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03/19/15 | New and Updated Practice Advisories on Prosecutorial Discretion

Washington, D.C. – The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association are pleased to announce a new practice advisory entitled Prosecutorial Discretion Requests Under the Johnson Enforcement Priorities Memorandum. This Practice Advisory 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.

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03/17/15 | Executive Director Benjamin Johnson Testifies Before Senate on High-Skilled Immigration

Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council's Executive Director, Benjamin Johnson, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the integral role immigration plays in America’s economic prosperity. Although the hearing title, "Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers," suggested that some minds had already been made up, he reframed the conversation, calling on Congress to consider policies that will help the United States achieve an immigration system that serves a 21st century, global economy, while protecting the rights and promoting opportunities for all workers. In his testimony, he explained the need for skilled immigrant labor to complement the native-born work force, and highlighted the contributions they make in almost every aspect of the U.S. economy. However, he emphasized that talented immigrants come to our shores through a range of channels, not only on employment based visas, but through family immigration and humanitarian channels, and that reforms to our immigration system must be comprehensive to be effective.  

To view his full testimony submitted for the record see:

To view his oral testimony as given before the committee see:

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03/13/15 | Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Failures of CBP to Respond to FOIA Requests

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, a class action lawsuit was filed by three immigration attorneys and eleven noncitizens challenging U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) nationwide practice of failing to timely respond to requests for case information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA gives an individual the right to access information that the federal government possesses about him or her within 20 business days of making the request. CBP routinely fails to provide requested documents within 20 days, but instead takes months—and in many cases more than a year—to provide documents. Plaintiffs and others like them are forced to delay filing applications for lawful permanent residence while they wait for necessary documents from their own case files. By bringing this case as a class action, the plaintiffs seek to remedy CBP’s system-wide failures in its management of FOIA requests. The case was filed by the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the American Immigration Council.

The complaint in Brown et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection alleges that such routine and excessive delays are unjustified from CBP, the agency with the largest budget within the Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit was filed on Friday, March 13, in federal court in San Francisco.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are asking the Court to issue a nationwide injunction ordering CBP to respond to pending FOIA requests within 60 business days of the Court’s order and to respond to future FOIA requests within the statutory period. 

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02/17/15 | Texas Decision at Odds with Legal Precedent, History and Facts on Immigration Enforcement

Washington D.C. - Late last night, a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the implementation of President Obama’s new deferred action initiatives. These initiatives, announced last November, came in response to more than 10 years of political stalemates and failure by Congress to address America’s broken immigration system and alleviate the pain endured by millions of families around the country. The President’s announced initiatives will provide temporary relief from deportation to approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. 

The new deferred action initiatives, which include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are based on the well-established authority of Presidents and other executive branch officers to allocate and prioritize finite enforcement resources. This practice is used by prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel on daily basis. The judge’s order, issued just two days before the government was set to begin the DACA expansion, bars federal immigration officials from implementing “any and all aspects” of the new deferred action initiatives.

The following is a statement by Melissa Crow, Legal Director at the American Immigration Council:

“Today’s decision is only the first round in what will clearly be a much longer legal battle. Already, the White House has promised that the Justice Department will appeal the judge’s decision, and we urge them to do so in an expedited manner. We expect higher courts to overturn the judge’s decision based on well-established precedent.

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01/27/15 | Second Circuit Narrowly Interprets Aggravated Felony Bar Under INA § 212(h)

Washington, D.C.—Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a precedent decision that will allow a greater number of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to avoid deportation if they can demonstrate to an immigration judge that their removal will result in extreme hardship to close family members in the United States. The Court held that the bar to a waiver under § 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) applies only to those persons with an aggravated felony conviction who became LPRs at the time that they lawfully entered the United States. The American Immigration Council (Immigration Council) filed an amicus brief in the case with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The Immigration Council applauds the ruling and repeats its call for the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to overturn its contrary decision in Matter of Koljenovic, 25 I&N Dec. 219 (2010). With this decision, the Second Circuit joins the seven other Courts of Appeal—an overwhelming majority—to have rejected Matter of Koljenovic. To date, the Eighth Circuit stands alone in upholding the BIA’s decision. The First and the Tenth Circuits have not yet ruled on the issue, although the Council and AILA have filed amicus briefs in two pending cases in the Tenth Circuit. The Second Circuit case is Husic v. Holder. Michael P. DiRaimondo was lead counsel in the case; Thomas E. Moseley was co-counsel. 

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01/27/15 | Leadership Team Changes at the American Immigration Council

Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council announces changes to our organizational leadership team. Beth Werlin will become the Director of Policy, and Guillermo Cantor will become our Deputy Director of Research. These changes will fill the gap created by the departure of Mary Giovagnoli, who will join the Department of Homeland Security as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy next month.

