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06/27/16 | Federal Court Grants Class-Action Status in Challenge to Obama Administration

Washington D.C.— A federal court has granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the federal government's failure to provide children in immigration court with lawyers in their deportation hearings. Several thousand children are estimated to be members of the class.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP.

“This ruling means that thousands of children will now have a fighting chance at getting a fair day in immigration court,” said Ahilan Arulanantham of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “The Obama administration should stop defending its draconian practice of conducting deportation hearings against unrepresented children.”

The class covers all children under 18 who are in immigration proceedings in the Ninth Circuit on or after June 24, 2016; lack counsel; are unable to afford legal representation; and are potentially eligible for asylum or are potentially able to make colorable claims to U.S. citizenship. 

“The government will not be able to simply delay the case in hoping that a few individual cases may resolve themselves without court intervention. Instead, the government must now defend a system that pits unrepresented children against trained federal prosecutors in an adversarial court hearing that literally may carry life and death consequences for the children involved,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

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06/27/16 | Court Orders Release of Some Evidence of Arizona Border Patrol Detention Facilities

Washington D.C. – Today, a federal district court unsealed some of the photographs central to ongoing litigation challenging deplorable and unconstitutional conditions in Border Patrol detention facilities in the agency’s Tucson Sector. The court also allowed the Arizona Republic newspaper to intervene in the case to argue for the release of the documents.

The initial evidence released today is only a portion of the evidence submitted in support of a motion for preliminary injunction filed in December, with the government fighting the release of additional evidence remaining under seal. The injunction is based on compelling evidence of inhumane conditions in Tucson facilities—much of which was disclosed after the Court sanctioned Border Patrol for destroying video recordings from these facilities and failing to turn over other relevant documentation.

“Border Patrol’s treatment of men, women and children in its custody is simply inexcusable and their lack of transparency shows their desire to avoid any public oversight or accountability,” said Mary Kenney, senior staff attorney for the American Immigration Council.

“Every step the Government has taken in response to this lawsuit has been designed to delay this suit and hide the conditions present at these facilities,” said Louise Stoupe of Morrison & Foerster. “The Government should be using the resources they are wasting in court to provide basic human necessities to those in its custody.”

“Migrants detained in the Tucson sector have long suffered horrific conditions,” said Dan Pochoda, senior counsel for the ACLU of Arizona. “The Border Patrol continues to resist public transparency to enable continuation of detention operations that knowingly violate U.S. and international law as well as its own standards.”

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06/23/16 | Supreme Court Issues Disappointing Split Decision in United States v. Texas

Washington D.C. - Today, the Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision in United States v. Texas, the case challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).  This means that the Fifth Circuit’s decision upholding the preliminary injunction against these initiatives will stand. This ruling does not impact the original DACA program launched in 2012. The decision is a huge disappointment for immigrant families and their defenders. It’s bad for American communities, workers and the economy. We will continue to explore all available legal avenues and will urge the government to do the same. Ultimately, the nation needs a permanent solution to our outdated immigration system, and that must come from Congress.  The fight will continue. 

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 For more information, contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524

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06/06/16 | Lawsuit Seeks to Shed Light on Customs and Border Protection's Complaint Process

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council (Immigration Council), represented by Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, today filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the release of additional documents related to the complaints process at United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Through this suit, the Immigration Council is seeking to update information received from CBP in its previously filed FOIA request, where it obtained data concerning 809 complaints of abuse lodged against U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents between January 2009 and January 2012.

The Immigration Council analyzed this earlier data in a May 2014 report entitled No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse, revealing that the recorded outcome in 97 percent of the cases CBP claimed to have resolved was “no action.” The data further showed that “physical abuse” by USBP agents was the most prevalent reason given for filing a complaint (cited in 40 percent of the complaints), with “excessive use of force” referenced in 38 percent of the cases.

To determine whether there had been any improvement since January 2012, the Immigration Council filed a follow-up FOIA request to CBP on October 2, 2015, asking for documentation concerning complaints made against CBP agents and officers since January 1, 2012, as well as the process CBP has used to investigate and resolve these complaints.

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05/23/16 | Lawsuit Seeks Transparency in H-1B Lottery Process

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have teamed up on a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking information about the government’s administration of the H-1B lottery. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. is co-counsel with attorneys from the Council.

Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit petitions to USCIS on the first business day of April for the limited pool of H-1B nonimmigrant visa numbers that are available for the coming fiscal year. With an annual limit of 65,000 visas for new hires—and 20,000 additional visas for professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree from a U.S. university—employer demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the statutory cap for more than ten years. 

If USCIS determines at any time during the first five business days of the filing period that it has received more than enough petitions to meet the numerical limits, the agency uses a computer-generated random selection process (or “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to satisfy the limits, taking into account a percentage of the petitions selected which will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise rejected. Petitions not selected are returned to the petitioning employers. U.S. employers, foreign nationals seeking H-1Bs, and immigration lawyers are keenly interested in how USCIS administers the lottery process.

