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Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: New NILC Report Looks at Cooperation Between Local Law Enforcement and Federal Agencies

Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: New NILC Report Looks at Cooperation Between Local Law Enforcement and Federal Agencies

By NILC staff
Sept. 22, 2017

Immigrants are caught in a complex and opaque web of databases, related systems, and information-sharing mechanisms that make it easier for immigration enforcement to disrupt their lives and prevent them from fully participating in economic and social life in the United States.

These databases, systems, and mechanisms often depend on the entanglement of state and local law enforcement or licensing agencies with federal immigration and law enforcement agencies.

Advocates, including NILC, have raised many concerns about how these databases and information-sharing mechanisms work. President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) implementation memos will expand immigration enforcement dramatically without due process protections, increase state and local involvement in immigration enforcement, and undermine federal Privacy Act guarantees.

We took a closer look at these entanglements between immigration and law enforcement and outlined what we found in our new report, Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: Basic Information for Advocates about Databases and Information-Sharing Among Federal, State, and Local Agencies. This report describes how some of these databases and information-sharing networks work but also outlines actions local advocates can take to minimize these entanglements.

Below are some highlights of the report:

  • The FBI’s Next Generation Identification database and DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System are interoperable, meaning fingerprints of an arrested person may be checked against both databases.
  • State and local law enforcement have access to federal databases that contain civil immigration information, while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has access to local law enforcement databases that allow it to identify immigrants who have been arrested. Jails also often give ICE agents access to jails, along with lists of people being held.
  • Informal contact also exists among all these agencies. An example of this might be a local police officer contacting ICE regarding a stopped driver if they suspect the driver is undocumented.
  • Local, state, and federal gang databases also interact. These databases identify certain people as gang members, often without much reason, and may include photos and other information. ICE even started its own gang database in 2010. Because gang members have long been considered a priority for immigration enforcement, being identified as a gang member or someone who “associates” with gang members can have dramatic consequences for immigrants.
  • Mobile biometrics technologies, such as mobile fingerprinting and iris scans, may be used by ICE agents on people “encountered” during investigations, in violation of legal standards established by the Fourth Amendment, such as probable cause. This can result in so-called “collateral” arrests of people who were not originally targeted. This biometric information is also kept in databases, even for people who were not arrested.
  • ICE has used department of motor vehicles (DMV) records to locate individuals for immigration enforcement purposes and has used DMVs’ technological capacities, such as facial recognition software, to identify and locate targets. ICE has also asked DMVs to “run” license plates at particular addresses in order to determine the identities of residents there.

Though these potentially unconstitutional information-sharing mechanisms are disturbing, there are many ways advocates can fight back, including pressuring local governments to stop these types of cooperation among agencies, alerting media to individual stories of discrimination, filing lawsuits, and more. There are also ways to file complaints directly with the agencies when they improperly use biometrics devices, and local governments should also be asked to ensure that Privacy Act standards apply to noncitizens.

More details on these databases and information-sharing systems—along with more ideas on how to fight back—can be found in the report.


They Risked Everything for a Shot at the American Dream. Now, We Must Stand Up and Defend Them.

They Risked Everything for a Shot at the American Dream; Now We Must Stand Up and Defend Them

By Kamal Essaheb, NILC director of policy and advocacy
September 7, 2017

This week President Trump shut the door on nearly a million young people, and didn’t even have the courage to face their questions. This callous and immoral decision that requires all of us who choose to be on the right side of history to speak out and let our elected leaders know that this is not the type of country we want to be.

Trump chose to put hundreds of thousands young immigrants across the country in peril by announcing an imminent end to the undeniably successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

For five years, DACA has allowed these youth, often referred to as “dreamers,” to come forward and pursue the same educational, professional and life opportunities available to anyone who grew up in the U.S. It is up to all of us to ensure that these protections remain in place. We must continue to raise our voices and tell our representatives in Congress to swiftly pass the Dream Act of 2017.

