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Homeland Security Secretary Announces Changes to Family Detention Policies

Released on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

Washington D.C. - Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson released a statement on plans to make “substantial changes” to the agency’s family detention policies. The following is a statement, in response, from Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

“The United States has a long, proud history of being a beacon of hope and refuge to people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. The act of coming to the United States to seek protection is not illegal or criminal. Not only do our laws ensure that those fleeing persecution may apply for asylum, but the United States has entered into treaties with other countries to ensure the protection of refugees. Offering protections to those who arrive here seeking asylum is who we are as a nation. Yet, for the past year, the Obama Administration has treated thousands of women and children asylum seekers arriving at our borders as criminals. They have been locked up in remote detention facilities run by private prison corporations, at great financial and human cost. Through our legal work on the ground, we have witnessed first-hand how little due process and compassion is being afforded to the women and children in our care.
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Supreme Court Rebuffs 5th Circuit and Reaffirms the Importance of Federal Court Review

Released on Tue, Jun 16, 2015

Washington, D.C. - The American Immigration Council and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild applaud the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Mata v. Lynch. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and held that federal courts have authority to review immigration decisions denying motions to reopen removal orders. A motion to reopen is a procedural protection meant to ensure a proper and lawful outcome in an immigration proceeding. The Supreme Court’s decision strongly reaffirmed the importance of federal court review of motions to reopen, and sent a clear message to the Fifth Circuit that it cannot continue its unlawful practice of depriving noncitizens of access to the courts. 

Petitioner Noel Mata had filed a motion to reopen, asking the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to “equitably toll,” or waive, the deadline for filing his motion. “Equitable tolling” is a long-recognized legal principle through which courts can waive the application of a filing deadline where a person acted diligently, but nonetheless was unable to comply with a deadline. In this case, Mr. Mata was prevented from filing on time due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Nine courts of appeals have held that the motion to reopen deadline is subject to equitable tolling. However, Mr. Mata lived in Texas, which is in the Fifth Circuit, a court of appeals which has never resolved the issue. Instead, the Fifth Circuit treated Mr. Mata’s motion as a request for the BIA to reopen under its sua sponte authority – a discretionary authority over which the Fifth Circuit had previously said it would not exercise review in at least some situations. As a result, the Fifth Circuit found that it lacked authority to consider Mr. Mata’s motion.Read more...

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Unconstitutional Conditions in CBP Detention Facilities Challenged in Class Action Lawsuit

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Doe v. Johnson, No. 15-00250 (D. Ariz. filed June 8, 2015)

Immigrant rights groups have filed a class-action lawsuit challenging detention conditions in CBP (Customs and Border Protection) detention facilities. The complaint alleges that Tucson Sector Border Patrol holds men, women, and children in freezing, overcrowded, and filthy cells for days at a time in violation of the U.S. Constitution and CBP’s own policies. Detained individuals are stripped of outer layers of clothing and forced to suffer in brutally cold temperatures; deprived of beds, bedding, and sleep; denied adequate food, water, medicine and medical care, and basic sanitation and hygiene items such as soap, sufficient toilet paper, sanitary napkins, diapers, and showers; and held virtually incommunicado in these conditions for days. Read more...

Divided Fifth Circuit Denies Emergency Stay as Underlying Case on Immigration Action Proceeds

Released on Tue, May 26, 2015

Washington D.C. - In a disappointing decision, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today denied the federal government’s request for an emergency stay of a preliminary injunction that has temporarily stopped President Obama’s deferred action initiatives from being implemented.

The court's order keeps in place the hold on implementation of these initiatives while the Fifth Circuit considers the appeal of the preliminary injunction itself. The Fifth Circuit will hear argument on the appeal in early July. The deferred action initiatives, announced last November, include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and could provide as many as 4 to 5 million immigrants with a temporary relief from deportation.

In the meantime, the underlying case is pending in the district court in Brownsville, TX before Judge Andrew Hanen. The case is still in the early stages of discovery. 

A similar suit challenging the President's actions filed by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was dismissed by a Washington, D.C., federal court at the end of last year. It is currently on appeal before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.Read more...

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Class Action Lawsuit for Unlawful Delays in Employment Authorizations Filed

Released on Tue, May 26, 2015

Washington D.C.– Last Friday, three immigrants and two immigration service providers filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for unlawfully delaying the adjudication of their applications for employment authorization. Filed by the American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Gibbs Houston Pauw, Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., and Van der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, the complaint alleges that USCIS’s policies and practices of failing to timely adjudicate applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) or, alternatively, failing to issue interim employment authorization, violate the governing regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act.  

