Category Archives: November 2014

Statement on HB 497 Ruling in Utah

November 25, 2014

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

Civil Rights Groups Celebrate Undoing of Utah Anti-Immigrant Law

Settlement reached following federal court decision to block key provisions in Utah’s HB 497 and impose limits on enforcement of “show me your papers” provision

SALT LAKE CITY — The State of Utah has agreed to scrap key provisions of Utah’s HB 497 in a settlement with civil rights groups. HB 497 is a severe, anti-immigrant law that would have criminalized everyday activities, such as driving an undocumented immigrant to the store, and would have authorized police to stop or detain an individual simply to verify his or her immigration status. Under the terms of the settlement, the state has agreed to permanently block or impose limits on these provisions of the controversial law.

“After three long years, it’s finally clear in Utah that treating people differently based on the way they look or whether they have an accent is just plain wrong,” said Archie Archuleta, a plaintiff and former president of Utah Coalition of La Raza. “Today is a great day for Utahns, no matter where they were born.”

The state’s infamous “show me your papers” provision has been severely restricted under the terms of the settlement, which make clear that police will not be allowed to stop or detain an individual simply to verify immigration status or to transport them to federal officials based on suspicion of unlawful presence. Finally, the settlement makes clear that the law does not require Utahns to carry identification with them at all times.

“Utah joins nearly half a dozen other states in realizing that punitive racial profiling laws have no place in their lawbooks,” said Shiu Ming Cheer, staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Today’s settlement marks the penultimate chapter in an ugly anti-immigrant episode that began with Arizona’s SB 1070. We hope this news will send a signal to those in Phoenix: Experimenting with racial profiling policies will only result in lengthy court battles and, ultimately, losses.”

The settlement follows a federal district court decision in July that blocked major provisions of the state law, a move that came more than three years after HB 497 was challenged by civil rights groups and individuals in the state.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this settlement knowing that it paves the way for Utah to address broad issues impacting family and community safety without the scourge of fear and racial profiling this law created,” said Karen McCreary, executive director of the ACLU of Utah.

In the 2011 filing, civil rights groups charged that HB 497 is unconstitutional because it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and authorizes and requires unreasonable seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment, among other constitutional challenges.

“Utah’s decision to settle this case sends a clear message to states and cities across the country that they have no business stopping or detaining people just because of suspicions about their immigration status,” said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This is a victory for the courageous plaintiffs in this case and for immigrant communities throughout the state.”

Counsel for the plaintiffs in the case are:

National Immigration Law Center: Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney

ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project: Cecillia Wang, Omar C. Jadwat, Andre Segura, Katherine Desormeau, Jennifer Chang Newell

ACLU of Utah: Leah Farrell

Munger, Tollles & Olson LLP: Bradley S. Phillips.

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Ruling on Driver’s Licenses for Arizona DACA Recipients

November 24, 2014

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, 213-400-7822, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU national 415-343-0785, 646-438-4146, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, MALDEF, 202 466-0879, [email protected]
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-492-8540, [email protected]

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Arizona’s Request to Rehear Driver’s License Case

Decision — at long last — paves the way for young immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a request to reconsider its earlier ruling that Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s denial of driver’s licenses to certain young immigrants is unconstitutional. The move validates a decision issued in July ordering the state to stop depriving those young immigrants who came to this country as children from obtaining a driver’s license. This 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, the court said earlier this year.

Today’s ruling is the latest legal victory in a civil rights coalition’s lawsuit against a discriminatory policy that prevented Arizona youth granted work authorization through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from applying for state-issued identification.

The news was welcomed by plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Arizona DREAM Act Coalition President Dulce Matuz, who said, “Governor Brewer has wasted countless taxpayer dollars defending a misguided and harmful policy that has been rejected time and time again by the courts. We hope today’s announcement allows us to finally apply for the identification document that rightly identifies us as Arizonans.”

“With today’s decision, the court has made crystal clear that Arizona’s quixotic quest to turn immigrants into villains is constitutionally unsound, and it vindicates our courageous plaintiffs,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This should serve as a wakeup call for the new governor: Do what’s best for your state by allowing everyone who should be able to get a license to do so, so they can drive to school and work and participate fully in their communities.”