This is a defining moment for our country. Trump again gave in to his anti-immigrant advisors and base, putting politics above people—hate over reason. He chose to pull the rug out from under nearly a million people who are working, studying and contributing to their communities. In doing so, he is putting their families, their livelihood and their sense of security and belonging in this country at stake.

Trump’s decision to end DACA is the latest in an abhorrent pattern of immoral and, in many cases, unlawful attacks on immigrants, communities of color, and other disenfranchised Americans. Following his comments on Charlottesville and the pardoning of Joe Arpaio, Trump has again made it clear that white supremacists have their greatest ally in the White House. We cannot let this disgusting vision for America’s future to prevail.

Faced with yet another unconscionable act by Trump, we are ready to fight with the brave young people and allies who fought for and won DACA. But we are much stronger when people from all walks of life get involved. Whether you’re a teacher, nurse, coach, or a local leader, now is the time to stand side by side with dreamers and up for what’s right.

DACA recipients did everything we asked them to do. They voluntarily came forward, provided information, paid a fee and went through background checks. They relied on a promise by the federal government to allow them to live and work here, and keep their information safe. We must all keep the government from reneging on that promise. And we must not allow Trump to use the lives of these young people to advance his own agenda.


Dreamers’ Stories Show What Would Be Lost if DACA Were to End

Dreamers’ Stories Show What Would Be Lost if DACA
Were to End

By NILC staff
August 25, 2017

Getting a driver’s license, finding a job, going to college—these are milestones in life that most of us take for granted, but for more than 800,000 young people, these things are only possible because of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

We asked DACA recipients, along with their friends and family members, to tell us what DACA means for them. The responses poured in, and the message was plain: DACA changes lives.

Fatima, for instance, was able to launch a successful career in interior design in New York City after getting DACA, and Yanet got her nursing assistant license and started working in an acute rehabilitation facility in Arizona.

Maria, of Phoenix, bought a home and started her own business, and Shahrzad loves paying taxes because she’s proud to contribute to her country.

DACA recipients are part of the everyday fabric of our communities. They’re hair stylists, software developers, dental hygienists, and more. To pull the rug from under their feet would not only be absurdly cruel, it would undermine the whole economy. Reports estimate that ending DACA could reduce the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $433.4 billion over the next 10 years, but that doesn’t even begin to touch the personal losses people could suffer if families are torn apart.

With rumors again circulating that the Trump administration may soon end DACA, it is more important than ever to share these stories and remind everyone how critical this program is for individuals and our communities. We urge everyone to share these stories, and their own, with the hashtag #DefendDACA. There’s no time to waste. DACA is under real threat, and we must show that we won’t let it go without a hell of a fight.

You can find the DACA stories we’ve collected so far here. We continue to add more daily, so check back often.


NILC Response to Reports of Possible End to DACA

August 24, 2017

Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822

NILC Response to Reports of Possible End to DACA

WASHINGTON — News media reported today that the Trump administration is seriously considering ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA allows immigrant youth who meet certain requirements to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. Since the program started in 2012, it has had a transformative impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth and their communities, and tremendous benefits for our country as a whole.

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

“If Trump decides to end the successful DACA program, it would signal that he has decided to follow the advice of the more extremist voices in the White House and appeal to the white supremacists in his base rather than to courageously lead in this moment. For more than five years, DACA has improved the lives not just of the young people who benefit from it, but of millions more who live and work with immigrant youth each and every day.

“During more than seven months of being operative during the Trump administration, the DACA program has worked just as well as it did under the Obama administration. Trump’s possible decision to bend to the will of a few state attorneys general who gave him a legal ultimatum would be shortsighted politically, economically, and societally.

“After so much damage, Trump has an opportunity to do the right thing by keeping this program in place. He shouldn’t squander it.

“DACA has been a lifeline for nearly 800,000 young people who have been able to flourish because the federal government gave them a chance to live, study, work, and grow in the country they call home, without the fear of being deported. We will use every tool available inside and outside the courtroom to protect the rights of DACA recipients and all of our immigrant family and community members.”

# # #


On Its Fifth Anniversary, Let’s Celebrate and #DefendDACA!

