriminatory Housing Practice

November 18, 2011

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Apreill Hartsfield, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), (334) 956-8458; [email protected]
Steve Gosset, ACLU (212) 519-7811 or 549-2666; [email protected]
John Garcia, LatinoJustice (212) 739-7513; [email protected]
Stephen Dane, Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC (202) 728-1888; [email protected]

HB 56 Provision Threatens to Leave Alabama Families Homeless

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A coalition of civil rights organizations today filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a provision under Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law that threatens to push people out of their homes. A hearing on whether to block the practice temporarily will be held this afternoon.

As applied, Section 30 requires persons to prove their lawful status before they can renew their mobile home tags. This section of HB 56 prohibits “business transactions” between the state and persons who cannot produce paperwork proving their citizenship or immigration status.

“This application of Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law threatens to throw families into the street,” said Mary Bauer, the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “It’s a flagrant violation of the Fair Housing Act and the United States Constitution.”

Co-counseling the case with the SPLC are the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU, LatinoJustice and the civil rights law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC.

“Section 30 turns state and municipal workers into de facto immigration agents, demanding ‘papers’ before they allow people to continue to live in their homes,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney of the National Immigration Law Center. “HB 56, is often dubbed ‘Juan Crow’ by advocates, and for good reason: the law has drawn a bright line between those it thinks belong in Alabama and those it wishes to drive from the state.”

Mobile home decal fees are considered delinquent if not paid by Nov. 30. Failure to pay on time results in fines and is considered a misdemeanor. In addition, individuals who attempt to renew their decals but are unable to prove their immigration status could be charged with a felony under the state’s anti-immigrant law because they would be considered an undocumented immigrant attempting to engage in a “business transaction” with the state.

This provision and its application to the mobile home registration requirements puts immigrant families – regardless of their immigration status – in an impossible position. Mobile home owners who are unable to obtain a decal cannot move their homes to a new location because it is illegal to transport a mobile home on public roads without a moving permit, which also requires a “business transaction” with the state where immigration status would be checked.

“Once again, Alabama’s anti-immigrant, anti-Latino law requires us to resort to the courts to force the state to respect the most basic of civil rights. Alabama should cut its losses now and repeal this hateful law,” said Justin Cox, a lawyer with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two undocumented Latino immigrants in Elmore County who cannot renew their decals under the law because they would be guilty of engaging in a “business transaction” with the state – a felony under the state’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56. But these two men also risk being charged with a misdemeanor if they do not purchase the decals in addition to fines for failing to register their mobile home by the statewide deadline. This situation places the men and their families in danger of being forced from their homes. The men are identified as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 in the lawsuit.

“The passage of HB56 is having a devastating, disparate impact on Latino families in Alabama, including being deprived of the ability to live in mobile homes, a key source of housing for low- income families,” said Foster Maer, attorney with the LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Latinos should not face a choice between complying with HB56 or becoming homeless. We are confident that the court, upon reviewing this challenge being filed today, will act to ensure that thousands of Latinos are not made homeless by the implementation of this misguided law.”

Three organizations that provide fair housing services throughout the state are also named as plaintiffs: the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama and the Center for Fair Housing, Inc.

The lawsuit names Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee as a defendant. Magee’s department considers the decal purchases a “business transaction” with the state and subject to HB 56. It also names Elmore County Revenue Commissioner William Harper, the local official charged with collecting the fees in the home county of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division.

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Action Must Follow Guidance on Deportation Policy

November 17, 2011

ICE Clarification on Deportation Policy Follows Reports of Uneven Application of Prosecutorial Discretion in Field Offices Across the Country

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today released guidance to help field officers determine how to pursue pending deportation cases. The department also announced a review of the nearly 300,000 open deportation cases before the nation’s immigration courts in order to ensure the Obama administration’s immigration priorities are uniformly enforced. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“After months of uncertainty, the Obama administration has finally clarified the types of immigration cases its officials should deem a ‘high priority’ for deportation. This guidance, which must be implemented in conjunction with all other guidance memos released this year, has the potential to prevent the unjust deportation of many undocumented immigrants within our communities. For DREAMers, the undocumented youth who came here as children but have no pathway to citizenship, this news comes as a welcome relief. Unfortunately, the guidelines deem new categories of immigrants a ‘high priority’ for deportation and will prevent them from having their deportation cases closed administratively.

“Only time will tell whether the guidance issued today will actually change the way field offices currently operate. Sadly, recent experience indicates that directives from headquarters to use discretion often fall upon deaf ears in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and other field office sites. In Los Angeles, for example, we have seen people who clearly fall within the definition of ‘low level priority,’ including undocumented immigrant mothers whose only ‘crime’ is to operate as a vendor without a proper license, who are in danger of being whisked away from their U.S. citizen children and deported.

“ICE must dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that officers and agents are held accountable and that the guidance is broadly applied in all its field offices. If not, members of immigrant communities across the country will continue to rightly hold President Obama responsible for the pain so many families are experiencing as a result of the administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies.”

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