MALDEF National Senior Counsel, Victor Viramontes, said: “Arizona’s anti-immigrant campaign is a destructive policy that has proven to be very costly for tax payers. Now, Arizona has lost yet again in federal court, and DACA recipients will finally receive the licenses that Arizona should never have denied them.”

For more than two years, the plaintiffs in this case have fought for the right to earn driver’s licenses.

In August of 2012, Brewer issued an order specifically denying licenses to young immigrants who are granted permission to live and work in the U.S. under the DACA program. The National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the ACLU of Arizona 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.

After a federal district court held, in May 2013, that Arizona’s policy likely constituted unconstitutional discrimination, the state sought to expand its denial of licenses to additional categories of immigrants, unsuccessfully seeking to avoid the appearance of discrimination.

In July 2014, the Ninth Circuit determined that Brewer’s policy was likely to be found unconstitutional and approved a preliminary injunction to allow immigrant youth to apply for licenses. This injunction was placed on hold after Arizona requested rehearing en banc, which would have provided the state an opportunity to make their arguments in front of an 11-judge panel.

Before denying Arizona’s rehearing request, the court had invited the United States to share its views on whether the case should be reheard. In September, the United States filed a brief with the court agreeing that Arizona’s policy is unconstitutional and opposing its rehearing request.

“The Ninth Circuit, district court, and federal government all agree: Arizona’s denial of driver’s licenses to hardworking young immigrants violates our Constitution,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It is long past time for Governor Brewer to read the writing on the wall and let the DREAMers drive!”

“A copy of the court’s order is available here.

For more information about the lawsuit challenging the policy in Arizona denying driver’s licenses to DREAMers, visit

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Statement on Darren Wilson Grand Jury Decision

November 24, 2014

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

Our System Is Broken: Justice for All Includes Men and Boys of Color

Immigrants’ rights organization demands justice for Mike Brown

WASHINGTON — A Missouri grand jury today determined it would not indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson. The decision comes after more than 100 days of protests against systemic police violence against young men of color across the country. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, an organization committed to racial justice:

“The National Immigration Law Center joins communities in Ferguson and across the nation in expressing our outrage at the failure of the grand jury to allow charges to proceed for the killing of Michael Brown. We have little reason to trust that justice has been served. We stand with Mike Brown’s family and the growing community demanding a national call to action for racial justice.

“The loss of Mike Brown’s life at the hands of a law enforcement agent, like far too many others across the country, demonstrates that administration of justice is too often dependent upon the color of one’s skin. The current statistics reflect a terrible reality: An African-American or Latino boy born today is exponentially more likely to be imprisoned than his white peers. Police enforcing ill-conceived policies have transformed Black and brown children into “suspects,” and these same officers face little accountability when our children are gunned down.

“Enough is enough. We need justice for Mike Brown, not just for his family, but for all of us. Communities across the country have risen in solidarity with Mike Brown’s family and with those committed to racial justice in Ferguson because this is not an isolated case, but one of systemic police brutality against people of color. There is no place for racial bias in policing or the rampant criminalization of youth of color. It is time to take a long-overdue look at a policing system that allows police to take the life of people like Mike Brown, or local sheriffs to racially profile immigrants to place them into the deportation process, or border patrol agents to kill unarmed individuals without accountability.

“We need policies that advance justice, such as President Obama’s recent decision to allow aspiring Americans to come forward and live free from fear of deportation. We demand federal, state, and local policies that ensure all of us – no matter where we were born or what color our skin is – feel safe in our own communities. We stand with those in the streets calling for fairness, accountability, and justice for Mike Brown because Black lives matter — because all lives matter.”