On Its Fifth Anniversary, Let’s Celebrate and #DefendDACA!

By Michelle Saucedo, NILC summer intern
August 15, 2017

Happy fifth DACA anniversary!

I cautiously celebrate this milestone as I recognize DACA’s success, while grappling with the concern about its possible rescission and what that could mean to so many people in this country. Since DACA’s implementation in 2012, over 800, 000 people have benefited from it, getting a chance to work with authorization, along with a reprieve from the threat of deportation.

Although its benefits are granted only for a renewable period of two years, many people took a chance on the program, putting their faith in the same government that had failed to deliver on immigration reform and continued to separate families. DACA was not the ultimate goal or desired solution, but it was a welcome reprieve for so many undocumented people who yearned to move ahead and provide for themselves, their families, and the country they call home.

While I was a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)–accredited representative at Asian Americans Advancing Justice–L.A., I had the privilege of assisting DACA applicants and their families and got to learn about the life-changing opportunities that having deferred action brought them. I witnessed families sacrifice their savings so their child could apply. I felt the determination of applicants who continued their GED classes while working full time. I saw their hope that all these investments would be worthwhile. Now, working as a summer law clerk at NILC, I continue to see the resilience of this population and their allies.

The mental, emotional, and financial investments in DACA proved worthwhile for Naomi (not her actual name). As a high school senior, she was set to graduate several months before she and her parents decided to move forward with her DACA application. She had been accepted to several schools and had received a scholarship to attend a small liberal arts college. However, to make good on its offer, the college needed her to provide a valid Social Security number. After she got DACA, Naomi could show her valid work permit and Social Security number to every school she considered attending, and she now is on track to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. DACA has helped so many like Naomi and thousands of others who’ve been able to obtain higher-paying jobs to support their families, return to school, own a business, practice the career they studied and worked so hard for, and accomplish many other goals.

But since Donald Trump became president, affected people’s and advocates’ DACA-related concerns have shifted dramatically. We’ve gone from working to safeguard DACA’s smooth implementation to fighting back efforts to discredit and dismantle the program. Although the president, when he first took office, stepped back from his campaign promise to repeal DACA—instead indicating that he has sympathy for “Dreamers”—the volatility of his administration and threats to the program made by ten conservative state attorneys general demonstrate clearly that we’ve got to continue to vigorously protect DACA. An end to DACA would not only be a devastating loss to those who currently enjoy its benefits, but also to the U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress (CAP) estimates that ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade and would remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy. On the flip side, continuing DACA could increase the estimated yearly contribution of DACA recipients to state and local taxes, to $2.45 billion.

But the main reason to protect DACA is that it would be inhumane to deprive hundreds of thousands of people from the freedom, opportunities, and goals they have had access to because of DACA’s benefits. At a time when nearly 8 in 10 voters, including almost three-quarters of Trump voters, support allowing “Dreamers” to stay in the country, it is important to emphasize that DACA is a policy that has safeguarded immigrant youth and that we still need a permanent solution.

Whether because of political pressure or because their conscience is calling them to do the right thing, several members of Congress have announced bipartisan legislation to protect DACA-eligible people and others who arrived to the U.S. as minors. These new versions of the Dream Act and similar legislation proposing a path for some to regularize their status may seem promising, but while we wait for Congress and the president to come up with a clean, broad legislative solution, it is important we #DefendDACA and its beneficiaries.

DACA taught me so much about the resilience and strength of the community I serve. I’m inspired by the heartfelt words of my former DACA client who said, “We’ve made it this far, and we’ll keep going. We just have to keep fighting.” We definitely must keep fighting—fighting without distractions and without fear. We must defend DACA until we have a real opportunity for permanent change. We must continue to support and stand in solidarity with our immigrant communities and be ready for the challenges to come.

DACA was a win by and for the immigrant community. Let’s remember those lessons of strength as we forge ahead.


