The Torch

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The National Immigration Law Center’s blog.

Love Wins in Louisiana Immigrant Marriage Case (March 24, 2017)
Viet “Victor” Anh Vo and his fiancée are the portrait of commitment. Yet, their home state of Louisiana would not allow them to get married. Two months before their scheduled wedding the Louisiana legislature passed Act 436, which required Victor to present a birth certificate from the country he was born in to acquire a marriage license.  The problem was, Victor had been born in a refugee camp in Indonesia to Vietnamese parents, and neither Indonesia, nor Vietnam had any record of his birth.

ACA Replacement Bill Not a Good Deal for Immigrants (March 16, 2017)
The headlines regarding the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill, have rightly focused on the 24 million people the Congressional Budget Office expects will lose health care coverage if the bill is enacted. But if you dig into the bill, you find that it proposes policies that could harm many communities, including immigrants. Republicans released the bill and jammed it through the committees of jurisdiction within days.

Trump Can Try to Rebrand It, but the New Refugee and Muslim Ban Is Still
Illegal (March 9, 2017)
On January 27, President Trump tried to sell the country on a losing (and unconstitutional) idea: that banning vulnerable refugees and people from certain Muslim-majority countries was somehow a matter of national security. After abandoning any attempts to continue defending in court the flagrantly discriminatory first version of his refugee and Muslim ban, Trump issued a new EO on March 6 under the same title.

Unpacking the References to Public Benefits and the Privacy Act in Trump’s Executive Order on Interior Enforcement (March 2, 2017)
One lesson President Trump’s administration learned from his campaign is that misinformation and fear are powerful tools—tools they are now using in drafting, releasing, and carrying out his executive orders. They are already putting these lessons into practice in an issue area ripe for exploiting misunderstanding: public benefits and economic supports.

Answers from Our DACA Expert: Our immigration policy advocate answers the questions she’s been asked most often during Trump’s first month in office (Feb. 23, 2017)
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would end DACA if he were elected president. Unsubstantiated rumors circulated that he would end DACA on the day he was inaugurated, but that didn’t happen. Then rumors circulated that DACA would end his first week in office, but that didn’t happen either.

Five Things You Should Know About the Draft Executive Order on
Public Benefits (Feb. 16, 2017)
A draft executive order titled “Protecting Taxpayer Resources by Ensuring Our Immigration Laws Promote Accountability and Responsibility” has appeared several times in the news media. If signed by the president, the draft order would open a new front in the administration’s campaign against immigrants—an attack on lawfully present immigrants and their families.

How to Prepare Yourself and Others for Encounters With Immigration Enforcement (Feb. 10, 2017)
There have been disturbing reports over recent days of dozens or even hundreds of people across the country being picked up in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. Though we knew these types of raids were likely coming soon under the Trump administration, it serves as an important reminder to be prepared and know your rights in the event that you encounter ICE.

The Sprint That Saved Hundreds of Refugees and Immigrants from Being Deported (Feb. 3, 2017)
Lawyers from NILC, the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic rushed to the aid of two Iraqi men who had landed at JFK Airport in New York to find that, as NILC Legal Director Karen Tumlin put it, “The world had shifted under their feet.” The resulting class-action lawsuit saved hundreds from deportation.

NILCer Teamed Up with Other Ex-Congressional Staffers, Civil Servants and Advocates to Create a Playbook for Resisting the Trump Agenda (Jan. 20, 2017)
Former congressional staffers, civil servants, and advocates began meeting in mid-November to talk about what we could do to mitigate the harm that would almost certainly result from a Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress. The group eventually produced a guide that we hoped would empower more people to effectively influence their members of Congress.

Sen. Sessions Scorns Principles and Laws He Would Be Charged with Enforcing as Attorney General (Jan. 10, 2017)
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will seek to determine whether Sen. Jeff Sessions is fit to serve as our nation’s next attorney general, but the senators’ track record speaks for itself. His disdain for the very principles America was founded on is well documented. He has consistently demonstrated contempt for the diversity that makes America great.

nyc-h-hNYC Health + Hospitals’ “Open Letter” Sets an Inspiring Example That Could and Should Be Copied Across the Country (Jan. 5, 2017)
NYC Health + Hospitals, which runs the public hospitals and clinics in New York City, published a message of welcome to immigrant New Yorkers in a public letter that renewed a commitment to protect patients’ privacy and, in particular, the privacy of their immigration status information.

dickdurbinBRIDGE Act is a Hopeful Development But Would Not Be a Long-Term Solution (Dec. 22, 2016)
The BRIDGE Act, whose name is derived from “Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy,” was introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Dec. 9. It seeks to provide “provisional protected presence” to certain non–U.S. citizens, which would include authorization to work in the U.S. and protection from deportation, the two main benefits that DACA currently provides.

