Category Archives: October 2016

Louisiana Man Sues to Strike Down Unconstitutional State Law Blocking Immigrants from Marrying

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2016

CONTACTS
Juan Gastelum, NILC media relations specialist, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149
Audrey Stewart, NOWCRJ managing director, astewart@nowcrj.org, 504-655-2092

Louisiana Man Sues to Strike Down Unconstitutional State Law Blocking Immigrants from Marrying

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana man is challenging an unconstitutional state law that denies some immigrants in the state the fundamental right to a legal marriage.

Viet “Victor” Anh Vo filed the lawsuit Vo v. Gee, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana today after he and his partner were prevented from obtaining a marriage license in multiple Louisiana parishes because of a state law that requires any foreign-born person to present a certified birth certificate to obtain a marriage license. He is represented pro bono by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP.

Vo, 31, is a U.S. citizen and has been a resident of Louisiana since he was three months old, but he was never issued an official birth certificate because he was born in a refugee camp in Indonesia after his parents fled Vietnam. His partner, Heather Pham, also is a U.S. citizen.

“I’ve lived in Louisiana nearly all my life and had been dating Heather for over 10 years before we decided to get married,” said Vo, who had a ceremony in the Catholic tradition last year. “I was shocked and disappointed to find out that I couldn’t legally marry her in my home town in Louisiana.”

The legal team has been in contact with multiple other Louisiana residents who have been denied a marriage license under the law and had to take extraordinary steps to obtain marriage licenses in other states at great cost.

“We love who we love,” said Alvaro Huerta, a staff attorney at the NILC. “And the Constitution protects our right to marry the person we love, regardless of where we or they were born. The state of Louisiana is denying this fundamental right to many of its residents by making it impossible for them to get a marriage license. That is both morally wrong and unconstitutional.”

Stacy Horth-Neubert, litigation counsel with Skadden, Arps, said, “Just last year in a case called Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court unequivocally reaffirmed the fundamental right to marry the person you choose. Half a century after Loving v. Virginia, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage, no one should be denied this fundamental right, regardless of where they were born and regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.”

Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Act 436, also known as HB 836, in July 2015. Before it passed, State Sen. Conrad Appel, a Republican, warned that it would unnecessarily burden people like Mr. Vo, and that it was “a mistake” to try to use marriage to regulate immigration. Louisiana lawmakers passed it anyway, and the law went into effect in January 2016. Since then, dozens of people seeking marriage licenses, mostly immigrants and refugees, have been turned away by parish clerks across the state, according to media reports.

Mary Yanik, NOWCRJ staff attorney/Liman Legal Fellow, said, “This law panders to meanspirited and regressive elements within Louisiana politics, instead of reflecting the welcoming spirit of most Louisianans and honoring the state’s history as a birthplace of many of America’s most important civil rights struggles. Gov. John Bel Edwards has an opportunity to stand for a more progressive, equitable, and just Louisiana by rejecting this law.”

“Attacking the right to marriage is part of an attrition strategy aimed at denying immigrants their most basic humanity,” Yanik said. “It’s repugnant, and immigrant families will defeat it by defying it. They will conquer hate by celebrating their love and building family and community.”

The plaintiff, Vo, is being represented in the case by Karen C. Tumlin, Alvaro M. Huerta, and Nora A. Preciado for NILC; Lisa Gilford, Stacy Horth-Neubert, Douglas Smith, Jeffrey White, Marley Ann Brumme, and Maximillian Hirsh for Skadden, Arps; and Jennifer J. Rosenbaum and Mary Yanik for NOWCRJ.

The complaint filed today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Vo-v-Gee-et-al-complaint-2016-10-18.pdf.

A recording of a press teleconference about today’s filing is available at www.nilc.org/louisiana-marriage-suit-press-teleconf-2016-10-18/.

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National Survey Results Find Executive Action Is Beneficial for Economy and Society

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, NILC, 213-375-3149, gastelum@nilc.org
Tanya Arditi, CAP, 202-741-6277, tarditi@americanprogress.org

National Survey Results Find Executive Action Is Beneficial for Economy and Society

WASHINGTON — Those who received work authorization through the Obama administration’s executive actions have improved their economic situation, stimulated the economy, and become breadwinners for their families, according to a new survey released today. The Center for American Progress, the National Immigration Law Center, and United We Dream worked with University of California, San Diego, professor Tom Wong to conduct a national survey of more than 1,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. This program provides certain immigrants who came to the United States as children with protection from deportation and work authorization for a two-year period, which can be renewed.

“As we continue to reach out and survey DACA recipients, it is increasingly clear that DACA is having significant and positive effects that extend beyond the individual recipients,” said Wong. “Yes, DACA is improving the lives of recipients by opening up new employment and educational opportunities. We also see in this latest study that DACA recipients are creating larger footprints in the broader economy. DACA recipients are starting their own businesses, earning higher wages, buying their first cars, and some are even buying their first homes. Importantly, we also see that DACA recipients are poised to contribute across many sectors in the economy. The majors, specializations, and training that DACA recipients are pursuing include early childhood education, biochemistry, computer science, creative writing, graphic design, neuroscience, nursing, social work, and urban planning, among many others.”

