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01/19/12 | USCIS Takes Steps to Improve Noncitizens’ Access to Legal Counsel

Washington D.C. – During its nine-year history, issues have arisen with respect to restrictions on counsel by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agencies. Tuesday, in response to calls from the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued immediate, comprehensive changes to their policies to ensure an appropriate role for attorneys in the immigration process.

Many noncitizens are forced to navigate the immigration process without representation because they cannot afford an attorney.  But even persons who can afford one, or are represented by a pro bono attorney, have at times faced severe restrictions on their representation.  This is particularly troublesome given the significant power USCIS officers wield.  For example, they decide whether a noncitizen is entitled to stay in the U.S. or not.  The assistance of an attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law can help safeguard the rights of these noncitizens and ensure just outcomes.   

By revising its guidance, USCIS has responded to some of the most serious access concerns.  For example, the new guidance provides that an attorney generally may sit next to his or her client during an interview, may be permitted to submit relevant documents to the USCIS officer, and may raise objections to inappropriate lines of questioning. 

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01/12/12 | What Does Your State’s Immigrant, Latino and Asian Population Look Like?

Washington D.C. - Today, the Immigration Policy Center is pleased to re-release our 50 state fact sheets updated with the most current government and academic data available. In addition to the fact sheets, we have added 50 state infographics which highlight the top data points of each state in a graphic format. 

The fact sheets and infographics are a synthesis of current government and academic data which highlight the growing economic and political power of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in each of the 50 states. These materials are free for download, printing and distribution, and can be shared via social media or on your website.

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01/06/12 | Proposed Rule Change Will Unify Families Subject to 3 and 10 Year Bars

Washington D.C. - Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposal to streamline the application process for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens currently eligible for legal permanent resident status, minimizing the amount of time that applicants would have to be separated from their families.  Under current procedures, thousands of persons who qualify for legal status must leave the U.S. to obtain their permanent resident status, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering for 3 or 10 years if they have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days.  Many are eligible for a family unity waiver, but under current rules (not law), the waiver can only be applied for from overseas.  Because that process can often take many months and even years, it is believed that many otherwise eligible applicants do not apply for legal permanent resident status, remaining unauthorized in the U.S. rather than risk lengthy separation from their families. 

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12/22/11 | Federal Judge Enjoins Key Provisions of South Carolina’s Immigration Law

Washington, D.C.—The American Immigration Council welcomes today’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel, which temporarily enjoined three provisions of South Carolina Act 69 and found a fourth provision likely to be overturned in future proceedings. The ruling makes South Carolina the sixth state—after Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Utah, and Alabama—to see major parts of a punitive immigration law blocked in federal court.

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12/20/11 | American Immigration Council and Partners Sue U.S. Immigration Agencies Over Asylum “Clock”

Washington, D.C.—Last week, the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in federal court in Seattle. The lawsuit alleges widespread problems with the asylum “clock”—the system that the government uses to determine when immigrants with pending asylum applications become eligible to obtain work authorization in the United States. The class certification motion describes the nationwide impact of these policies.

The complaint, co-filed with the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, was submitted on behalf of untold numbers of asylum applicants wrongfully denied work authorization due to unlawful agency policies and practices. The named plaintiffs include asylum seekers who have pursued their cases for years without work authorization—including a man from China who initially filed his asylum application in 2003.

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12/15/11 | LAC Urges Fifth Circuit to Permit Removal Cases to Continue from Outside the United States

Washington, D.C.—The Legal Action Center, along with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), filed an amicus brief yesterday urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the departure bar, a regulation that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) interprets as barring it from reviewing cases after a person has left the United States. In this case, Lari v. Holder, the petitioner filed a timely motion to reconsider his removal order. Just three weeks later – before the BIA adjudicated the motion – the Department of Homeland Security deported him. The BIA then dismissed the motion, finding that it lacked authority to consider the petitioner’s claims now that he was outside the United States. The Legal Action Center and NIPNLG argue that the BIA’s rule unlawfully deprives noncitizens of their right to an adjudication of their removal case.

The Legal Action Center and NIPNLG have coordinated litigation on issues related to post departure review nationwide. Read more about the LAC and NIPNLG’s efforts on the LAC’s website. To date, six circuit courts have found the departure regulation unlawful.

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For inquiries contact Brian Yourish at byourish@immcouncil.org.

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12/15/11 | DOJ Report Slams Sherriff Joe Arpaio and DHS Restricts 287(g) and Secure Communities Programs

Washington D.C. - After a three-year investigation into the abusive practices of Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO), the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that it had found a pattern and practice of civil rights abuses, including extreme cases of racial profiling. The enormity of the violations, the majority of which were experienced by immigrants and Latinos, has led the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suspend its cooperation agreement (under section 287(g)) with the sheriff’s office and restrict the MCSO’s access to immigration databases through the Secure Communities program. 

The dual announcements from DOJ and DHS reinforce what many in Arizona and the broader immigration community have long argued: the practice of allowing local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law increases the likelihood of racial profiling and pretextual arrests which leads to disastrous results for entire communities.

The DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez commented on the investigation noting “MCSO’s systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections has created a wall of distrust between the sheriff’s office and large segments of the community, which dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people. The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture, and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”  

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12/12/11 | LAC Issues Updated Practice Advisory on DHS’s Plan to Review Removal Cases for Prosecutorial Discretion

Washington, D.C.— The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of an updated practice advisory: "DHS Review of Low Priority Cases for Prosecutorial Discretion." On August 18, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the establishment of a joint DHS-Department of Justice (DOJ) working group charged with reviewing the approximately 300,000 cases pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to identify candidates for administrative closure. Subsequently, on November 17, 2011, DHS issued three documents detailing how the agency will implement the review process, which includes the launch of two pilot projects. This practice advisory summarizes information that is known to date about the review and discusses some of the ambiguities and contradictions that the recent announcements have created.

For a complete list of all LAC Practice Advisories, please visit our website.

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For questions contact Brian Yourish at byourish@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7516.

 

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12/08/11 | The American Immigration Council's Top 11 for 2011

The American Immigration Council and its four programs had a busy year in 2011. We want to thank you for your support, readership, and feedback. We also want to ask you to consider supporting our work with a year-end gift. Your tax-deductible donation will help us continue our work which includes the following "Top 11 for 2011." 

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11/30/11 | LAC Issues Practice Advisory on Representing Clients with Mental Competency Issues

For Immediate Release

LAC Issues Practice Advisory on
Representing Clients with Mental Competency Issues

November 30, 2011

Washington, DC — The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC), in collaboration with The University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic, is pleased to announce the release of a new practice advisory: Representing Clients with Mental Competency Issues under Matter of M-A-M-.

Until recently, attorneys and immigration judges had limited guidance about safeguards that might be available to ensure a fair hearing in immigration court for noncitizens with mental competency issues. As a result, many such individuals have been ordered deported without access to counsel or any assessment of their abilities. Others have languished in jail indefinitely while immigration judges delayed proceedings in the hope that they would find representation or that their conditions would improve. Extended stays in detention centers, however, have instead caused people’s conditions to deteriorate, at times resulting in psychosis and catatonia. The lack of protections has even led to mistaken deportations of U.S. citizens.

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