kevin-de-leon-2California Steps Forward to Protect Immigrants from Anticipated Trump Administration Policies (Dec. 15, 2016)
Three new measures recently introduced in the California legislature would provide much-needed support to immigrants who live in the state, and would erect roadblocks against aggressive immigration enforcement efforts anticipated under the incoming Trump administration. Two senators and an assembly member introduced the bills on Dec. 5.

sessionsA Deplorable Choice to Head the Justice Department (Dec. 5, 2016)
Over the past few weeks, the incoming administration has announced its nominees to head the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services. These individuals will be primarily responsible for shaping our nation’s priorities over the next four years. But the personal history that each of these appointees brings to their job makes it highly doubtful that all of us living here in the U.S., regardless of where we were born, will be treated equally under the incoming administration.

dreamerswelcomeOur Recommendations for People Considering Applying for DACA Following the Election (Nov. 14, 2016)
There are many concerns about what could happen to the DACA program once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump said during his campaign that he intends to end DACA, though he has not said exactly if, how or when this might actually occur. We also won’t know until after Trump takes office what Trump administration officials might do with the information that DACA applicants have submitted.

kidsatrallycropTrump’s Victory Will Not Defeat Immigrants or Constitutional Rights
(Nov. 10, 2016)

Tuesday’s election signaled the start of a difficult period for immigrants in the United States. On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump said he would impose many policies that would tear communities apart, including mass deportations and a ban on Muslim immigrants. He made a lot of promises, but campaigning is not governing. In fact, Trump has already backtracked on his plan for a mass deportation initiative.

wedding-rings-croppedLove Knows No Borders (Nov. 3, 2016)
Victor Vo met Heather Pham, and they fell in love. They decided to get married and, for more than a year, they meticulously planned a gorgeous wedding celebration. The decorations, the deejay, and the dinner menu were all set. Invitations were sent to over three hundred friends and family members. But just two weeks before the ceremony, the state of Louisiana—the place they call home—refused to grant Victor and Heather a marriage license.

dacapermitNew Study Confirms That DACA Provides Concrete Benefits to Both Immigrants and Native-Born (Oct. 27, 2016)
The National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream, the Center for American Progress, and Professor Tom Wong of the University of California, San Diego conducted a survey on how having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) affects the people who’ve received it. A new report on the results shows how deferred action has changed people’s lives for the better.

boy-nurse-croppedReexamining the Medical Needs of Unaccompanied Children (October 20, 2016)
Now that the school year has begun, we are reminded of the various inequities affecting low-income immigrant children. One particular inequity—the lack of access to affordable, quality health care—impacts more than just the immigrant child. It impacts the learning opportunities of everyone in the classroom. And despite expansions in health care coverage programs available to immigrant children, unaccompanied children remain an especially vulnerable population that demands our attention.

josecroppedChicagoan Joins New Yorker in Fighting Texas Injunction Against DAPA and Expanded DACA (October 13, 2016)
For too long, immigrant families in one part of the country have seen the federal courts in another part of the country rule—time and time again—against DAPA and the expansion of DACA, immigration programs that restore some fairness to our immigration system. Today, one more person took a courageous stand against this injustice.

renatablogAt 23, I Still Don’t Know What it’s Like to Call ‘My Doctor’ (October 6, 2016)
The year I got DACA I found myself in a paradox. DACA has opened new doors to me, allowing me to live and work without fear of deportation. It helped me be recognized as a person and as a member of my community and this country. Unfortunately, when undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients were restricted from accessing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it reminded me that I was still not welcomed here—worthy enough to work and pay taxes, but not to live a healthy life.

aaron-harveyThe List That Can Take Your Life (September 27, 2016)
Today, in California, you can be placed on a secret list, with life-threatening implications, and never even know your name was added. The only reason I found out about this hidden database, called CalGang, is because being on the list nearly landed me in prison for life less than a year ago. Right now, a bill to address some of the problems with CalGang and other shared gang databases, AB 2298, is sitting on the governor’s desk, and Governor Jerry Brown has until this Friday, Sept. 30, to sign or veto it.

martinLawsuit Win Could Make DAPA and DACA+ Available in States That Weren’t Parties to Texas v. U.S. (September 22, 2016)
Today, the first hearing was held in Batalla Vidal v. Baran, et al. The plaintiff in the case, Martin Batalla Vidal, is suing in New York federal district court to restrict the reach of an injunction issued early last year by a Texas federal district court that blocked the Obama administration’s DAPA and expanded-DACA executive actions from being implemented, putting the lives of millions of immigrants and their families on hold.

dmvLawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Discriminatory Denial of Driver’s Licenses to Domestic Violence Survivors and Others (September 15, 2016)
Earlier this week, Marcos and four other Arizonans who were denied licenses under the new policy filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s continuing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence, parents of critically ill children, and Liberian nationals forced to flee their country because of armed conflict and widespread civil strife. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from NILC, MALDEF, and the Ortega Law Firm.