Even Though There Are Legal Threats to DACA, There Is Reason to Be Hopeful

Even Though There Are Legal Threats to DACA, There Is Reason to Be Hopeful

By NILC staff
August 4, 2017

Several legal threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have its beneficiaries and prospective applicants understandably worried, but it’s important to remember that there haven’t been any major changes to the program and that, because there’s broad bipartisan support for keeping it, there’s also reason to be hopeful.

The bad news first: There are some legal threats against DACA. One is a threat by ten state attorneys general and one governor, sent in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to amend the U.S. v. Texas lawsuit that challenged the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and expanded DACA (DACA+) programs to also legally challenge the original DACA program. (The Obama administration created DACA in 2012 and announced DAPA and DACA+ in 2014.) The letter says that this threat will be carried out if the federal government doesn’t agree by Sept. 5, 2017, to do away with the 2012 DACA program. Below are some potential scenarios related to this threat.

The federal government decides by September 5, 2017, to rescind the June 15, 2012, DACA memorandum

If the federal government decides to end the DACA program, it would likely be on the terms laid out in the letter to Sessions from the state attorneys general. In that case, after the program is ended, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would issue no new grants or renewals of DACA, and existing grants of DACA and accompanying work permits would expire on their current expiration dates.

The federal government does not rescind the June 15, 2012, DACA memorandum

In their letter to Sessions, the ten state attorneys general said that if the federal government does not agree by Sept. 5, 2017, to rescind the June 15, 2012, memorandum that initiated the DACA program, they will seek to amend their complaint in U.S. v. Texas to add a legal challenge to DACA. It’s possible that they may also seek to have the DACA program preliminarily enjoined (halted) while their case makes its way through the courts.

Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen previously granted Texas’s requested preliminary injunction against the DAPA and DACA+ programs, so he may be willing to do so again with respect to the 2012 DACA program.

We don’t know how long it would take for the court to hear and rule on such a request. It also isn’t certain that Judge Hanen would issue an injunction against DACA as he did with DAPA and DACA+

The U.S. v. Texas court rules on MALDEF’s request that the case be dismissed

On July 28, 2017, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) asked Judge Hanen to dismiss the U.S. v. Texas case. MALDEF argues that, because former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly issued, on June 15 of this year, a memo that largely rescinds the 2014 memos that created the DAPA and DACA+ programs, there are no issues left to litigate in U.S. v. Texas. If the court were to dismiss the case, that would of course affect any attempt by the ten state attorneys general to carry out their threat against DACA.

Briefing on MALDEF’s request continues. There’s no way to know when the court will rule on MALDEF’s motion or whether the court will deny the motion and allow Texas and its partner states to add to U.S. v. Texas a legal challenge to the original DACA program.

*  *  *

Developments in another case—Arizona Dream Act Coalition (ADAC) v. Brewer—may pose another legal threat to DACA.

This case was filed just after the DACA program was announced, when the then governor of Arizona issued an order whose effect was to make DACA recipients ineligible for driver’s licenses. In January 2015, a federal district court in Arizona permanently blocked Arizona’s policy, and that decision was later upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thus, DACA recipients can get drivers licenses in Arizona.

Arizona has now appealed the case to the Supreme Court and is arguing that DACA is unconstitutional. On June 26, 2017, the Court issued an order calling for the views of the U.S. solicitor general as to whether the Court should hear the case. The Court didn’t set a deadline for the solicitor general’s brief, but on average it takes around four months for the solicitor general to file such a brief. Here are some possible scenarios.

The solicitor general recommends that the Supreme Court not take the case

Although DACA was created by the Obama administration, the current solicitor general may choose to continue with the federal government’s previous opinions and tell the Court there’s no need to disturb the Ninth District’s ruling.

However, the solicitor general could recommend, a few months from now, that the Court not take the case because the government has ended the DACA program voluntarily or because the solicitor general knows that the program will soon be terminated.

