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05/18/11 | Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Key Hearing on Challenges Facing Immigration Courts

Washington, D.C.—The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center commends Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for convening today’s hearing on “Improving Efficiency and Ensuring Justice in the Immigration Court System.” Immigration courts have long suffered from crushing backlogs that can delay the scheduling of hearings for years at a time.  Additionally, immigrants who appear before these courts enjoy fewer legal protections than most Americans expect from any fair system of justice.   With the dramatic and rapid escalation of immigration enforcement policies and resources, too little attention has been paid to the many challenges that face our immigration court system.

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05/17/11 | DHS Extends Temporary Protected Status to Haitians

Washington D.C. - Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took an important step on behalf of Haitians affected by last year’s devastating earthquake, demonstrating the humanitarian side of its immigration responsibilities.  Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that DHS would extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional eighteen months for Haitians currently residing in the United States. She also announced that she would permit Haitians who arrived up to one year after the earthquake, many of whom came in on visitor visas and other authorized measures, to apply for TPS.  The following is a statement from Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center.

“We applaud DHS’s decision both to extend the timing of TPS and to broaden the scope of people who qualify for it. In the chaotic days following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the men and women of DHS worked hard to provide relief to survivors, admitting many people temporarily to save them from devastation, disease, and starvation. While DHS quickly designated TPS status for those Haitians residing in the U.S. at the time of the earthquake, many others who came to the U.S. within days or weeks of the disaster were ineligible for TPS, but were also unable to return home. Today’s announcement addresses these problems and recognizes the extraordinary need for a compassionate and humane response to the devastation in Haiti.

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05/11/11 | Senators Reintroduce the DREAM Act

Washington, D.C. - Today, Senators Richard Durbin, Harry Reid, and Robert Menendez re-introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Last fall, the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives, and garnered the support of a majority in the Senate, but was ultimately defeated when the Senate failed to invoke cloture and proceed to debate. The sponsors of the DREAM Act hope to build on last year’s momentum and continue to highlight the importance of fully utilizing the talent and potential of thousands of young people who are Americans in every way but their birth certificates.

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05/10/11 | President Obama Puts Immigration Reform Back on the Table

Washington, D.C. - Today, President Obama offered his most concrete articulation of a new way forward for resolving our broken immigration system. Echoing and expanding upon the concepts of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the American Dream, the President invited the American public to join him in pressing Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.   

Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, issued the following statement:

“The President continues to refine his argument that comprehensive immigration reform is a key component of ensuring our success in the 21st century. While this message cannot be repeated often enough, the blueprint for change released by the White House today marks a new page in the immigration debate. The blueprint offers numerous ideas that can be translated into specific legislation and will challenge both parties to come together to work in the country’s best interests. The blueprint also invites the public to engage Congress directly on this issue, setting the stage for a showdown between the President and the public—who overwhelmingly support immigration reform—and a recalcitrant Congress.   

We look forward to engaging in a more robust discussion of the economic impact of immigration, and we take today’s events as a signal that the Administration will continue to lead on this important issue. Immigration reform is on the table, and the time is long overdue for an honest, constructive debate over how to create a 21st century immigration system that is good for American workers and families, and reflects our history as a nation of immigrants.”

To view information on the economics of immigration reform, see: 

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05/09/11 | BIA Provides Important But Incomplete Guidance on Mental Competency Issues

Washington, D.C.—The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) cautiously applauds last week’s decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals concerning the rights of immigrants with mental disabilities in removal proceedings.  Echoing concerns expressed in amicus briefs filed by the LAC in other Board cases, the decision acknowledged the need for a framework to ensure that immigrants with mental competency issues are not deported without fair hearings. 

 “While the Board’s decision is a welcome first step, more comprehensive guidance will be necessary to protect the due process rights of immigrants who lack mental competency,” said Melissa Crow, director of the Legal Action Center (LAC).  “A rulemaking process, with outreach to a broad spectrum of stakeholders and an opportunity for discussion and formal comments, would be the ideal mechanism for establishing procedures in this context.”

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05/05/11 | LAC Issues Practice Advisories on Federal Court Litigation

The Legal Action Center (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of one new and two updated Practice Advisories focusing on federal court litigation. These practice advisories provide in depth discussion and analysis of federal court issues to assist attorneys seeking relief for their clients from adverse immigration-related decisions.

