Category Archives: November 2012

2012 Courageous Luminaries

November 30, 2012

Adela de la Torre, 213-674-2832, [email protected]

Stars Coming Out for National Immigration Law Center’s Courageous Luminaries Awards Dinner

Pulitzer Prize Winner, Academy Award Nominee Among This Year’s Honorees

LOS ANGELES — Stars of the social justice and cinematic world will come out on December 6, 2012, to celebrate a year of major achievements in the immigrants’ rights movement at the National Immigration Law Center’s Courageous Luminaries Awards Dinner. The dinner, which will be held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel from 7 to 9:30 p.m., will honor the work of those who have improved the lives of low income immigrants and their families.

“Whether through art, activism, advocacy, or education, each Courageous Luminary shines a light on this nation’s greatest — and most misunderstood — asset: immigrants,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We are delighted to celebrate their already impressive achievements, and look forward to their many contributions to a growing immigrants’ rights movement.”

This year’s honorees are:

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize–winning former journalist who in 2011 disclosed in aNew York Times Magazine article that he is undocumented. Since then, he has forced the media — many of whose members worked with him in newsrooms across the country — to take a better look at the 11 million women and men who live in this country but lack proper authorization to do so. Vargas’s story was profiled this year in a cover story in Time Magazine, and he worked with Twilight and A Better Life director Chris Weitz to raise awareness of Alabama’s HB 56, the nation’s most discriminatory anti-immigrant law.

Actor Demian Bichir received Academy Award, SAG Award, and Independent Spirit Award nominations for his searing portrayal of an undocumented gardener trying to connect with his estranged teenage son in Chris Weitz’s feature A Better Life. He recently appeared in Oliver Stone’s Savages and Ian Power’s The Runway. He currently is shooting Don Hemingway, starring opposite Jude Law, and stars in the upcoming films Machete Kills for Robert Rodriguez and The Heat for Paul Feig. Prior to A Better Life, Bichir became known to U.S. television audiences for his portrayal of Esteban Reyes opposite Mary Louise Parker in the hit Showtime series Weeds. He also portrayed a young Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che opposite Benicio Del Toro. He will be introduced by Weitz, who also has dedicated his considerable talents to enhancing public understanding of the many challenges immigrants working in the U.S. currently face.

SABEResPODER, a Spanish language media firm, is the nation’s highest ranked B, or For Benefit, corporation. This innovative firm empowers Latinos by providing them with valuable information about maintaining financial and physical health using format and language that is accessible. The company’s commitment doesn’t end with the 8 million yearly viewers they reach: SABEResPODER also runs the Migrant Scholars Leadership Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, to help high-achieving students reach their higher education dreams.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, isn’t your ordinary law firm. Lawyers at Orrick have devoted countless hours to defend the rights of low-income immigrants and their families. Whether volunteering at clinics designed to help immigrant youth obtain deferred action status or filing class action lawsuits to stop unconstitutional attacks on immigrant families, Orrick attorneys bring their considerable expertise and legal know-how to those who are too often ignored by the legal system.

Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, a workers’ rights center headquartered in California’s Inland Empire, empowers workers by fighting for fair pay and a safe work environment for all. An innovative, multi-faceted organization, the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center also fights back against draconian detention and deportation policies that threaten to shatter California’s families and communities.

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 uses a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education, and advocacy, to advance its mission. 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.

To purchase tickets, please visit

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Arizona Policy Denying Driver’s Licenses Challenged

November 29, 2012

Adela de la Torre, 213-674-2832, [email protected]

Civil Rights Coalition Challenges Arizona Policy Denying Driver’s Licenses to Immigrant Youth

Lawsuit Asserts Unconstitutional Policy Unfairly Targets Young Immigrants

PHOENIX — A coalition of civil rights organizations today filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona’s unconstitutional policy denying driver’s licenses to a specific class of immigrant youth even though they have grown up in the United States and are authorized to live and work here.

The lawsuit seeks to block Arizona Executive Order 2012-06, issued by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on August 15 after the federal government implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program allows certain undocumented immigrant youth who came here as children to live and work in the United States for a renewable period of two years. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth-led organization, and five young individuals.

Alejandra Lopez, 19, has lived in the United States since she was four.  A high school graduate, she is married to an American citizen.

“It’s hard to take my child to the doctor or help my two little brothers get to school and after school activities without being able to drive,” said Lopez, who was granted federal deferred action status, including a work permit, in October. “Somebody offered me a job interview in Tempe (AZ), which is about 25 miles away from where I live, but I had to turn it down because I’m not allowed to drive a car.”

Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “Young people like Alejandra have so much to contribute to Arizona. Unfortunately, her effort to fully participate in this community is stymied by Governor Brewer’s unlawful and wrong-headed executive order, which specifically targets immigrant youth who often know no other home.”

“Federal immigration authorities have lifted the shadow of deportation from these bright and hardworking DREAMers, but Arizona insists on pursuing its own immigration policy aimed at keeping them in the dark,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Rather than deny these young people the ability to drive – an everyday necessity for most people – our leaders should come together to enact long-term solutions that would allow our talented immigrant youth to achieve the American dream.”

Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said, “This is a shameless attack on our youth. When our youngest and brightest residents are prevented from getting licenses, going to school or work and pursuing their dreams, entire communities suffer.”

MALDEF attorney Nicholás Espíritu said, “While the federal government has recognized that DREAMers should be given the opportunity to further their contribution to and inclusion in our society, Arizona has instituted, once again, an unconstitutional and unjust policy that treats these young people as separate and unequal.  We are proud to stand with DREAMers in the State of Arizona to ensure that this policy is struck down.”

The lawsuit states that Arizona’s policy violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with federal immigration law, and also violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against certain non-citizens. Arizona’s motor vehicle division implemented Brewer’s order on September 18.

An estimated 1.76 million youth in the United States are eligible for the DACA program, including 80,000 in Arizona, according to The Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C.

While the DACA program helps provide a lifeline for many immigrant youth who have been living in the United States in fear because of their immigration status, it does not negate the need for Congress to enact federal legislation that provides a roadmap to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people, including young people who came here as children commonly known as DREAMers.

In addition to NILC, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, and MALDEF, the legal team includes the Phoenix office of Polsinelli Shughart, P.C.

For more information about the case, including a copy of the lawsuit,

For more information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,

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Approvals of DACA Applications Double

November 16, 2012

Adela de la Torre, 213-674-2832, [email protected]

Government Approvals of Deferred Action Applications Double

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that thenumber of approved applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has doubled in the last month. Below is a statement from Don Lyster, director of the National Immigration Law Center’s Washington, DC, office:

“Today’s news is about more than numbers; it’s about 53,273 young men and women who can finally realize their professional dreams. People such as Carlos, a University of Arizona computer science graduate, will finally be able to use the skills they honed at school.

“These numbers should also serve as a signal to immigration attorneys and immigrant youth who have been hesitant to submit DACA applications that the government is invested in ensuring the success of this program. The DACA application process has been a model of government efficiency, and we commend USCIS for allocating appropriate resources to process these applications. Those interested in finding out if they could qualify for DACA should right now to find out.

“The fight for fair and just immigration reform isn’t over. We will continue to work with those granted deferred action to demand that Congress create a roadmap to allow the 11 million citizens in waiting to fully contribute to the country they call home.”

For more information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, please

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Most of SC Anti-Immigrant Law Remains Blocked

November 15, 2012

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

Federal Court Leaves Most of South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law Blocked

Court Recognizes Law’s Harms, Sets Narrow Limits on Police Conduct

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal court today blocked key provisions of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law and recognized that harms could take place if police officers check people’s immigration status, inviting additional challenges of civil rights abuses.

Today’s ruling reaffirms a December 2011 ruling that blocked key sections of the law, including those that aimed to turn unlawful presence into a state crime and to make crimes of everyday activities such as giving a ride or renting an apartment to an undocumented immigrant. While today’s decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in Charleston leaves room for implementation of a “show me your papers” provision, it invites future challenges if enforcement of the law results in lengthy roadside detentions and other violations of civil rights.

The district court issued this latest decision in order to ensure that its prior December 2011 ruling was in line with the guidance provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June in a case regarding Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.

Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said, “The district court rightly recognized that South Carolina cannot disregard the federal government and the Constitution by turning everyday activities, and mere existence in the state, into crimes. Unfortunately, the court failed to recognize that the provision forcing police to demand ‘papers’ of those they suspect are in the country without authorization will cause real harm to South Carolinians of all ethnicities. Our fight against this pernicious provision will continue.”

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “Today’s decision follows a string of rulings in South Carolina and other states that have dealt a blow to state anti-immigrant laws by blocking most parts from going into effect. The court reaffirmed that it would be unconstitutional for state and local officers to detain individuals on the basis of their status alone and left open the door to future challenges involving civil rights abuses under this law. We will continue to closely monitor the law’s enforcement in order to ensure people’s basic rights are protected.”