The solicitor general recommends that the Supreme Court take the case

The solicitor general may recommend that the Supreme Court take the case to resolve once and for all the legal issues about DACA’s constitutionality. Last year the Court was unable to reach a majority decision on whether the DAPA and DACA+ programs were constitutional, and it’s impossible to know now how it might rule if asked to decide about the original DACA program. Last year when it was considering the DAPA and DACA+ case, the Court had only eight justices, but since then Justice Neil Gorsuch has joined the Court. So it’s much more likely that there would be a majority decision in ADAC, if the court decides to hear it.

Even if the Court does decide to hear ADAC, it may reach a decision without ruling on DACA’s constitutionality, since it could base its decision on other legal principles.

You can read more about these different legal scenarios here.

While these legal threats to DACA raise concerns, there is also plenty of reason to be hopeful. For one thing, several bipartisan bills have recently been introduced to provide a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients. In truth, they aren’t likely to pass and, if they did, they would probably come with unwanted changes to immigration enforcement policy. However, they do show that there’s broad bipartisan support for DACA recipients, which means that any decision to end DACA would be very politically unpopular.

Stay tuned for updates on DACA and DACA-related legislation. We’ll also be celebrating DACA’s five-year anniversary on Aug. 15 and will continue to highlight all the positive effects DACA has in people’s lives and communities.


From Japanese-American Internment Camps to the Muslim Ban: The Terrible Consequences of Discriminatory Executive Orders

From Japanese-American Internment Camps to the Muslim Ban: The Terrible Consequences of Discriminatory Executive Orders

By John Yuasa, guest blogger
July 27, 2017

“An Executive Order put my family in a Concentration Camp.” That was the sign I carried as I joined thousands of other people at Los Angeles International Airport to protest the executive order of Jan. 27, 2017, that initiated the Trump administration’s Muslim ban.

Let me explain. In February 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal and incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast. People had just a few days to prepare and were permitted to bring only what they could carry. Many families suffered crushing economic losses as they hurriedly sold their farms, homes, and businesses.

At that time, my California-born U.S. citizen parents were expecting their first child—me. My parents, who lived in Oakland, were sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center, a converted racetrack that had about 180 barracks, located just south of San Francisco. Twenty-six of the buildings were converted horse stalls, with cardboard installed in the upper portion of the walls between the stalls. There was no privacy between the families that were living in each stall. The barracks were filthy and fetid—filled with horse flies, fleas, and dried manure and urine smells. Tanforan was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, with armed military police on guard.

Once I was born and able to travel, we were taken by train to the Topaz “Relocation Center,” more accurately described as a prison camp. Topaz held more than 8,000 people in approximately one square mile of land. It was located about 100 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, in an arid desert that varied from over 100 degrees in the summer to below zero in the winter. Strong winds blew sand everywhere, including into the living quarters and everyone’s food. The crudely constructed barracks provided little protection against the extreme weather. The camp was patrolled by 85 to 150 soldiers and was also surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Manned watchtowers with searchlights were placed every quarter mile around the perimeter of the camp.

I had never been back to that site of my infant incarceration, but the recent grand opening of the Topaz Museum, in Delta, Utah, offered me a reason to return. The ceremonies that took place reminded all of us what it is to be free and how hatred, prejudice, and discrimination can enable a government to incarcerate people who have committed no crimes, without any opportunity for legal due process.

In 1942, the government’s position was that national security required this policy on internment. However, in 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians issued its report, which documented a far different reason. In its specific findings and recommendations, it states that the broad historical causes were “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

Now, for no other reasons than prejudice, national security hysteria, and a failure of political leadership, the president has decided that people attempting to escape persecution by coming to the United States present a national security risk—solely for being Muslim. We cannot allow this unconstitutional order to stand. Please join me in being an active participant in our democratic process to ensure that our laws and regulations against discrimination are enforced and, where necessary, strengthened.

John Yuasa is a former Peace Corps volunteer, deputy director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance in the Department of Labor, and nonprofit executive.


