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10/30/15 | Executive Director Benjamin Johnson to Take Helm at the American Immigration Lawyers Association
Washington D.C. - It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council (Council) announce the departure of Executive Director Benjamin (Ben) Johnson. Ben will become the Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in 2016.

Ben has been part of the Council for thirteen years, serving as the Executive Director for the past eight. Ben was integral to the launch and growth of the Council’s Immigration Policy Center and served as its first director from 2003-2007. As Executive Director, Ben has grown the capacity, impact and reputation of the Council’s four core programs: law, policy, education, and exchange.

“Ben’s inclusive approach has brought more people to the immigration reform table and through his work at the Council, has expanded the public’s understanding of the enduring benefits of immigration," said Lori Chesser, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are confident the Council will continue to build on this legacy.” 

"Ben has been a trusted friend and colleague for over 10 years,” said Paul Zulkie, President of the Board of Directors. “He leaves behind incredibly strong programs and a supremely talented and dedicated staff. We will miss him very much but look forward to expanding the Council’s partnership with AILA." 
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10/23/15 | Government Continues Incarcerating Mothers and Children Despite Judge’s Ruling

Washington, D.C.–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, are calling on the government to fully comply with U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling concerning the inhumane incarceration of mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution.

For more than a year, the federal government has disregarded the Flores Settlement Agreement which, for nearly two decades, set the binding minimum standards for the detention and treatment of immigrant children. On July 24 and August 21, 2015, the court ordered the government to implement remedies by October 23, 2015. Although the government has appealed that decision, it did not request a stay of the order. Thus, the court’s ruling stands as the appeal moves forward, and as of today, children should be released “without unnecessary delay.”

As of October 23, 2015, the CARA Project’s data indicates that approximately 195 families that we represent have been confined in family detention facilities in Texas for more than twenty days. The number of client families detained for longer than five days is even higher. We estimate that 507 families, represented by the CARA Project, have been detained for more than five days. These numbers only include family units represented by the CARA Project, so the numbers of children and mothers held in violation of the Flores ruling is likely significantly higher.

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10/20/15 | Time for Congress to Go Back to Bi-Partisan Comprehensive Solutions to Immigration

Washington D.C. - Today, the Senate rejected the motion to proceed on Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146). This bill is an enforcement-only approach to immigration and would punish cities and states that adopt community policing policies that work to make communities safer and increase communication between police and their residents. The procedural vote required 60 Yea votes to begin debate on the bill; the motion failed 54-45. 

The following is a statement by Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:

"The Senate vote is a rejection of another flawed piece of legislation that was overwhelming opposed by faith, law enforcement and immigrant advocates around the country. It stands in stark contrast to the last piece of immigration legislation passed in June 2013, which followed a model of bipartisanship and that understood and addressed the need for comprehensive solutions to our outdated immigration system. 

Clearly the components for success require that efforts be bipartisan and comprehensive. It’s time for Congress to end its politically-motivated and failed attempts at enforcement-only legislation and get back to work on passing meaningful reform that can, in fact, fix our outdated immigration system."

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For press inquiries, contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-752

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10/05/15 | Just-Released Customs and Border Protection Standards Still Lack Accountability

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its long-awaited, new National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS), which govern the transfer of individuals in CBP custody, procedures for handling such individuals’ belongings, conditions in CBP detention facilities, and personal searches. 

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09/30/15 | Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children Must Stop

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, submitted the latest in a series of formal complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this one documenting intimidation, misinformation and violations of the right to counsel at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The complaint describes how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using coercive tactics to force detained mothers to accept electronic ankle monitors as a condition of release and forfeit their right to pursue bond hearings before immigration judges. The complaint documents case after case of ICE employing unlawful tactics to intimidate detained mothers and thereby prevent them from asserting their rights. These tactics include blocking attorneys from accessing their clients during compulsory ICE questioning, threatening to withhold medical care for children if mothers choose to seek bond hearings instead of accepting ankle monitors, and threatening mothers with deportation if they raise concerns or inquire about the status of their cases.

The affidavits recount instances where ICE officers:

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09/29/15 | USCIS “Do-Over” of Visa Bulletin Undercuts Administration’s Goal of Visa Modernization

Washington D.C. - As the result of a grave error made by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just days ago, thousands of noncitizens who had expected to apply to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence in October will continue to face lengthy waits before they can submit their applications. The new filing dates, which translate to longer wait-times, were made public late last Friday through an “updated” October Visa Bulletin

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09/18/15 | Obama Administration Again Hands Families Over to Private Prison Company

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 the news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had awarded a private prison company the grant to establish a new case management alternative to detention initiative for families.

Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of RAICES stated, “Based on how our staff and volunteers have seen GEO treat mothers and children incarcerated at their facility in Karnes City, Texas, this award seems to exemplify the uncaring and inhumane attitude the Obama Administration holds toward the mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The administration keeps finding ways to hand over control of a vulnerable population to a private prison company. We very much fear the end result will be harm to these families and their claims to protection under our laws.”

Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director of CLINIC added, “We applaud the idea of a family case management program which would allow mothers to pursue their claims without being detained and, often, separated from their families and unable to access adequate medical care and legal services. However, the selection of GEO, a corrections and detention corporation, to care for vulnerable migrant women and their young children is ill-conceived. GEO does not have the legal or social case management expertise, nor trust of the immigrant community to successfully implement this program. How are we to believe that an organization that doesn't treat traumatized women and children with empathy and compassion inside the facility will do so outside of it?”

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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.”

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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.

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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.” 

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