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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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02/17/16 | Administrative Appeals Office Approves National Interest Waiver for Specialty Care Physician

Washington, D.C. – The American Immigration Council applauds the Administrative Appeals Office’s (AAO) decision to withdraw the Texas Service Center Director’s (TSC) restrictive interpretation in Matter of H-V-P-, a case involving a national interest waiver. The TSC decision would have prevented a specialty care physician (hematology-oncology) from providing medical care in a community that has a government-designated shortage of health care professionals.

To obtain an employment-based visa in most categories, a noncitizen usually needs a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, in Matter of H-V-P-, the AAO recognized that the law requires USCIS to waive the job offer requirement for both primary and specialty care physicians who work full-time in an area with a shortage of health care professionals(and meet other requirements not at issue here).The AAO also concluded that TSC’s narrow interpretation of an implementing regulation as requiring a specific specialty care shortage certification was inconsistent with past USCIS practice and would “frustrate the statutory scheme Congress enacted to improve access to medical care in underserved areas.”

In reaching this conclusion, the AAO adopted many of the arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the Council, AILA and the International Medical Group Taskforce. 

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02/08/16 | Eight of Twelve Families Targeted by ICE Have Been Released

Washington D.C. – After being held in detention for more than a month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), eight of the families rounded up by ICE at the beginning of January have finally been released from detention while their cases proceed. The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project had filed appeals and won temporary stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for 12 families – 33 mothers and children who fled extreme domestic violence or were targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations. 

CARA Project Managing Attorney Katie Shepherd noted, “These terrified mothers and children were rousted from their homes on New Year’s weekend and, even after they had obtained stays of deportation, remained detained in Dilley, Texas. Many of them endured the additional trauma of transfer to yet another detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania  – the same facility that is now on the verge of losing its state license. ICE executed one such transfer with full knowledge that a pro bono attorney from out of town was on the way to Dilley to meet with the detained mother. These families, and all asylum-seekers, deserve their liberty while they pursue their claims under U.S. law.”

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01/28/16 | Central American Mothers Targeted in Immigration Raids and Still Detained Pen Letter to Obama

DILLEY, Texas -- Seven women picked up and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early January in widely publicized raids have made a direct and personal plea to President Barack Obama to allow their release while they pursue ongoing appeals of their deportation orders.

The women and their children, representing 33 people in 12 families, were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids over New Year’s weekend. The families obtained temporary stays of their deportation orders with the help of attorneys from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project based at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Some of the 121 people ICE picked up were brought to the Dilley facility for processing The majority have been deported to their home countries. But the 12 families who received stays remain in detention, some at Dilley and others at the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

Despite the fact that all of these women and children appeared at their hearings and consistently abided by the conditions of their release, DHS refuses to release them from custody while the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) considers their legal claims.

Now in their fourth week in detention, the women expressed their frustrations in a handwritten letter to President Obama, pleading with him to release them from detention and allow their children to return to their schools while their legal appeals proceed.

"Why did you choose us to…frighten other Central American families, with no regard for the suffering it causes us and our children?” they ask.

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01/13/16 | Court Rejects Government’s Efforts to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Detention Conditions

Washington D.C.—On Monday, a federal district court permitted a class action lawsuit challenging harmful and unconstitutional conditions of confinement by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to move forward.

In Jane Doe, et al. v. Johnson, et al., the court certified a class of plaintiffs to include: “All individuals who are now or in the future will be detained for one or more nights at a CBP facility within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.” This class of thousands of present and future detainees includes traumatized asylum seekers and mothers with infants and small children who are held by CBP. The Tucson Sector covers most of Arizona, from the New Mexico state line to the Yuma County line.

The court denied the government’s attempts to dismiss the class representatives and their constitutional claims. It found that the two women representing the class were held by Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector when the lawsuit was filed in June 2015 and clearly had standing to bring this lawsuit. The court also determined that plaintiffs had set out sufficient facts in their Complaint to sustain their constitutional challenge to all of the harmful detention conditions. As a result, the case will proceed and CBP will have to publicly attempt to demonstrate that these conditions were proper and necessary.  