WorkersStrikeCropExpanded Joint Policy Provides New Protections for Immigrant Workers Who Allege Employment Discrimination or Unfair Labor Practices (September 1, 2016)
When workers decide to come forward to make complaints about labor violations in their workplaces, they face many risks. Yet our system of labor protections depends on the courage of everyday people to speak up in the face of workplace violations because the government agencies responsible for enforcing labor laws are understaffed and many violations would go undetected if workers didn’t come forward to file complaints.


clintonwelfarereformReflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (August 22, 2016)

PRWORA curtailed many immigrants’ eligibility for public benefits, including cash, food, and medical programs. With respect to “federal public benefits,” it limited eligibility to certain immigrants it defined as “qualified.” These qualified immigrants included lawful permanent residents (LPRs), refugees, asylees, and certain other immigrants admitted for humanitarian reasons.

Ex147cropImages Ordered Released Confirm Immigrants’ Stories of Abusive Practices by U.S. Border Patrol (August 19, 2016)
For years, we’ve heard accounts of inhumane conditions at the U.S. Border Patrol’s processing facilities, or hieleras (Spanish for iceboxes) as these short-term detention facilities have come to be known. Detainees described being held in frigid, overcrowded, filthy cells for days on end and being denied food, water, medical care, and basic hygiene necessities.

DACAstressCropStressed About Your DACA Renewal? Here Are Some Steps You Can Take
(August 11, 2016)

There have been delays at the USCIS Nebraska Service Center—one of four service centers—in processing renewal applications for DACA and the work permits that allow DACA recipients to work legally in the U.S. Though USCIS recommends that DACA recipients apply for renewal 120 to 150 days before their work permits expire, currently it’s taking the Nebraska Service Center about 180 days to process renewal applications.

Roll_call_DNC_2008Politicians fail to connect the dots on health care and immigration
(August 4, 2016)

Over the course of the recently held Democratic and Republican conventions, two issues in particular received significant attention: health care and immigration. Whatever your position on either of these two issues, the conventions demonstrated that they will remain in national headlines and in political and policy debates over the next several months.

Health kidsExpanded Medi-Cal for undocumented kids: What it means and how to apply (July 28, 2016)
Under a new law that took effect this spring, all low-income California residents under age 19 are eligible to receive comprehensive health care through Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Children and youth who did not meet immigration status requirements were previously eligible for only “restricted scope” emergency and pregnancy services.


SCOTUSBuildingCropThe Ties That Bind: The Supreme Court and the U.S. v. Texas Deadlock (July 19, 2016)

In United States v. Texas, a case examining the Executive’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the deportation of immigrants with strong ties to our country, the Court could not garner a majority. Due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, the Court currently has only eight justices. The result: a handful of 4–4 tie votes and the uncertainty that comes with inconclusiveness.


GangDatabasesCrewCropThe need to shed light on gang databases and fight the criminalization of people of color (July 14, 2016)

Gang databases have been used by law enforcement to criminalize people of color and immigrants, who are often targets of racial profiling. “Secret” databases like gang databases undermine fundamental values such as transparency and accountability. Adults have no way of knowing whether they are on a gang database, and no way of challenging their inclusion.

test photoIn his final months in office, will the president choose compassion or more deportations? (June 30, 2016)
The Supreme Court tie in U.S. v. Texas was a frustrating setback for millions of immigrant families, but the fight must continue and another question of historical significance for immigrants looms large: Will President Obama, in the final months of his administration, continue to round up and deport Central American mothers, children and youth seeking safe refuge in the United States?


YoSoyImmigrant Families Deserve a Decisive Answer, Not a Supreme Nondecision (June 28, 2016)
One June 23 the Court split evenly on whether the executive branch was within its lawful authority in announcing two initiatives — an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the creation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which would allow millions of immigrants apply for deportation deferral and work authorization.

NILCLawyersSCOTUS15 Years After Coming to the U.S. Undocumented, I Became a Lawyer. This Week I Was in the Supreme Court (April 20, 2016)
This week, I was fortunate enough to be inside the U.S. Supreme Court for the argument in the U.S. v Texas case challenging the president’s immigration relief initiatives, known as DAPA and the expansion of DACA. While I entered the courthouse as a member of the Supreme Court Bar, having practiced law for 10 years, this scene would’ve seemed but a dream not too long ago.