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Statement on Administrative Relief

November 20, 2014

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

Obama Immigration Fix Will Bring Relief to Millions

WASHINGTON — Up to five million people will be shielded from deportation and given work authorization under an expanded deferred action policy that President Obama will announce today. This expansion of a policy initiated in June 2012 comes after several years of advocacy and organizing by immigrant communities and represents a historic shift away from a deportation-only immigration strategy. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“This is a victory for our country. A victory that has come about through inspiring organizing by immigrants — including their children — who have marched, engaged in civil disobedience and hunger strikes, and advocated for these changes. President Obama is showing that he can be as bold as these courageous immigrants by following in their footsteps and using his executive authority to bring about life-changing relief not only to the millions of immigrants who qualify, but also for their families and communities.

“For far too long, mothers have feared being torn away from their children, and immigrants lived one traffic ticket away from banishment from the lives they built. Once they apply for the opportunity to obtain temporary relief from deportation and work authorization, immigrants will be able to work lawfully and pay more taxes, supporting themselves and their families and contributing to our communities and economy.

“Free from the fear of deportation, parents will be able to actively engage in their children’s schools and their local communities, and many fewer workers will be subjected to abuse by employers who retaliate against them. Instead, they’ll be empowered to improve working conditions for all.

“We will continue to fight for the rights of those who have been excluded from this program and who remain at risk of being detained under an aggressive deportation machinery, including parents of the children President Obama himself called American in every way, except on paper. By failing to include parents of certain immigrant youth brought here as children, workers with long-term ties to the United States, and other undocumented Americans, President Obama’s proposed solution is limited and not as comprehensive as the problem we face. Those who do qualify for relief should have the same rights and responsibilities to lead healthy, productive lives as anyone else.

“We will continue working closely with the administration and diverse stakeholders to ensure full and fair implementation of this new program so that low-income immigrants will be able to realize their dreams.

“With today’s announcement, President Obama has provided the nation with a temporary, but much needed, solution to a complex problem. Our country will only reap the benefits of this significant policy change if the federal government is able to swiftly and efficiently implement the program. We call on all policymakers to do what is best for our nation to ensure that the president’s plan, as outlined tonight, becomes reality.”

For a detailed explanation of today’s announcement, visit www.nilc.orgduring the coming days.

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Midterm Elections & Immigrants

November 5, 2014

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

NILC: Midterm Elections Should Lead to Action for Immigrants

WASHINGTON — As polling centers were closing yesterday, pollsters and pundits declared a solid victory for the Republican Party, which in January 2015 will assume majority status in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This outcome, which was widely predicted by pundits on both sides of the aisle, was a result of low voter turnout and a continuation of historic patterns of presidential party losses during midterm elections. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“For most immigrant families struggling to make ends meet and living in fear of having their family ripped apart, yet committed to one day achieving the American Dream, the elections won’t change much. There is still a need for federal, state, and local policies that provide relief from deportation and that allow people to work lawfully, live free from the fear of deportation, and have access to health care and safety-net programs, as well as education and other forms of economic justice.

“Whether Asian or Latino, African or European, new citizen voters and their allies made their voices heard tonight. It is time for President Obama to step up to the plate and lead boldly by using his authority to restore some sanity to our dysfunctional immigration system. With the stroke of a pen, the president can create a process that allows aspiring citizens to come forward to apply for the work authorization they need to contribute more fully to their communities and our economy.

“Our elected officials will face significant challenges over the next two years. They have a choice: They can choose to push for tax fairness and support workers who currently live paycheck to paycheck, or they can cut holes in our already tattered social safety net and push all families, regardless of where they were born, deeper into poverty. We will watch closely to ensure that immigrant families — too often scapegoated in attempts to advance an anti-worker agenda — are not unfairly denied the opportunity to provide for their families.”

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Obama on Immigration Post-Midterm Election

November 5, 2014

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

Executive Promises Should Be Followed by Action

President Obama reiterates plan to fix parts of dysfunctional immigration system

WASHINGTON — During a press conference this afternoon, President Obama reiterated a promise he made in June to use his executive authority to fix as much of the broken immigration system as is legally permissible. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“When President Obama announced he would delay much-needed fixes to our immigration system until after the elections, pundits praised him for making a difficult but much-needed move. They were wrong. Today, we know that delaying action has led to thousands of needless deportations and failed to sway a single electoral outcome — save, perhaps, for in Colorado, where inaction actually may have hurt the president’s party.