Mary Bauer, legal director of the SPLC, said, “Today’s ruling sends a message that South Carolinians will not be criminalized for being good neighbors and that targeting people based solely on their race will not be tolerated. We are pleased that the court blocked some of the most harmful provisions of the state’s anti-immigrant law. We will remain vigilant during this critical time when the ‘papers please’ provision is implemented, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes ensure no hateful or unconstitutional law is allowed to stand.”

MALDEF National Senior Counsel Victor Viramontes said, “The District Court blocked much of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, but allowed local law enforcement to racially profile Latinos based on ‘looking undocumented,’ which is destructive to the community and bad law enforcement.  The court should not have endorsed any piece of this anti-immigrant statue. MALDEF will closely watch any attempts by local law enforcement to enforce South Carolina’s law, while we continue our legal challenge to this discriminatory law.”

In addition to the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, NILC, SPLC and MALDEF, the coalition includes the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDF, Lloyd Law Firm, and Rosen, Rosen & Hagood. Members of the coalition have also filed lawsuits against state anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Utah, and Indiana. Courts have blocked major portions of these laws. In Alabama and Georgia, the U.S. Court for the Appeals for the 11th Circuit also recently blocked the transporting and harboring provisions.

For a copy of the court’s order:



Election Result a Win for Aspiring Citizens

November 6, 2012

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

Voters: We Support a Pro-Immigrant Agenda That Keeps Families Together

CHICAGO — President Barack Obama has won a second term, beating Republican challenger Governor Mitt Romney. Latinos — the fastest growing voting bloc in the nation — provided crucial votes to Obama in swing states. Asian Americans and other voters of color also played a huge role in reelecting the president. Many voted for the president’s reelection not simply to support his positions but as a rebuke to Romney’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Americans have voted for a more inclusive country. Politicians on both sides of the aisle should finally realize that they can no longer scapegoat Latinos, immigrants, and other voters of color to score cheap political points among the xenophobic segments of our community without paying a price at the ballot box. President Obama, like Harry Reid two years ago, shrewdly recognized that his opponent’s harsh ‘self-deportation’ policies with respect to aspiring American citizens would only serve to drive Latinos and Asian Americans to vote against extremism.

“As a result, the mandate for President Obama, along with the newly elected members of Congress, should be clear: voters want an immigration system that treats aspiring citizens with dignity and provides a roadmap for those living and working here to integrate fully into society.

“We fully recognize that one person cannot accomplish immigration reform on his own. We expect President Obama to exert his considerable leadership to replace a system that has for too long shattered Latino and other immigrant families, and we expect Congress to come to the table. We will no longer tolerate the status quo of record deportations and aggressive detention policies, and politicians on both sides of the aisle should recognize that if they adhere to these draconian positions their political future is at risk. The demographic writing is on the wall: Republicans and Democrats alike should begin working now toward creating an inclusive society in the future, or they will risk losing the heart of future American voters.”

The Obama administration has an ambitious agenda, and many of their policies will have a profound effect on immigrants’ lives. Here are a few of the most important issues affecting immigrants today:

• Immigration reform. Though President Obama reiterated his support for immigration reform to Univisión and the Des Moines Register, precious little has been said about how he would achieve such reform. Immigrant families have suffered under record-breaking deportations; we must not allow these detention and deportation systems to continue to destroy immigrant communities simply because both parties cannot agree on how best to create a roadmap to citizenship for the men and women who are American in their hearts, if not by their papers.

• Immigrant access to health care. The Obama administration should continue to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in as robust a fashion as possible, and any effort to reform our broken immigration system must protect access to existing affordable care options for newly authorized immigrants. This includes repealing an ill-advised rule excluding young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation under the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

• Preventing family separation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should finally begin adhering to the memos issued by the administration that outline when an individual should be allowed to return to his or her family rather than undergo deportation proceedings. Currently, many individuals who should not be deported under the guidance are banished from the U.S., often leaving loved ones and children behind.

• Promoting economic justice for all workers and their families. Working immigrant families have the most to lose under sequestration budget negotiations that will take place in the coming months. President Obama and Congress must protect critical safety-net programs, including the Child Tax Credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which help lift millions of families out of poverty each year.

• Promoting a level playing field for all workers. The administration and Congress must take steps to ensure that abusive employers don’t use immigration status to thwart labor rights or to gain competitive advantage over workers by vigorously enforcing the agreement between the U.S. Departments of Labor and and of Homeland Security to ensure that workplace immigrant apprehension and detention doesn’t undermine labor standards enforcement.

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