This year’s survey shows that communities and state economies have benefited from DACA as well. More than half of the survey respondents have purchased their first car since receiving DACA. These purchases provide a substantial tax boon for individual states and signal increased economic mobility.

“In my family, some of us qualify for DACA, like my sister and I. Some of us are still undocumented, like my mom. And some of us are U.S. citizens like my two sisters who are planning to vote this year. In fact, this survey shows that fully 41 percent of DACA recipients like me have a U.S. citizen family member, like my sisters, who are over the age of 18 and 80 percent of them are registered to vote. When politicians talk about ‘executive action’ I want them to know that DACA is what Executive Action looks like,” added Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream.

“The political, economic, and moral case for DACA is win-win-win,” said Ignacia Rodriguez, co-author of the survey and immigration policy advocate with the National Immigration Law Center. “Whether you know someone with DACA or not, we all benefit from their increased tax dollars, civic participation, and economic mobility. We hope that politicians—and the courts—pay attention to this important data.”

Survey responses were collected from September 8 to September 26, 2016. This research builds upon an initial survey of DACA recipients conducted in June 2015.

“Since our last survey in 2015, unauthorized young people with DACA are taking advantage of even more opportunities and are financially contributing to the well-being of their families,” said Tom Jawetz, co-author of the survey and Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Because of DACA, these young people are earning higher wages, purchasing cars and homes, and starting businesses—all of which translate into greater federal, state, and local tax revenues.”

Read the full survey results here.

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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, litigation, 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.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful nonpartisan network made up of 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. UWD organizes and advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community—justice for all immigrants. You can find more about UWD online at www.unitedwedream.org.

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Chicago Dreamer Challenges Nationwide Immigration Injunction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 12, 2016

CONTACT
• Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, gastelum@nilc.org
• Tara Tidwell Cullen, National Immigrant Justice Center, 312-660-1337, ttidwellcullen@heartlandalliance.org

COMPLAINT (PDF)

Chicago Dreamer Challenges Nationwide Immigration Injunction

New lawsuit advances efforts started in New York, alleges Texas order not binding in Illinois

CHICAGO — A new federal lawsuit today advanced efforts to reinstate the Obama administration’s immigration relief initiatives, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (expanded DACA), in some parts of the country.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by José Lopez, a DACA recipient, is the second to challenge the reach of an unlawfully broad injunction in United States v. Texas. It follows a similar lawsuit filed in August by Martín Batalla Vidal in the Eastern District of New York.

Both lawsuits seek to fix a wrongdoing suffered by thousands of DACA recipients who are not party to the Texas case, and could open up a new pathway for the implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA outside of Texas, providing relief for millions of families.

“I applied for DACA because I knew it would open up better opportunities, and I had understood I wouldn’t have to reapply to renew my work permit for three years—a big relief,” Lopez said. “This relief was taken away from me and from thousands of others because of one judge in Texas. That’s not fair. We contribute to our communities, and we should be allowed to plan our lives more than two years at a time.”

Lopez, 24, is a longtime resident of Chicago who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was four years old. He is represented by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and the Rockford, Illinois, law firm Dady & Hoffmann.

In February 2015, Lopez received a three-year work permit from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under newly issued rules for DACA. That same month, Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the federal district court in South Texas, issued an injunction in United States v. Texas that blocked DAPA and the expansion of DACA nationwide, based solely on claims of alleged costs to Texas. The federal government relied on that injunction to wrongfully revoke three-year work permits that had been issued to thousands of DACA recipients across the country, including to Lopez and Batalla Vidal.

Like Batalla Vidal, Lopez seeks reinstatement of his three-year work permit because its revocation on the basis of the overbroad injunction was unlawful. Furthermore, by challenging the scope of the Texas injunction, the lawsuit could lead to the reinstatement of DAPA and expanded DACA for millions of families in states that are not part of the Texas lawsuit.

“We are proud to stand with José, as we are with Martín, because Illinois is not Texas,” said Justin Cox, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “And New York is not Texas. We are fighting back against an erroneous injunction that has hurt people like José and Martín as well as millions of other immigrants across the country—and, indeed, all of us.”

“It’s deeply troubling that a district court judge’s decision in Texas is reaching to cause harm to longtime Illinois residents, when our city and state officials have repeatedly expressed support for President Obama’s expansion of deferred action,” said Mark Fleming, national litigation coordinator at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Increasing access to DACA and implementing DAPA would bring tremendous economic and social benefits to Illinois.”

Announced in 2012, DACA allows some young undocumented immigrants such as Lopez, who came to the U.S. as children, to live and work in the country temporarily if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

In November 2014, the Obama administration sought to build on the success of that initiative by expanding eligibility requirements to include more immigrant youth and by creating the DAPA program, which would similarly allow some undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security announced that new and renewing DACA applicants would be approved for three- rather than two-year periods. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began issuing three-year work permits that same month.