Beth Werlin, Esq., will become our new Director of Policy. Beth has been with the Council for almost 14 years as part of our legal team and has a deep understanding of our mission and history. She is a talented lawyer who is widely-respected for her knowledge and dedication. She has been involved in nearly every major legal issue the Council has tackled over the last decade and has worked to protect the rights of noncitizens and ensure that the immigration agencies are held accountable for violations of the law. Her insight and experience have played a critical role in increasing the collaboration and integration of our work across all programs. In her new role, she will put her knowledge and experience to work in deepening and strengthening our relationships and ensuring that the work of our policy and legal teams is even more complementary.

Guillermo Cantor, Ph.D., will become our new Deputy Director of Research. In just two years with the Council, Guillermo has done a tremendous job in shaping, transforming, and strengthening our work. Using his extensive experience as a social science researcher committed to impacting policy, he has enhanced our research, expanded our partnerships with the academic community, explored new research and funding strategies, and has stepped forward as a leader within our office and within the broader immigration community. As the new Deputy Director of Research, Guillermo will be responsible for leading our research efforts and managing our research team.

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12/29/14 | Immigration, Civil Rights and Labor Groups Join Legal Effort to Defend Immigration Action

Washington D.C. - Today, immigration, civil rights and labor groups joined the legal effort to defend President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration by filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the case, State of Texas vs. United States. In the days after the President’s November 20th announcement, two lawsuits were filed seeking to block implementation of the new deferred action initiatives. Both lawsuits seek a “preliminary injunction”—a temporary block of the programs during the life of a lawsuit. The amicus brief, which was written in support of the federal government, provides powerful economic, fiscal, and societal reasons to allow these programs to take effect later this year.

The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Define American, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream filed a brief opposing the states’ request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s new deferred action initiatives. 

In their brief, the groups provide powerful testimonials about potential beneficiaries of the new deferred action initiatives, many of whom are already entrepreneurs and community leaders. These individuals include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, community leaders, and primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen children. The groups also explain how the deferred action initiatives will positively impact the U.S. economy, raising wages, increasing tax revenue, and creating new jobs.

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12/22/14 | U.S. District Court in D.C. Hears First Arguments Against Executive Action on Immigration

Washington D.C. - Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in the case brought against executive action by notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is seeking to enjoin the DACA and DAPA programs based on the increased burden on his law enforcement office that would allegedly result from these programs. Specifically, Arpaio’s theory is that the President’s executive actions will cause a “flood” of “millions more illegal aliens,” and in turn a “crime wave”—because many “illegal aliens… are repeat offenders.”

Melissa Crow, the Legal Director at the American Immigration Council was in the courtroom today and issued the following statement:

“It was clear that attorney representing Arpaio, Larry Klayman, a well-known conservative lawyer who founded Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch, was struggling to demonstrate the type of “concrete and particularized” injury that is required to bring a challenge of this nature, or that the alleged harms would be a direct result of DACA or DAPA.  While disagreeing adamantly with the government’s argument that DACA and DAPA would promote public safety by enabling DHS to focus on high priority threats, he failed to provide any compelling explanation for his position.

“Judge Beryl Howell asked probing questions to determine whether Sheriff Arpaio had established that he had “standing” under the law. She listened attentively to Mr. Klayman’s responses, but seemed skeptical that he had met his burden of proof. Before concluding the hearing, Judge Howell indicated that she would issue her rulings very shortly on both Sheriff Arpaio’s motion for a preliminary injunction and the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

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12/05/14 | Immigration Council Strongly Reaffirms Research on Reagan-Bush Family Fairness Policy

Washington D.C. - This week, the Washington Post issued another editorial in its campaign against President Obama’s decision to authorize temporary deportation relief for several million undocumented parents of U.S citizen children. In particular, the Post argues that there is no historical precedent for President Obama’s action, discounting the parallel that the President and many others have drawn between past executive actions, such as the Family Fairness program instituted by Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr. In fact, the Post called this analogy indefensible, essentially arguing that supporters of the Immigration Accountability Executive Action were attempting to recast history in an exaggerated attempt to justify the President’s overreach. The opposite is true. As the first organization to publicly lay out the case for the strong precedent for executive action in immigration, we believe it is important to set the Post, and the record, straight on the political significance of the Family Fairness program and why actions from almost a quarter of a century ago matter today.

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11/25/14 | A Guide to President Obama's Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Washington D.C. - On November 20 and 21, 2014, President Obama announced his “immigration accountability executive action,” which includes a series of measures that are first steps towards common-sense reforms to an outdated immigration system. The series of executive actions presented by the administration range from new temporary immigration protections for many unauthorized parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to highly technical regulatory proposals to fix outdated visa provisions. 

The series of changes, updates, and temporary measures relies on the expansion of successfully implemented programs, enhanced efforts to coordinate immigration enforcement and benefit policies across agencies, and attempts to use immigration as a tool of economic and social change. At the same time, the policies reflect the limits of executive authority, in many cases offering temporary respites until Congress definitively acts to reform the law. This guide from the American Immigration Council puts the issues in context, explaining what we know about the executive actions thus far, what the President’s legal authority is for these actions, and some of the history and background that preceded the announcement.

To view the guide in its entirety, see:

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