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08/10/11 | The Council Launches the 14th Annual Creative Writing Contest

The Community Education Center of the American Immigration Council has launched its 14th Annual Creative Writing Contest for "Why I'm Proud America is a Nation of Immigrants".  The contest which is run by local chapters of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has more than 5,000 entries from around the country annually.  The contest is open to fifth graders during the 2010-2011 school year. 

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08/03/11 | Another Court Upholds Immigrants' Right to Pursue Case From Outside the U.S.

Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit joined the growing list of courts to reject the government’s attempt to bar noncitizens from seeking reopening or reconsideration of their cases from outside the United States. The American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which filed a joint amicus brief in the case and argued before the court, applaud the court’s ruling. “The court’s decision is yet another step in protecting the important safeguards that Congress put in place to help ensure that noncitizens are not unlawfully separated from their families,” said Beth Werlin of the Legal Action Center.

The Legal Action Center and the National Immigration Project have coordinated litigation on this issue nationwide and call on the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to abandon its misguided regulation barring review of motions filed by noncitizens outside the United States.  To date, six courts of appeals have rejected the departure bar.  And just this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the only court with a decision at odds with the majority, granted rehearing en banc to address the validity of the departure bar.  “The writing is on the wall.  It’s past time for the government to stop cutting off access to the BIA and immigration courts by defending this clearly unlawful regulation,” said Trina Realmuto of the National Immigration Project.

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08/02/11 | American Immigration Council Applauds DOJ for Responding to Alabama’s Punitive Anti-Immigrant Law

Washington, D.C. – On Monday, the Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Alabama to block the implementation of HB 56, which is set to take effect September 1. HB 56 is similar to but far more punitive than Arizona’s SB 1070. The law includes provisions that require local school districts to check and report on the immigration status of all children enrolling in public schools. It also transforms local police into federal immigration officers, and creates criminal consequences for anyone who provides housing, transportation, or employment to undocumented immigrants.

Alabama is the second state, after Arizona, that the Department of Justice has sued for overstepping its authority to regulate immigration. Lawsuits have also been filed in Utah, Indiana and Georgia by immigrant rights and civil liberties groups. So far, the courts have prevented each state from implementing the central provisions of their anti-immigrant laws. In truth, all these laws have done is inflict long-lasting damage to these states’ reputations, businesses, and budgets.

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07/25/11 | LAC Urges Eighth Circuit to Reject Departure Bar to Review

Washington, D.C.— The Legal Action Center, along with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), filed an amicus brief last week urging the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the departure bar, a regulation that bars the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) from reviewing cases after a person has left the United States. In this case, Macharia v. Holder, No. 11-1962, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported the person while his appeal of an immigration judge’s denial of a motion to reopen his case was still pending. By applying the departure bar, the Board of Immigration Appeals permitted DHS, a party to the case, to exert unilateral control over the litigation. This impermissibly interferes with the respondent’s statutory right to seek administrative and judicial review and to pursue reopening.

The Legal Action Center and NIPNLG have coordinated litigation on issues related to post departure review and adjudication of BIA cases nationwide. Read more about the LAC and NIPNLG’s efforts on the LAC’s website. To date, five circuit courts have found the motion to reopen departure regulation unlawful.
For inquiries contact Brian Yourish at byourish@immcouncil.org.

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07/25/11 | Dissecting the HALT Act: Last Safety Valves in Immigration System Under Attack

Washington D.C. - Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement will hold a hearing on the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” (HALT Act), a bill that would suspend discretionary forms of immigration relief until January 21, 2013—the day after the next Presidential inauguration. 

Today, the Immigration Policy Center held a briefing to describe how the HALT Act systematically attacks many of the discretionary forms of relief available to immigrants. Immigration policy experts described the implications of limiting the Administration’s discretion in prosecuting immigration cases, as well as the impetus behind the bill. 

Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, said:

“The HALT Act seeks to disable or suspend a number of immigration provisions that provide any discretionary relief to immigrants in order to chastise the Administration for a series of policy memos that contemplate using executive branch authority to improve current laws. Its authors seek to discourage the Administration from interpreting the law in ways that are more streamlined or benefit more individuals.” 

Beth Werlin, Deputy Director of the Legal Action Center, further explained:

“By taking away the power to grant deferred action, the HALT Act is basically interfering with the Administration’s ability to prioritize its removal cases and focus its resources on serious criminals and those who pose a true security risk.”

Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, commented on the impetus behind the bill:

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07/18/11 | The Case for Discretion and Proportionality in Our Immigration System

Washington D.C. - It has long been the case that those responsible for carrying out and enforcing our nation's laws do so with a measure of discretion and proportionality.  Every day, law enforcement officials and judges exercise discretion in charging and sentencing decisions, weighing differing priorities and social values, and matching punishments with crimes.  Consequently, minors are treated differently in the criminal system, and traffic violators and murderers receive different punishments. The use of judgment and proportionality is so ingrained in our legal system—with the exception of immigration law—that we take it for granted. Today, the need for discretion and proportionality is needed more than ever in our antiquated and over-burdened immigration system to ensure that the government spends its limited resources on high priority cases, and that immigrants who have a strong case for remaining in the U.S. are able to do so if current law provides for an avenue of relief.  

To that end, a wide range of organizations, including the American Immigration Council, have been asking the Obama Administration to use its executive authority to exercise discretion in the immigration context. In June, Director John Morton of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memo outlining new guidance on the use of prosecutorial discretion in a wide range of circumstances.  The memo signals a greater commitment to using limited resources to enforce immigration law with an understanding of the need for measured action and fairness in the immigration context. 

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07/13/11 | More Fear and Loathing in the House Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up two immigration bills that supposedly address community safety, but in reality are simply the latest attempts to restrict immigration and limit due process for immigrants. Neither Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011,” or Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) “Security and Fairness Enhancement for America Act of 2011” (SAFE Act) offer solutions to the immigration crisis. Instead, Chairman Smith’s bill would authorize indefinite detention for a wide range of immigrants, while Rep. Goodlatte’s bill would eliminate the diversity visa—a lottery that offers 50,000 visas per year to immigrants from countries that send few people to the U.S. Once more, the House Judiciary Committee is using fear to restrict our immigration system.

While studies have repeatedly shown that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, “The Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011” attempts to exploit the public’s fear of crime to advance an anti-immigration agenda. The bill would expand the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to subject certain immigrants to indefinite—that is, potentially life-long—detention, even though the Supreme Court has held that such detention raises serious constitutional concerns. The bill relies on the continued detention of immigrants—many of whom have never committed a crime—as a stand-in for fixing the underlying problems of our broken immigration system. Similarly, the deceptively titled SAFE Act simply eliminates 50,000 visas that currently go to immigrants from many countries in Africa and elsewhere that have less of a tradition of immigrating to the U.S. 

Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, noted:

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06/30/11 | Mini-Grants Available to Educators and Community Leaders

The American Immigration Council's Community Education Center is awarding mini-grants to schools and organizations working with youth to better understand the issue of immigration and the contributions immigrants have made and conitinue to make to our society.  Applications are due July 22, 2011.

For more information visit http://www.communityeducationcenter.org/community-grants.

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06/29/11 | BIA Sets Favorable Precedent for Children of Fiancées (K-2 Visa Holders)

Washington, D.C.—The Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council applauds the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) for advancing family unity in its June 23, 2011 decision, Matter of Le. The Board’s long-awaited ruling favorably resolves the issue of whether the child of a fiancée of a U.S. citizen (a K-2 visa holder), who legally entered the U.S. when under age 21, is eligible for adjustment of status even after turning age 21. The Board concluded that the age of the child is “fixed” at the time the child is admitted to the United States. In doing so, it rejected the Department of Homeland Security’s position that a K-2 visa holder is eligible only if he or she is under 21 at the time the adjustment of status application is adjudicated.

The Board’s decision is consistent with the position that the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association advocated in amicus briefs submitted to the Board in approximately a half dozen other cases where the child turned 21 after being admitted to the United States. The noncitizens in these and the many other cases before both Immigration Judges and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices throughout the country now will be able to become lawful permanent residents as Congress intended.

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06/28/11 | LAC Issues Updated Practice Advisory on Prosecutorial Discretion Discussing June 17, 2011 Morton Memoranda

Washington, D.C.— The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of an updated practice advisory: Prosecutorial Discretion: How to Advocate for Your Client.

On June 17, 2011, John Morton, Director of ICE, issued two new memoranda encouraging the expanded use of prosecutorial discretion by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys in all phases of civil immigration enforcement. The first outlines in detail how ICE employees should approach a wide range of opportunities to apply prosecutorial discretion in line with ICE enforcement priorities; the second describes specific protections for certain crime victims, witnesses, and plaintiffs.

This practice advisory discusses these memoranda in detail. It also explains what prosecutorial discretion is, who has authority to exercise it, and how it is exercised most often in immigration cases. In addition, the advisory suggests ways that attorneys can advocate for the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion by DHS officers, whether from ICE, USCIS or CBP.

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

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