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Incarcerated Children and Mothers Denied Due Process and Critical Information Before Release

Released on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to account for the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas.

The four organizations jointly provide legal services to mothers and children detained in Dilley and Karnes, Texas, through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, and over the past weeks CARA staff and volunteers have witnessed ICE officials coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States. The need to resolve these issues is all the more crucial given last week’s court order in the Flores case, which should mean that the remaining families will be released. The federal judge found that the government’s family detention practices violate the Flores settlement, which ensures that children are treated properly.

The concerns detailed in the letter include:Read more...

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Judge Stands Up for Refugee Families, Castigates Government for Policies That Traumatize Children

Released on Sat, Jul 25, 2015

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcomed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee that should signal the end of the mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the U.S. 

“After months of negotiations between the plaintiffs and the government stalled, Judge Gee again evaluated whether the government was meeting the terms of the original Flores settlement and ensuring the proper care of children in its custody. The final word on that is no, it most certainly is not. The government is not living up to its obligations,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. He continued, “While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) scrambled over the past few weeks to implement plans to potentially help them fend off this decision, the judge felt strongly that those plans were not sufficient. The judge noted that, even assuming the new policy complies with the Flores agreement, there is no guarantee that DHS and ICE won’t abruptly change the policy again. From everything being reported by attorneys volunteering for the CARA* project at the Dilley detention center, the new policies are in fact depriving mothers of due process and causing confusion and outright fear.”
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Release of Refugee Families is Long-Overdue Step

Released on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council welcome plans announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the release of some mothers and children detained after seeking refuge at our borders with the following statement:

“Today ICE is following through on DHS Secretary Johnson’s previous commitment by taking a long-overdue step forward,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. He continued, “Based on what volunteer attorneys, including myself, have seen and heard from clients in the detention centers and from the government’s own data, we know that the majority of families who have been incarcerated by DHS have fled to the United States to seek safety from persecution, torture, and violence and have strong asylum claims under our laws. When looking at alternatives to detention, ICE should turn first to community-based support models, which are extremely effective and far more appropriate for asylum seekers than restrictive and expensive electronic monitoring.”

“Giving mothers and children back their freedom and their dignity makes far more sense than incarceration at taxpayer expense, and will ensure these families’ safety from the traumatic psychological impact of detention,” said Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council. She added, “As we learn more about this policy and how it will be implemented, we will watch carefully to see if DHS will also take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the Flores settlement, which generally prohibits the detention of children. We would welcome the opportunity to work with DHS to ensure these families are made aware of their rights and responsibilities as they seek protection in our country. Of course, DHS’s ultimate goal should be to end the practice of mass family detention begun a year ago.”Read more...

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Vaccine Overdose to Detained Children Another Sign that Family Detention Must End

Released on Sat, Jul 04, 2015

Washington D.C. - This weekend, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) learned that, recently, medical personnel at the detention center in Dilley, Texas that holds nearly 2,000 children and their mothers mistakenly gave adult-strength Hepatitis A vaccinations to approximately 250 children.  

“Volunteer attorneys at Dilley, as well as those at similar detention centers in Karnes, TX, Berks, PA and the previous facility in Artesia, NM, have long noted disturbing patterns of what appears to be inadequate health care for the women and children. This latest permutation is beyond appalling—it is putting children at risk not just for short-term reactions but for unknown long-term risks,” said Crystal Williams, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“Imprisoning children and their mothers was wrong when it was started a year ago, and is wrong today. Just because the detention camps have no bars on the windows does not make them any less like a prison. Children have been forced to sleep with the lights on, are subject to intrusive checks regularly throughout the night, and have been dragged from their beds at 4:00 am to be given shots while their mothers must stand helplessly by without being told what is going on or being allowed a say in the matter,” Ms. Williams added.
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United States Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Alleging Wrongful Deportation

Released on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

Washington D.C. - After more than two years of litigation, the U.S. government has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Leonel Ruiz on behalf of his minor daughter, E.R. The suit alleged that in 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlawfully detained Mr. Ruiz’s then 4-year-old daughter—a U.S. citizen—when she arrived at Dulles Airport in Virginia, deprived her of any contact with her parents, and sent her back to Guatemala rather than allowing her to join her parents, who awaited her arrival in New York.

According to the complaint, during the twenty hours E.R. was detained in CBP custody with her grandfather, she was given nothing to eat other than a cookie and soda and nowhere to nap other than the cold floor. She was finally able to return home to the United States nearly three weeks later, but only after her father hired a local attorney to fly to Guatemala to retrieve her. Once home, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a child psychologist, who concluded that this was a result of her detention and her separation from her parents. The lawsuit, filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), sought damages for the harm E.R. suffered as a result of this ordeal. In June, the government agreed to pay E.R. $32,500.Read more...

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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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