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05/14/15 | Government Shows No Signs of Backing Down on Family Detention

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. 

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05/11/15 | Winners of the 18th 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 18th Annual 'Celebrate America' Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest is Anya Frazer from the Fred A. Olds Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Anya’s poem was chosen from among thousands of entries nationwide. Her poem describes a mixture of emotions: hope, tension, and sadness that can accompany an immigrant’s journey to the U.S.  Anya writes in her poem:

On each ship,

A flicker of hope,

A flash blinding my endless waters,

But then it’s gone.

Like a burnt out fire,

Trying to reignite.

But as they catch sight of the golden land,

That fire begins to glow.

It spreads out wide like a seed to soil,

Its timid shoots poking out of the ground.

Promise.

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04/07/15 | Unprecedented Coalition Ask Court to Reverse Texas Ruling Blocking Immigration Initiatives

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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03/31/15 | Immigrants’ Rights Groups to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services to Detained Families in Texas

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.  

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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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