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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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12/01/15 | Coalition Urges Supreme Court to Protect President’s Executive Actions on Immigration

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 224 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief, urging the Supreme Court to review the case, Texas v. U.S., that has blocked some of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The filing comes less than a month after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction put in place by a Texas federal district court that blocked implementation of protections for millions of immigrants across the country.

The filing from the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center, Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among others, comes only ten days after the formal request, known as a petition for writ of certiorari, from the Department of Justice to the Supreme Court to review the case. Amicus briefs in support of a cert petition are usually due 30 days after the petition is filed. The amici coalition acted swiftly given that the Department of Justice has requested a briefing schedule that would allow the Supreme Court ample time to hear the case during the current term and issue a decision by June 2016.

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11/19/15 | At One-Year Anniversary of Immigration Actions, Administration Must Vigorously Defend Authority

Washington D.C. - Friday, marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of his executive actions on immigration, which at their heart, are first steps towards common-sense reforms to an outdated immigration system.

The series of reforms range from temporary protections for an expanded group of unauthorized young people (expanded DACA) and parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAPA), to modernizing and streamlining the visa application process, tonew guidance to better prioritize the immigration agencies’ use of their limited enforcement resources.

While the centerpiece of the executive actions—expanded DACA and DAPA—remains tied up in litigation, the Administration can and should use its uncontested authority to continue refining enforcement priorities and improving the operations and functions of the visa system.  As the deferred action initiatives have become highly-politicized and are yet to achieve their intended goal—keeping families together while ensuring that the government’s enforcement resources are targeted toward real security threats—there is one aspect of these measures that remains unassailable: the President’s authority to take such actions.

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11/12/15 | Council Statement of CBP's Body-Camera Policy Announcement

Washington D.C. – Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, responded to the announcement that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff will expand the agency’s camera review with the following statement:

"Today's decision to not broadly implement body-worn cameras is a significant step backwards for CBP. For an agency that has significant problems with transparency and accountability, the excuses provided to not move forward in a bold and comprehensive way will only deepen that perception. CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, and it seems they are out of step with other agencies that are moving forward to implement body cameras in an effort to protect both officers and those they serve.

“The first phases of CBP’s assessment of cameras were focused on body-worn cameras and had clear start and end dates. Today’s announcement has no timeline for moving forward, and it attempts to shift the focus away from body-worn cameras to looking at “mobile,” “fixed,” and “maritime cameras” along with body-worn cameras. This appears to be nothing more than an attempt by Customs and Border Protection to run down the clock on this administration and pass the buck.”

To view other resources on publications related to CBP policies and activities see:

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11/09/15 | Council Urges Prompt Appeal to the Supreme Court of Flawed Fifth Circuit Decision

Washington D.C. – In a disappointing but unsurprising decision, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today denied the federal government’s appeal of the preliminary injunction that has temporarily stopped President Obama’s latest deferred action initiatives from being implemented. This decision clears the way for the Obama Administration to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The American Immigration Council urges the Administration to act promptly and seek immediate Supreme Court review. 

The deferred action initiatives, announced almost one year ago, in November 2014, include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Together, these initiatives could provide as many as 5 million immigrants with temporary relief from deportation. The decision today means that the initiatives remain suspended. 

Last November, after decades of congressional neglect, President Obama took a crucial, courageous and practical step toward reforming our immigration system. Using the executive’s well-established authority to regulate immigration and determine enforcement priorities, he adopted policies that would allow millions of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children to remain with their parents, while at the same time ensuring that the government’s limited enforcement resources could be targeted toward real security threats. The Obama Administration should aggressively challenge the opinion in this case that states have standing—or legal authority—to file suit when they disagree with federal immigration policies. This sets a dangerous precedent.

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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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