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Press Releases

09/10/15 | Five Incarcerated Refugee Families Finally Released After Being Held for Months on End

Washington, DC – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, responded to Friday’s release of five families who had been subjected to many months of incarceration despite repeated efforts to advocate for their release pending the adjudication of their claims for protection in the United States. 

Michelle Mendez, CLINIC's CARA Project Coordinator stated, “More than 13 months ago, the first of these five families was detained in a temporary facility in Artesia, New Mexico. In those ensuing months, the Artesia facility closed, but this refuge-seeking mother and child were not released. Instead, they were shuttled to another remote family detention facility in Dilley, Texas. It was here that they bravely continued to seek protection under our laws and attempted to access what justice they could from within a securitized detention facility. Now, finally, they have been released and can pursue their legal claims in a meaningful way with the assistance of their families and the support of their community and church.”

“This was not a situation where people just slipped through the cracks, and the government fixed the problem after discovering its mistake,” noted Melissa Crow, Legal Director for the American Immigration Council. She continued, “CARA Project volunteers represented most of these mothers and children every step of the way, filing additional petitions and even damages claims in some cases. Our advocacy staff repeatedly raised concerns surrounding the traumatic impact of detention on the mental and physical health of children and their mothers. Our calls went unheeded until now.”

08/24/15 | Court Orders Prompt Release of Immigrant Children from Family Detention

Washington, D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcome a decision released Friday evening by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Flores v. Lynch, No. 85-04544 (C.D.Ca.), which ruled that children should generally be released from detention within five days—preferably to a parent, including a parent with whom they were apprehended. The government must implement the Court’s ruling by October 23, 2015.

“There is no denying that the government has breached the Flores settlement agreement. The status quo is unacceptable, and the government must take immediate and dramatic steps to end family detention,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. “Our CARA Project* staff and volunteers submitted numerous declarations to the Court showing how the government is still detaining accompanied minors in secure, unlicensed facilities. It can no longer hide from the American people the ugly truth of how it treats children fleeing persecution,” said Nieblas. “Just as striking is how the Court condemned the ‘deplorable’ conditions in temporary border jails.  They do not meet even minimal standards for safe and sanitary conditions,” said Nieblas.

08/07/15 | DOJ's Shameful Attempt to Pretty up Family Detention Comes up Woefully Short

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) are outraged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) response to U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling on the mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the U.S. 

Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President, stated, “The response from DOJ to Judge Gee’s recent ruling is no more than bad play-acting at compliance. Truly, they should be embarrassed to submit such a document to a court of law. Ever since Judge Gee first threatened her order, the Administration has been scrambling to quickly release some of the mothers and children, and they’ve bungled the process badly, leaving in detention many women and children who have been locked up way too long. The government’s protest that ‘we’ve fixed things, we promise’ rings hollow when the sharp light of reality shines on the detention centers. Our volunteer attorneys on the ground with the CARA* project see the truth every day, and know that it is not reflected in this shameful document. They know, and have submitted case after case to ICE, of the children and mothers confined for extended periods, waiting for someone to act on their cases. This injustice must end.” 

07/30/15 | Deplorable Medical Treatment at Family Detention Centers

Washington, DC — Today, ten mothers came forward to lodge formal complaints about the substandard medical care they and their children received while detained by the Department of Homeland of Security (DHS). The complaints describe the severe suffering families have endured due to poor access to and quality of care, and questionable medical ethics. These ten complaints are representative of the regular failures of DHS to provide adequate medical care for mothers and children in family detention facilities, and they add to the already ample evidence demonstrating why family detention must end.

The deplorable medical treatment described in the complaints include:

07/27/15 | Incarcerated Children and Mothers Denied Due Process and Critical Information Before Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to account for the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas.

The four organizations jointly provide legal services to mothers and children detained in Dilley and Karnes, Texas, through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, and over the past weeks CARA staff and volunteers have witnessed ICE officials coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States. The need to resolve these issues is all the more crucial given last week’s court order in the Flores case, which should mean that the remaining families will be released. The federal judge found that the government’s family detention practices violate the Flores settlement, which ensures that children are treated properly.

The concerns detailed in the letter include:

07/25/15 | Judge Stands Up for Refugee Families, Castigates Government for Policies That Traumatize Children

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcomed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee that should signal the end of the mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the U.S. 