While We’re Watching the Trumpcare Train Wreck, Let’s Not Allow Our Dollars to Fund Trump’s Wall and Deportation Machine

While We’re Watching the Trumpcare Train Wreck, Let’s Not Allow Our Dollars to Fund Trump’s Wall and Deportation Machine

By Jackie Vimo, economic justice policy analyst
July 21, 2017

It has been another eventful week in Washington, DC, under the Trump administration. Congress continues to dominate headlines with its failing efforts to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without health care; threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) may put 800,000 youth at risk of deportation; and yesterday the bipartisan Durban-Graham DREAM Act was introduced.

Meanwhile, the battle over the federal budget continues behind the scenes, and it looks like we are about to be hit by a “minibus” next week that would fund President Trump’s $1.6 billion wall and mass deportation machine. Trump needs our tax dollars to pay for his anti-immigrant agenda, and Congress must approve the federal budget. Now it is up to taxpayers to get the word out to their representatives in Congress that they refuse to fund hate and fear at the expense of vital social programs.

Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the border wall? Now Trump wants you as a taxpayer to foot the bill by trading jobs, health care, the environment, and education for his divisive monument to xenophobia at the southern border.

Back in May, Trump released his Fiscal Year 2018 budget, asking Congress to pour $23 billion of your tax dollars into the boots, walls, and detention facilities that make up his out-of-control deportation machine. Trump’s budget pays for this “deportation force” by giving tax cuts to the rich and slashing crucial programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, and education. The House of Representatives has responded with a proposed budget that gives Trump almost all of what he asked for. Last Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11), marked up and approved an appropriation bill that funds key elements of President Trump’s proposed immigration budget. Some of the “lowlights” include:

  • full funding of $1.6 billion for Trump’s “border wall”
  • $185 million to hire additional U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol officers
  • $4.4 billion for detention and removal programs, including funding to expand by more than 4,600 the capacity of detention camps that house children and families

Congress has until the end of September to pass its budget; but with Trump saying that Congress shouldn’t leave for its August recess unless it makes progress on his administration’s agenda, the budget presents an opportunity to sneak in a victory for the white nationalists among his base amidst the ashes of efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

However, with Congress sharply divided and dissent rankling the GOP from within, passing a twelve-bill omnibus budget is no simple task.

Enter the “minibus.” It’s a package of spending bills that Congress wants to push through next week (the last week of July). It includes four bills to fund the Defense Department, military construction and Veterans Affairs, energy and water programs, and the federal government’s legislative branch. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has also stated that the minibus will include $1.6 billion for Trump’s border wall. McCarthy and other members of Congress are hoping that they can drive this minibus through a vote quietly. It’s up to us to block its path.

The proposed Trump budget, the House’s Trump copycat budget, and the “minibus” are all examples of out-of-control spending for unnecessary immigration enforcement that does nothing but tear families apart at the expense of urgently needed programs. With the price of the $185.6 million Trump and Congress are seeking to hire 1,000 additional ICE officers and 606 support staff, we could replace 37,000 lead water pipes, like the ones that poisoned families in Flint, Michigan. Instead of spending $100 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents, we could give 12,000 toddlers access to quality early education through Head Start. And $1.6 billion for the construction of Trump’s border wall could provide health care coverage for 1 million uninsured children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We should be funding bridges, not walls.

The time is now to get the word out to our representatives that the minibus must not pass, and neither must any spending bill that cuts social programs and writes more blank checks to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. It is our taxpayer dollars that would fuel the minibus or any increases to funding for immigration enforcement in the federal budget. We have an obligation to let our representatives know that we refuse to fund hate and fear and to foot the bill for Trump’s deportation force.

Congress can try to sneak through the “minibus,” but we can stop them if we keep watching and cut off their supply of taxpayer dollars. Our taxpayer dollars should reflect our priorities and values by funding stronger families and communities, not fear. We need to send a strong message to Congress: #DefundHate by rejecting the Trump budget, so we can #FundFamiliesNotFear.

To get involved in the campaign to #DefundHate and stand up against Trump’s attack on immigrants, sign up at


What Does it Mean That the Supreme Court Asked for the Solicitor General’s View on the Arizona DACA Driver’s License Case?

What Does it Mean That the Supreme Court Asked for the Solicitor General’s View on the Arizona DACA Driver’s License Case?