  • Mandamus Litigation in the Labor Certification Context (April 25, 2011): This Practice Advisory outlines basic information about mandamus actions, which may be used to remedy agency delay, and suggests strategies and practice tips for bringing a mandamus action against DOL.
  • How to File a Petition for Review (Updated February 28, 2011): This updated Practice Advisory addresses the procedures and general requirements for filing and litigating a petition for review.

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

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04/14/11 | Court Protects Immigrants' Right To Reopen Cases From Outside the U.S.

A federal appellate court recently reversed a Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) decision that would have prevented noncitizens from presenting new evidence in their removal cases – evidence that potentially could change the outcome – because they are outside the United States. As the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild argued in an amicus brief, Congress enacted laws that allow noncitizens to pursue their cases from outside the U.S. The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is the latest in a series of decisions rejecting the government's position that immigration judges and the BIA lack jurisdiction over such cases.

Federal law gives noncitizens 90 days to file a “motion to reopen,” a procedural mechanism for submitting new evidence after a removal order becomes final. But the BIA has long maintained that it cannot consider a motion to reopen if a foreign national is outside the United States. The court rejected the government’s position, emphasizing that allowing the immigration courts to refuse to hear motions in these cases enables the Department of Homeland Security to unilaterally restrict the opportunity to seek reopening by deporting a person before the deadline for filing a motion to reopen. As the court concluded, the government’s position “completely eviscerate[s] the statutory right to reopen provided by Congress.”

“Five appellate courts have found that the bar to motions to reopen from outside the U.S. is unlawful. It is past time for the government to withdraw this outdated regulation rather than proceed with costly litigation,” said Beth Werlin of the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center.

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04/13/11 | Federal Court Decision Protects H-1B Employees from Wrongful Arrest

Washington D.C. - A recent ruling from a federal judge in Connecticut confirmed that—as the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) argued in an amicus brief—the government may not arrest H-1B employees for whom timely-filed extension applications remain pending. The decision in El Badrawi v. United States, by U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall, correctly recognized that a federal regulation allows H-1B employees to continue working for 240 days pending the adjudication of their extension applications, and that “work authorization is part and parcel of their authorization to be in the country, not a separate matter.” Permitting the initiation of removal proceedings during this period would thus be unfair to employees and employers alike, according to the decision.

The plaintiff, a Lebanese national, was gainfully employed as a medical researcher when his employer requested an H-1B extension in early 2004, more than a month before his H-1B status expired. Though his employer paid a $1,000 fee for premium processing of the application, the government never adjudicated it and refused to respond to requests for information. Nearly seven months after the request was filed, immigration agents arrested the plaintiff for allegedly “overstaying” his initial period of admission. He was placed in removal proceedings and detained for nearly two months.

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04/13/11 | American Immigration Council Urges DHS to Undertake Regulatory Reform

In response to the Department of Homeland Security’s request for comments in connection with a review of its existing regulations, the American Immigration Council highlighted several issues of concern. We urge the Department to: (1) promulgate additional regulations to clarify that the right to counsel applies in all DHS proceedings; (2) expand existing regulations to clarify the types of delays that justify stopping the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) asylum clock and distinguish the EAD asylum clock from EOIR’s asylum adjudication clock; and (3) promulgate new regulations that ensure more effective oversight over the issuance of detainers and better protect those subject to detainers. Our letter describes these three requests and provides additional details regarding the need for regulatory reform.

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04/12/11 | American Immigration Council Hails Decision Enjoining Enforcement of Arizona’s SB 1070

Washington, D.C - The American Immigration Council applauds yesterday’s decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholding a preliminary injunction against the key provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.  As the court correctly recognized, Arizona’s misguided attempt to drive immigrants from the state interferes with the federal government’s exclusive authority to enforce immigration law, has negatively impacted U.S. foreign relations, and reflects the dangers of allowing states to enact a patchwork of conflicting regulations.  The Ninth Circuit also rightly rejected Arizona’s claim that state police have “inherent authority” to enforce federal immigration laws and held that Congress intended state officers to “aid in immigration enforcement only under the close supervision of the Attorney General.”

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