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05/17/16 | Winners of the 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that the first place winner of the American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest is Eliana Jaffee from the Pardes Jewish School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eliana’s poem was chosen from among thousands of entries nationwide. Her poem “Why We’re Here” describes America as a place of freedom, hope, and refuge for new arrivals. Eliana writes:

 

That morning when the sun had risen,

my shores, my seas,

my hopes freed from prison,

the poor,

the rich, and

all the forgiven came to me.

 

Go,

ask that girl to compare,

a life of despair to a breath of free air,

ask her why are you here,

not somewhere over there?

 

To read the entire piece and the other winning pieces, click here.

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04/18/16 | Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in U.S. v. Texas

Washington D.C. - Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Texas. The highest court will now decide whether the President’s deferred action initiatives announced in November 2014, known as expanded DACA and DAPA, move forward.

“The lawyers arguing for the deferred action initiatives made a convincing case that the law and the Constitution are on our side. As expected, the Justices asked probing questions to both sides, demonstrating they understand the high stakes involved this case,” said Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

According to the Council’s Legal Director Melissa Crow, “Much of the argument focused on whether Texas really has standing – a sufficient stake in the outcome of the case to file a lawsuit. The arguments highlighted the fact that this is a political dispute about enforcement policies, not the type of legal dispute that should be before the Supreme Court. Texas’ arguments on standing are unconvincing. As Justice Breyer noted, a finding by the Court that Texas has standing could flood the courts with lawsuits based on all kinds of political disagreements between States and the federal government.”

President Obama’s deferred action initiatives advance common-sense enforcement priorities. To qualify for deferred action, individuals must have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, register with the government and pass a criminal background check. Instead of tearing apart families through broad enforcement actions, the President is letting law enforcement officials focus their attention on those who pose the greatest threats to public safety.

The American Immigration Council and 325 other immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor and service-provider organizations filed an amicus brief in the case outlining how families and communities would benefit from the initiatives.

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04/06/16 | Beth Werlin Named Executive Director of the American Immigration Council

Washington D.C. - Today, the Board of the American Immigration Council (Council) is announcing that Beth Werlin, Esq., will take the reigns as the new leader of the organization. Beth follows Ben Johnson, who left in January to become the Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Beth has worked for the American Immigration Council since 2001 in multiple roles. First she served as a fellow, then staff attorney, followed by deputy director of the legal department and, most recently, as director of the policy team. She has been involved in nearly every major legal issue the Council has tackled over the past decade, including working to protect the rights of noncitizens and ensuring that the immigration agencies are held accountable for violations of the law. She has represented plaintiffs and amicus curiae in immigration litigation in the federal courts and before the Board of Immigration Appeals and is the author of numerous practice advisories.

Beth first joined the legal team in 2001 as an Equal Justice Works fellow (formerly NAPIL) and before that was a judicial law clerk at the immigration court in Boston, Massachusetts. She earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School and her B.A. from Tufts University. 

“Beth’s deep commitment to the Council’s mission and its staff is only one of her many fine qualities,” said Paul Zulkie, President of the Board of Directors of the American Immigration Council. “Beth is also well-known and respected in the immigration law community. I cannot think of a better, more qualified candidate to lead the Council into the future.”

Beth is also an avid runner and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Michael Wiesenfelder and her two children, Sarah Rose and Aaron.

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For more information, contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524

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03/16/16 | Angy Paola Rivera Named Council’s 2016 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award Recipient

Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that Angy Paola Rivera is the winner of the 2016 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award. Angy is a powerful young advocate who has brought to light the difficulties of carrying two painful, personal secrets through life: being undocumented and surviving sexual abuse. 

Angy has been an activist in the undocumented youth movement in New York City since 2009. She also writes a column called “Ask Angy” hosted by the New York State Youth Leadership Council. She provides advice to the undocumented community on a range of topics. In addition, she uses her column and AskAngy YouTube channel to speak out about sexual abuse. 

Angy came out about her undocumented status publicly in 2010. Two years later, in an article she wrote for The Progressive, she recollected the night she told her mother she was going public about her status:

“I still have her tears from the night I told her I would be coming out—tears laced with fear, etched on my heart. My mom blankly stared at me, and then she accused me of wanting to put myself and our family at risk. I was going against all the warnings she had given me. The look in her eyes convinced me that this was something I needed to do, not just for myself but also for her.

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03/08/16 | 326 Immigrant Rights Groups Urge Supreme Court to Let Immigration Relief Programs Go Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, urging the court to lift the injunction that blocked the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014.

The Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit against the president’s executive actions was brought by 26 states. Late last year the federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” the brief filed by the civil rights groups argues. “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying.”

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