By Hannah Coleman, NILC intern
July 17, 2017

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court issued an invitation for the United States solicitor general to file a brief expressing the federal government’s view of our case Brewer v. Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

Arizona requested the Court take up the case after an appeals court affirmed the state could not discriminate against DACA beneficiaries in issuing driver’s licenses. The Court in turn requested the view of the solicitor general. Though the request to the Solicitor General’s Office is not unusual, some were left wondering whether that held any implications for the DACA program overall.

Here is some information on this common practice:

Who is the solicitor general and what does he do?

The solicitor general is the Department of Justice’s officer responsible for representing the federal government of the United States before the Supreme Court. Additionally, the Court can ask for the solicitor general’s view through what is called a “Call for the Views of the Solicitor General” or a “CVSG.”  The solicitor general then submits a legal brief to the Court in which he offers his opinions on whether the Court should hear the case. Jeffrey Wall is the current acting solicitor general.

What is the process for CVSGs?

The most common types of cases that receive CVSGs are cases implicating the interests of the federal government, cases with the potential to shape an important area of law, and cases involving complex regulatory or statutory schemes.

Even though CVSGs are described as “invitations,” the Solicitor General’s Office views them as orders, and the solicitor general responds to every invitation it receives from the Supreme Court. During the 2016 term, the solicitor general filed 20 CVSG briefs, and in the 2015 term the solicitor general filed 15 briefs.

Before drafting its brief, the Solicitor General’s Office frequently meets with counsel in the case to better understand the legal issues, litigation history, and record, and consults with interested departments and agencies in the federal government.

Even though the Court is seeking the views of the solicitor general to determine whether the Court should hear the case, the solicitor general often makes additional recommendations as to how the Court should rule on the merits of a case.  However, a data set of CVSGs from 2001-2004 reveals that “[t]he Court’s ultimate decision on the merits is not highly correlated to the Solicitor General’s merits recommendation in his invitation brief.”

How long will it take for the solicitor general to file a brief for Brewer v. Arizona Dream Act Coalition?

The Supreme Court did not impose a filing deadline for the solicitor general’s brief in this case, and this is not surprising given the Court usually does not impose a deadline on the solicitor general. Therefore, we do not know exactly when the solicitor general will file his brief.  A data set from 2001-2004 reveals that the solicitor general takes, on average, over four months to file the brief.

We surveyed all CVSG briefs filed by the solicitor general between May 20, 2016, and May 23, 2017 (27 total) and found that the average filing time is still over four months. However, we note that the timing is unpredictable. For example, the shortest response time was just over two months, while the longest response time was over eight months.

We also found that for invitations, like the one in Brewer v. ADAC, that were received in late spring or early summer, the solicitor general typically files the briefs between August and December.

What are the different recommendations that the solicitor general can make?

The two most common recommendations are for the Court to agree to hear the case (accept certiorari) or to decline to hear the case (deny certiorari).  There are instances where the solicitor general has made other recommendations (for example, that the Court hold the case pending the outcome of a different case, or grant a recommendation to a companion case), but these are less common.

From May 20, 2016, to May 23, 2017, the solicitor general recommended the Court deny certiorari in 17 instances (63 percent); accept certiorari in 9 instances (33.3 percent), and wait for the resolution of a related case in one instance (3.7 percent). These percentages are similar to the data from 2001-2004.

Does the Supreme Court typically follow the solicitor general’s recommendation?

Yes, but only with respect to whether it hears the case. Out of the 27 CVSGs filed between May 20, 2016, and May 23, 2017, the Supreme Court followed the solicitor general’s recommendation in 23 cases (or 85 percent).  This is consistent with the 2001-2004 study, which finds that the Court followed the recommendation of the solicitor general in 79.6 percent of the cases surveyed.  However, as discussed above, if the Supreme Court does take the case, there is not the same kind of strong connection between what the solicitor general recommends on how the Supreme Court should rule and what the Court actually ends up deciding.

What happens next and what, if anything, does it mean for the DACA program overall?