“No more excuses. The president has ample constitutional authority to do what’s right, both from a political and policy perspective, by creating a process for aspiring citizens to apply for the opportunity to work lawfully and contribute more fully to their communities. In doing so, he’ll improve our economy and restore the immigrant community’s confidence in a government that for too long has focused only on how to maximize detention and deportation.

“Members of both parties should take note: Demographic realities will ensure that election night 2016 will look more like 2012 and less like yesterday. These voters care about what happens to their immigrant parents, friends, and colleagues. President Obama has an opportunity to cement his legacy as a bold visionary, but only if the reform he enacts meets the challenge the dysfunctional immigration system presents.”

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Alabama “Scarlet Letter” Case Settled

October 10, 2014

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), 213-400-7822, [email protected]
Rebecca Sturtevant, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), 802-598-6445,[email protected]
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, American Civil Liberties Union, 212-549-2666, [email protected]

Civil Rights Coalition Victorious in Challenge to Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant “Scarlet Letter” Law

Agreement blocks final provisions of anti-immigrant law, HB 56, challenged in courts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama will not publish a list of purportedly “unlawfully present” immigrants, according to an agreement announced today by civil rights groups that had sued to block publication on the grounds that it would violate individuals’ due process rights and exceed the state’s authority.

The agreement is pending final approval by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division. If approved, it will block the final provision of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law that has been challenged in court. The law, commonly known as HB 56, has been largely eviscerated by legal challenges from the groups, which include the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Foundation.

“This is yet another victory for Alabama’s immigrant community,” said Sam Brooke, SPLC staff attorney. “Blocking this final vestige of HB 56 is another nail in the coffin for Alabama’s misguided attempt to bully and intimidate immigrants. But even with this victory, meaningful immigration reform is still critically needed. We call on Congress to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, rather than blocking reform under the empty promise that it will be addressed ‘next year.’”

The law provided no notice to people that their name and information would be posted online. It also failed to provide any means for people to remove their names or change their information if the listing was inaccurate or if their immigration status changed – even if they became citizens.

This approach to immigration status is particularly problematic because, through the federal immigration system and immigration court, an individual’s immigration and citizenship status is fluid in nature and can change over time. The law did not accommodate this fluid nature in any way.

The agreement will require the state to institute a policy that bars the publication of any list naming people allegedly “unlawfully present” in Alabama. The agreement also requires that any immigration information collected by the state through the Administrative Office of the Courts be kept strictly confidential.

The groups filed the February 2013 lawsuit on behalf of four Latino immigrants arrested for fishing without a license – a misdemeanor offense. Under HB 56, their names, along with the names of other individuals the state deemed “unlawfully present,” would have been included on a list to be published on a public website. The provision was commonly referred to as the “Scarlet Letter” law.

“Alabama has finally recognized that shaming immigrants isn’t just morally repugnant, it’s constitutionally risky,” said Nora Preciado, staff attorney of the National Immigration Law Center. “We’re pleased the state decided to finally close this ugly chapter in its legal history.”

The law required the posting of private information that the federal government has declared confidential and not subject to public disclosure. A person’s name could be added to the list even if they were unlawfully arrested or their case was later dismissed.

“This Scarlet Letter database made a mockery of the presumption of innocence and our basic civil liberties. It was a no-brainer that this mean-spirited and unconstitutional law could not stand,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

In October 2013, the coalition reached an agreement with Alabama that permanently blocked other key provisions of its anti-immigrant law. The defense of this unconstitutional law has cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars just to pay the winning plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The overall defense will likely cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

Attorneys on the case include Kristi L. Graunke and Samuel Brooke for the SPLC; Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin and Nora A. Preciado for the NILC; Justin B. Cox, Cecillia D. Wang, and Omar C. Jadwat for the American Civil Liberties Union; and Randall Marshall, legal director, and Freddy Rubio, cooperating attorney, for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Foundation.

A copy of the joint motion to dismiss is available The settlement agreement is available at

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