In December 2014, Texas and 25 other states sued to stop the implementation of DAPA and expansion of DACA. In February 2015, Judge Hanen issued a nationwide injunction blocking both programs. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this month refused to rehear the case after deadlocking and issuing no decision in June.

The complaint filed today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Lopez-v-Richardson-et-al-complaint-2016-10-12.pdf.

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NILC to Honor 2016 Courageous Luminaries Awards Recipients at Annual Dinner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

NILC to Honor 2016 Courageous Luminaries Awards Recipients at Annual Dinner

LOS ANGELES — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is proud to announce this year’s recipients of its Courageous Luminaries Awards: longtime community advocate Reshma Shamasunder, the global law firm Morrison and Foerster LLP, and advocacy group FWD.us. In recognition of their roles in and ongoing commitment to advancing the interests of immigrant communities, NILC will honor them at its annual awards dinner to be held October 13, 2016, at The Center at Cathedral Plaza in Los Angeles.

“The visionary leadership of this year’s Luminaries has had far-reaching impact, improving the lives of millions in immigrant communities across the U.S., and helping to inform and shape our national conversations,” said Sara Gould, chair of the NILC Board of Directors.

“Sustained commitment, innovation, and generosity: This year’s Courageous Luminaries showcase some of the best attributes that have helped strengthen the immigrants’ rights field and its ability to achieve concrete results,” said Marielena Hincapié, NILC’s executive director. “It’s an honor to have worked closely with each of our honorees and to pay tribute to their tremendous contributions.”

Reshma Shamasunder has played an instrumental role in improving the lives and health of immigrants in California. As the former director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, and in her current role as a policy consultant, Shamasunder’s work over the past 12 years to increase immigrants’ access to critical services, education, professional licenses, driver’s licenses, and, most recently, health coverage for children regardless of their immigration status has helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians and their families.

Founded in 2013, FWD.us has demonstrated unwavering leadership in the national campaign to defend and advance the Obama administration’s immigration relief initiatives. It played a pivotal role in convening dozens of business leaders to sign on to an amicus brief that was filed with the Supreme Court in United States, et al. v. State of Texas, et al. in support of the deferred action programs known as DAPA and the expansion of DACA. But perhaps more importantly, FWD.us has devoted unprecedented resources and energy to lift up the voices of people who will be directly affected by the High Court’s decision, in order to compellingly illustrate the needless devastation that our country’s current immigration policies are having on families, communities, and the nation’s economy.

Morrison and Foerster LLP, a law firm with 16 offices around the world, has demonstrated a deep commitment to pro bono work in support of immigrants’ rights. The firm has played a critical role in Jane Doe #1, et al. v. Jeh Johnson, et al., a class action lawsuit challenging horrific and unconstitutional detention conditions in Border Patrol holding facilities in that agency’s Tucson Sector. Morrison and Foerster assembled a large pro bono team to provide critical support and recommended bold and creative litigation strategies in the case. The discovery strategy the firm recommended was instrumental in gathering critical evidence showing the extent of the human rights and due process violations in the holding cells. The resources and attorney time Morrison and Foerster has devoted to analyzing this evidence may help propel detention-condition reform that reaches beyond the holding facilities in Arizona that prompted the lawsuit.

More information about NILC’s 2016 Courageous Luminaries Awards dinner is available at www.nilc.org/2016-awards-dinner/.

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NILC Decries Justice Denied to Millions of Immigrant Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 3, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

NILC Decries Justice Denied to Millions of Immigrant Families

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to rehear arguments in United States v. Texas, denying millions of immigrant families who would benefit from the Obama administration’s 2014 immigration executive actions their fair day before a full court.

The decision to forego a rehearing comes after an eight-justice Court failed to reach a majority in the case last session, letting a lower court ruling stand that blocked the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The two initiatives would have allowed eligible undocumented immigrants to remain with their families and work in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation.

The Justice Department filed a petition for a rehearing in July, asking to reargue the case before a full bench once a ninth justice is confirmed.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Once again, the Judiciary has allowed the politics of obstruction to prevail over justice. Legal experts across the board agree that a rehearing was not only appropriate, but necessary, in U.S. v. Texas. And yet, the Justices failed to do what’s best for the country by allowing this case to be reconsidered once the Supreme Court is fully staffed.

“The issues in U.S. v. Texas are too big for our country to accept a decision by default by the nation’s highest court. DAPA and the expansion of DACA would provide much needed relief to millions of families who live in constant fear of being separated from their loved ones. Furthermore, the two initiatives would reap sizable economic and public safety gains for our country.

“The fact that the Supreme Court has continued to fail to act on the nation’s most pressing issues only serves to remind us that we need a fully functional court today, not next year. We call upon the Senate to do its job and provide that ninth justice without delay. Today’s decision raises the stakes for the November elections even more. Voters must turn out to ensure that we elect a president who will shape the future of the country – not just for the next four years but for decades – as she or he will get to nominate several Supreme Court justices. ”

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