“After months of negotiations between the plaintiffs and the government stalled, Judge Gee again evaluated whether the government was meeting the terms of the original Flores settlement and ensuring the proper care of children in its custody. The final word on that is no, it most certainly is not. The government is not living up to its obligations,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. He continued, “While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) scrambled over the past few weeks to implement plans to potentially help them fend off this decision, the judge felt strongly that those plans were not sufficient. The judge noted that, even assuming the new policy complies with the Flores agreement, there is no guarantee that DHS and ICE won’t abruptly change the policy again. From everything being reported by attorneys volunteering for the CARA* project at the Dilley detention center, the new policies are in fact depriving mothers of due process and causing confusion and outright fear.”

07/21/15 | Practical, Comprehensive Immigration Solutions Promote Public Safety

Washington D.C. - Since the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco this month, there has been a flood of criticism leveled against state and city policies that limit local involvement in immigration enforcement and questions raised about whether the federal government is doing enough to enforce the immigration laws. Congress has scheduled two hearings this week to explore these issues, and we share legislators’ desire to find solutions. At the same time, we caution that anecdotes are no substitute for hard data and that our laws and policies must be grounded in analysis of the facts, thoughtful discussion, and practical solutions.

For too long, U.S. immigration laws and policies have been shaped by fear and stereotype rather than by empirical evidence. Empirical data shows that immigration is associated with lower crime rates and immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be serious criminals. Yet, we have spent billions of dollars deporting millions of people who have committed only immigration violations, and we have focused on quantity, not quality of deportations, while separating families. 

07/15/15 | The American Immigration Council Unveils a New Logo and More

Washington, D.C. – The American Immigration Council (Council) announces the official debut of its redesigned logo. A reinterpretation of the organization’s familiar brand, it is the first offering in a series of significant updates the Council’s audiences will see in the year to come.

The Council has spent the first half of this year in research and discovery to effect a strategic unification of its four main programs—Immigration Policy Center, Legal Action Center, International Exchange Center, and Community Education Center. The Council will continue to provide the same broad-based scholarship, policy expertise, legal analysis, international exchange, and education work to its core audiences, including attorneys, academics, advocates, policymakers, and educators, but continue doing so under a single banner identity—the American Immigration Council.

The Logo

The Council worked with D.C.-based designer Anastasia Miller to conceptualize and render the new design. The new logo plays on the "I" and "C" in the old motif and introduces a “road” element to emphasize the Council’s mission and vision. The road connotes a journey with purpose, with a nod to our motto "honoring our immigrant past and shaping our future," which distills the essence of the Council's work.

Coming Soon: A Content-Rich, Easy-to-Use, Responsive Web Presence

07/13/15 | Release of Refugee Families is Long-Overdue Step

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council welcome plans announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the release of some mothers and children detained after seeking refuge at our borders with the following statement:

“Today ICE is following through on DHS Secretary Johnson’s previous commitment by taking a long-overdue step forward,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. He continued, “Based on what volunteer attorneys, including myself, have seen and heard from clients in the detention centers and from the government’s own data, we know that the majority of families who have been incarcerated by DHS have fled to the United States to seek safety from persecution, torture, and violence and have strong asylum claims under our laws. When looking at alternatives to detention, ICE should turn first to community-based support models, which are extremely effective and far more appropriate for asylum seekers than restrictive and expensive electronic monitoring.”

“Giving mothers and children back their freedom and their dignity makes far more sense than incarceration at taxpayer expense, and will ensure these families’ safety from the traumatic psychological impact of detention,” said Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council. She added, “As we learn more about this policy and how it will be implemented, we will watch carefully to see if DHS will also take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the Flores settlement, which generally prohibits the detention of children. We would welcome the opportunity to work with DHS to ensure these families are made aware of their rights and responsibilities as they seek protection in our country. Of course, DHS’s ultimate goal should be to end the practice of mass family detention begun a year ago.”

07/04/15 | Vaccine Overdose to Detained Children Another Sign that Family Detention Must End

Washington D.C. - This weekend, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) learned that, recently, medical personnel at the detention center in Dilley, Texas that holds nearly 2,000 children and their mothers mistakenly gave adult-strength Hepatitis A vaccinations to approximately 250 children.  

“Volunteer attorneys at Dilley, as well as those at similar detention centers in Karnes, TX, Berks, PA and the previous facility in Artesia, NM, have long noted disturbing patterns of what appears to be inadequate health care for the women and children. This latest permutation is beyond appalling—it is putting children at risk not just for short-term reactions but for unknown long-term risks,” said Crystal Williams, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“Imprisoning children and their mothers was wrong when it was started a year ago, and is wrong today. Just because the detention camps have no bars on the windows does not make them any less like a prison. Children have been forced to sleep with the lights on, are subject to intrusive checks regularly throughout the night, and have been dragged from their beds at 4:00 am to be given shots while their mothers must stand helplessly by without being told what is going on or being allowed a say in the matter,” Ms. Williams added.