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01/13/16 | CARA: 33 Mothers and Children Protected from Immediate Deportation

Washington D.C. – In the last week, 121 mothers and children were brought to the South Texas Residential Family Center in Dilley, Texas, after being rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project reviewed the cases of 13 families, filed appeals for 12, and won stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for all 12 families – 33 mothers and children. While this is a major victory for these families, the troubling fact remains that many, who very likely also had claims for relief, were swiftly deported without the chance to consult with CARA staff or volunteers. The 12 families for whom CARA obtained stays were fleeing extreme domestic violence or targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations.

We now call on the Obama Administration to release the families confined at Dilley pending their appeals. The continued detention of these children and mothers violates well-established law regarding the treatment of immigrant children, as reflected in the Flores Settlement Agreement. CARA Managing Attorney, Katie Shepherd explains, “Under Flores, the government may not hold children in unlicensed, secure detention centers like Dilley. The children should be released immediately, with their mothers, as the law requires. The plight of these families, victims of ICE’s recent raids, highlights more pervasive problems with our immigration system. The Obama Administration’s troubling approach toward refugee families needs to be rethought, beginning with the immediate closure of its current family detention centers.”

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01/06/16 | CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project Succeeds in Winning Stays of Deportation of 12

Washington D.C. – Last night, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project succeeded in halting the deportation of four Central American families apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the weekend, who had been scheduled for deportation this morning. Based on interviews with the families, who are currently detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the CARA Project appealed their asylum cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals and requested emergency stays of deportation.  

“Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court,” said Katie Shepherd, Managing Attorney for the CARA Project. She continued, “It’s beyond shameful that these families, who risked everything to seek protection in the United States, were being forcibly returned to the violence and turmoil they fled in Central America.”

Thus far, the CARA project volunteers and staff have met with eight families held in Dilley. The circumstances of each family vary, but the following trends have become clear:

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01/06/16 | After Successfully Delaying the Deportations, Groups Demand Meeting with DHS Sec. Johnson

Washington, D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson criticizing DHS for conducting raids to arrest and remove asylum-seeking Central American families, and calling for a meeting to discuss how to guarantee due process and the necessary humanitarian protections for those families who fled extreme violence.

The letter states:

“We see no justification for DHS’s use of these aggressive enforcement tactics on such a vulnerable population that risks sending families back to life-threatening conditions in their home countries. These actions are a waste of enforcement resources, raise serious concerns about violations of due process, and foment fear within immigrant communities. Recognizing that some families may be deported as early as today, we ask that you meet with us as soon as possible, preferably this week, to discuss how to guarantee due process and the necessary humanitarian protections for these families. We also ask that DHS provide more information regarding the raids and the apprehended families—the lack of transparency has made it extremely difficult to provide assistance to those affected."

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12/24/15 | Statement on Administration’s Plans to Round up Central American Families for Deportation

Washington D.C. - Late last night, The Washington Post broke the news that the Obama Administration is considering plans to begin fugitive-operation round-ups of Central American families who remain in the U.S. after an immigration judge has ordered them removed. For the past few years, refugee families and children have fled escalating violence and persecution in Central America and sought protection in the United States. Yet, our government has responded with harsh enforcement measures that often fail to provide each family a fair opportunity to seek asylum. Far too often, refugee families are either detained in private prisons or apprehended and then released from immigration custody without adequate information about how to pursue their asylum cases and when and where to go for their court hearings. Most have no legal representation—the single most important factor in ensuring their appearance in court and succeeding in their cases. 

Following is a statement from Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:

“News that the Obama Administration is considering a plan to round up Central American families and deport them proves, once again, that this Administration fails to understand these individuals are refugees seeking asylum and should be given humanitarian protection rather than punishment. We must stop treating these families as though they are criminals. It is not a crime to arrive at our borders and request protection, and the overwhelming evidence indicates that these families have legitimate claims under U.S. law. 

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