Once the solicitor general submits his brief, the Supreme Court will then decide whether to take the case. If the Court decides not to take the case, then the Ninth Circuit decision, permanently blocking Arizona’s DACA driver’s license ban, will remain the final word on the case. If the Court decides to take the case, the case will then move forward to be briefed, argued, and eventually decided by the Supreme Court.

We do not know what position the solicitor general will take, if any, with regards to the continuing validity of the DACA program, especially since it is not a guarantee that this issue will be addressed by the Court in this case. However, it is ultimately the president who must affirm his support for DACA and the over 800,000 individuals and their communities who stand to lose so much if the program were eliminated.


Increasing the Number of Uninsured Would Hurt Everyone

Increasing the Number of Uninsured Would Hurt Everyone

By Gabrielle Lessard, senior policy attorney
July 6, 2017

Congressional efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would dramatically increase the number of uninsured people in the U.S., and that would be bad for everyone.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementation of the Senate’s proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) would increase the number of uninsured people to 49 million by 2026. The BCRA’s burdens would fall disproportionately on low-income consumers, children and seniors, with Medicaid spending cut by 26 percent by 2026 and by 35 percent by 2036.

Immigrants would be directly impacted if the BCRA became law because under the current Affordable Care Act lawfully present immigrants (with the exception of DACA recipients) are eligible to obtain health plans and income-based subsidies through the health care exchanges. The BCRA would strip eligibility from all but the subset of lawfully present immigrants deemed “qualified” under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.  Many immigrants with humanitarian statuses or circumstances, applicants for lawful permanent resident status with approved visa petitions, and others would lose eligibility under the bill.

A policy that increases the number of uninsured people is bad for everyone because the lack of access to health insurance produces adverse physical and economic consequences for individuals, families and communities.

Being uninsured has been correlated with poorer quality of health care, lower rates of preventive care, and greater probability of death. Many uninsured people avoid seeking medical care unless they are faced with an emergency, or delay care until their symptoms become intolerable. As a result, the uninsured are less likely to receive a diagnosis in the early stages of a disease and are more likely to suffer complications from aggravated medical conditions. They are at particular risk from diseases that are asymptomatic or produce only minor symptoms, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Health insurance also plays a major role in managing financial risk for individuals and families. Families with even one uninsured member face stigma, anxiety and the potential for financial catastrophe. Uninsured individuals who become hospitalized experience a host of financial setbacks over the next four years, including reduced access to credit, a 170 percent increase in unpaid medical bills, and a significantly higher likelihood of filing for bankruptcy.

The economic consequences of poor health extend beyond individuals and families.

People without insurance are often in poor health, which results in multiple dimensions of lost economic productivity: adults whose health status prevents them from working, workers who miss time from their jobs because of health problems, and workers who are working but less productive because of their health conditions or worries about a family member. Health-related productivity losses are estimated to reduce U.S. economic output by $260 billion a year.

Importantly, providing healthcare creates jobs and drives economic activity. A Commonwealth Fund analysis of the House “repeal and replace” bill, which is similar to BCRA, found that implementation of the bill would result in the loss of 924,000 jobs and a $148 billion decrease in business output by 2026.

The presence of a high concentration of uninsured individuals compromises access to health care for entire communities. Health systems prefer to invest in affluent areas that have higher rates of insurance. Physicians generally prefer working in newer, more up-to-date facilities over under-resourced health centers in low-income communities. Hospitals in areas with high rates of uninsured struggle with recruiting on-call specialists, resulting in longer wait times for emergency room visitors – regardless of their health insurance status. Lower rates of insurance within a community result in a decrease in availability of primary, preventive, specialty, and hospital-based care services, and may result in the closure or privatization of local community hospitals.

When many members of a community are uninsured, all members of the community are affected. Both the insured and the uninsured benefit physically and financially when every person in a community has access to affordable health coverage. It is in everyone’s interest to promote access to health care for all. Congressional health care proposals that would add millions to the number of uninsured are shortsighted and self-destructive.