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08/22/14 | Groups Sue U.S. Government over Life-Threatening Deportation Process Against Mothers and Children

Washington D.C. — The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety.

The groups filed the case on behalf of mothers and children locked up at an isolated detention center in Artesia, New Mexico — hours from the nearest major metropolitan area. The complaint charges the Obama administration with enacting a new strong-arm policy to ensure rapid deportations by holding these mothers and their children to a nearly insurmountable and erroneous standard to prove their asylum claims, and by placing countless hurdles in front of them.

"These mothers and their children have sought refuge in the United States after fleeing for their lives from threats of death and violence in their home countries," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "U.S. law guarantees them a fair opportunity to seek asylum. Yet, the government's policy violates that basic law and core American values — we do not send people who are seeking asylum back into harm's way. We should not sacrifice fairness for speed in life-or-death situations."

According to the complaint, the Obama administration is violating long-established constitutional and statutory law by enacting policies that have:

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08/22/14 | Groups Sue U.S. Government over Life-Threatening Deportation Process Against Mothers and Children

Washington D.C. — The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety.

The groups filed the case on behalf of mothers and children locked up at an isolated detention center in Artesia, New Mexico — hours from the nearest major metropolitan area. The complaint charges the Obama administration with enacting a new strong-arm policy to ensure rapid deportations by holding these mothers and their children to a nearly insurmountable and erroneous standard to prove their asylum claims, and by placing countless hurdles in front of them.

"These mothers and their children have sought refuge in the United States after fleeing for their lives from threats of death and violence in their home countries," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "U.S. law guarantees them a fair opportunity to seek asylum. Yet, the government's policy violates that basic law and core American values — we do not send people who are seeking asylum back into harm's way. We should not sacrifice fairness for speed in life-or-death situations."

According to the complaint, the Obama administration is violating long-established constitutional and statutory law by enacting policies that have:

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08/01/14 | Groups Ask Court to Block Deportation Hearings for Children Without Legal Representation

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP have asked a federal court to immediately block the government from pursuing deportation proceedings against several children unless it ensures those youth have legal representation. The move comes as immigration courts are speeding up deportation hearings against children in an expedited process sometimes referred to as a "rocket docket."

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08/01/14 | Groups Ask Federal Court to Block Deportation Hearings for Children Without Lawyers

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP have asked a federal court to immediately block the government from pursuing deportation proceedings against several children unless it ensures those youth have legal representation. The move comes as immigration courts are speeding up deportation hearings against children in an expedited process sometimes referred to as a "rocket docket."

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07/30/14 | The U.S. Must Not Lower the Bar on Protecting Children Fleeing Violence

Washington D.C. - The humanitarian challenge posed by the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children and young families at our southern border has once again ignited passions over the role immigration plays in our country. Rather than respond to the arrival of children and young families as refugees fleeing violence and crime, and appropriately fund our ability to prioritize the health and well-being of these individuals, Washington has yet again become mired in anti-immigration rhetoric. As the Senate and House take up supplemental funding bills, this debate is likely to involve numerous attacks on existing protections for children, including rolling back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), accelerating court proceedings to limit the due process available to children, and other measures that will in essence blame the children for needing protection.

During the course of this debate, it bears constant repeating that neither the TVPRA nor providing access to immigration court proceedings is the problem. Some have argued that existing measures designed to screen Central American children to determine whether they might be eligible for asylum, protection as trafficking victims, or some other form of relief is hindering the rapid removal of children, and without speedy removal there is no deterrent effect. Others have argued that the court process itself is too slow or that providing counsel to children is too burdensome. All of these arguments ignore the fundamental fact that the TVPRA is not a barrier to efficiently and effectively deciding the cases of unaccompanied children.

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07/29/14 | Court Approves Settlement in Duran Gonzalez v. DHS; Webinar Tomorrow

Last week, the federal district court issued its final approval of a settlement agreement in a long pending Ninth Circuit-wide class action, Duran Gonzalez v. DHS.  This case involves eligibility for adjustment of status under INA § 245(i) (with an accompanying I-212 waiver application) for individuals who previously were removed and subsequently entered the country without admission.  After nearly eight years of litigation, we are pleased to announce that certain individuals with longstanding ties to the United States will have the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent resident status in the United States.  The class is represented by the American Immigration Council, along with co-counsel from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP.

The settlement agreement provides remedies for certain individuals with retroactivity claims who applied for adjustment of status in the Ninth Circuit on or after August 13, 2004 and on or before November 30, 2007, including some class members with reinstatement orders and/or who are outside the United States. 

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07/09/14 | Groups Sue over Failure to Provide Lawyers for Children in Deportation Proceedings

Washington D.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.

Each year, the government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children. Some of these youth grew up in the United States and have lived in the country for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. The Obama Administration even recently called an influx of children coming across the Southern border a "humanitarian situation." And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court each year do so without an attorney. This case seeks to remedy this unacceptable practice.

"If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts," said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone."

The plaintiffs in this case include:

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07/09/14 | Groups Sue Federal Government over Failure to Provide Legal Representation for Children

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.

Each year, the government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children. Some of these youth grew up in the United States and have lived in the country for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. The Obama Administration even recently called an influx of children coming across the Southern border a "humanitarian situation." And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court each year do so without an attorney. This case seeks to remedy this unacceptable practice.

"If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts," said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone."

The plaintiffs in this case include:

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06/30/14 | New Practice Advisory Regarding Notices to Appear

The American Immigration Council, ABA Commission on Immigration and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights are pleased to announce the release of the practice advisory, Notices to Appear:  Legal Challenges and Strategies.

The Notice to Appear is the charging document used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify a noncitizen about immigration charges and a future immigration court hearing. Filing a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) with the immigration court places an individual in a removal proceeding before a judge and is a significant step in the removal process. Various officials within the three major immigration-related components of the Department of Homeland Security — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — are empowered to issue NTAs, which trigger removal proceedings in immigration court. At various points after an NTA is issued, an attorney may negotiate with DHS to obtain a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion. DHS has discretion either to file the NTA with the court, thus going forward with removal proceedings, to drop or revise certain charges, or to cancel the NTA and thus end the removal proceedings. After the NTA is filed, DHS can exercise discretion through a joint motion asking the judge to administratively close or terminate proceedings. The decisions made by DHS about Notices to Appear are not just ministerial, but can impact the lives of noncitizens and their families in significant ways.

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06/30/14 | America Must Uphold Its Obligations to Protect Children and Families Fleeing Persecution

Washington D.C. - As the numbers of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children crossing our southern border grows, the U.S. government faces a critical test of its historic commitment to protect those fleeing violence and persecution. How we respond will signal to the world whether our commitment to due process and the protection of refugees is real or illusory, and it could have a profound effect on how other countries around the world respond to our call to deal fairly and humanely to refugee crises in places like Syria and the Sudan.

Unfortunately, the initial response by the Administration has been more focused on appeasing its critics with get-tough political messages that prioritize streamlined enforcement over due process and humane treatment. Most recently, the White House has sent a request to Congress asking, among other things, for the authority to process minor children from Central America more expeditiously, and media reports have indicated that their goal is to deport mothers with children as quickly as possible (some reports indicate a goal of 15 days) in order to send a message to the sending countries. This emphasis on speedy removals rather than on determining whether these children and families have a legitimate fear of persecution, and whether or where they may be safely returned to avoid further abuse or exploitation is an abandonment of fundamental principles of due process and fairness - principles that define our judicial system - and undermines the moral authority of our voice in the international community.

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