By regulation, USCIS must either adjudicate EAD applications within a fixed time period or issue interim employment authorization. Yet, USCIS regularly fails to do either, leaving immigrants in a precarious position, unable to work legally and at risk of losing their jobs, related benefits and, in some states, their driver’s licenses. At a recent meeting with AILA members, USCIS representatives indicated that “USCIS no longer produces interim EADs.” Plaintiffs seek this Court’s intervention to compel USCIS to adjudicate EAD applications within the time period mandated by the regulations or, if the regulatory time period has expired, issue interim employment authorization. Read more...

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Government Shows No Signs of Backing Down on Family Detention

Released on Thu, May 14, 2015

Washington D.C. - Yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced efforts to “enhance oversight” to help ensure that families are detained in “safe and humane facilities” and in doing so demonstrated no signs of reevaluating its misguided family detention policy. The American Immigration Council welcomes efforts to increase access to legal counsel, improve detention conditions, and provide for more supervisory review of custody determinations, but yesterday’s announcement misses the mark. It is simply unlawful, inhumane, and unnecessary to detain children and mothers on a large scale, and the government must begin taking steps to roll back its strategy of detaining those fleeing violence and persecution.

This week, the American Immigration Council, along with other groups, toured the newly built family detention center in Dilley, Texas. As of Tuesday, 776 children and women were detained there, increased from an initial capacity of 480. Construction on the 50-acre property is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month, and ICE will have the capacity to detain 2400 individuals there. The scale is unprecedented, and as the population has grown, the need for legal services for the families has rapidly overwhelmed pro bono resources.

The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project is working onsite to meet with as many women as possible to help them navigate the complex immigration process. But as the population grows exponentially week after week—and given the sheer volume and speed at which legal proceedings are taking place—many women have no opportunity to even talk to a lawyer (let alone work with a lawyer to prepare) before their legal proceeding are underway or even completed. Read more...

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Unprecedented Coalition Ask Court to Reverse Texas Ruling Blocking Immigration Initiatives

Released on Tue, Apr 07, 2015

Washington D.C. - The Texas federal district court order that blocked parts of President Obama’s executive action on immigration was based on unproven or incomplete presentations to the court and should be reversed, civil rights and immigration advocates argue in an amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) brief in the case of State of Texas v. United States. Texas and 25 other states have sued the federal government to stop the implementation of initiatives that will provide temporary relief from deportation, but advocates maintain the president’s actions are legally sound.

Multiple legal briefs defending the deferred action initiatives were filed Monday with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by a range of advocates, leaders, and elected officials. One of these briefs will be filed on behalf of more than 150 civil rights, labor, and immigration advocacy groups, led by the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
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Immigrants’ Rights Groups to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services to Detained Families in Texas

Released on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

Washington D.C. – Immigrants’ rights and immigrant legal services groups are announcing the establishment of a family detention project to provide legal services to children and their mothers detained in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, and to advocate for the end of family detention

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, collectively known as CARA, have joined forces in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) significant expansion of its family detention capacity. The opening of the “South Texas Family Residential Center” in Dilley, Texas — with an initial capacity of 480 beds and the potential to hold 2,400 individuals — and the detention of families at the “Karnes Residential Center” in Karnes City — with a current capacity of 532 beds and plans to double the number — reflect the Obama Administration’s continuing commitment to the flawed deterrence policy it began in June 2014 with the opening of a temporary family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico.  Read more...

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Preventing the Removal of Individuals Who Are Not Enforcement Priorities

This Practice Advisory, written in collaboration with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and updated after a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas temporarily blocked the implementation of the DAPA and Expanded DACA initiatives, offers strategies to prevent the removal of individuals who are not enforcement priorities, including those who are eligible for DAPA or Expanded DACA.

Published On: Thursday, March 19, 2015 | Download File

Prosecutorial Discretion Requests Under the Johnson Enforcement Priorities Memorandum

This Practice Advisory, co-authored by the American Immigration Council and AILA, provides a close reading of Secretary Johnson’s November 20, 2014 memorandum on Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants. It briefly discusses DHS’s new three-tiered enforcement prioritization scheme, the various exceptions to the enumerated priorities, use of detention, and steps the agency is taking to implement the new policies. This Practice Advisory has been updated to include information about guidance issued on April 6, 2015 to immigration judges and attorneys with ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor regarding implementation of Secretary Johnson’s memorandum.

Published On: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 | Download File

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