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10/07/10 | Legal Action Center Argues for Greater Federal Court Oversight of Immigration Decisions

Washington D.C. - In a continuing effort to promote greater federal court oversight of immigration decision-making, the American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center (LAC) recently submitted amicus (friend of the court) briefs in two cases involving motions to reopen. For noncitizens facing removal from the United States, a motion to reopen (an opportunity to present new evidence in a case) may be the last and only way to pursue their claims for lawful residency in the United States. Failure to grant such a motion might prevent anyone - from an asylum seeker to a U.S. citizen's family member - from presenting new evidence that could prevent deportation.  Yet, although the federal courts are the last chance for redress, they frequently refuse to hear claims that immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals abuse their discretion when they deny motions to reopen.

The LAC argument is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Kucana v. Holder that the Board of Immigration Appeals cannot shield its decisions from judicial review by labeling these decisions "discretionary." Only Congress can limit court review of motions to reopen, and it has not done so.

Given the gravity of removal from the United States, the high volume of immigration court cases, and the reality that most noncitizens do not have lawyers (only 39% of noncitizens were represented in immigration court in 2009), federal court oversight is critical to ensure due process.  For an immigration system that is widely understood to be plagued with errors, judicial checks and balances are especially critical.

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10/05/10 | The American Immigration Council Addresses Problems with Draft Immigration Detainer Policy

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council has joined a number of organizations in formally commenting on a proposed detainer policy issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers are requests from ICE to local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to hold people - whom they suspect may be in the country illegally or who may be deportable for other reasons - so they can be transferred into ICE's custody. There has been much criticism about how ICE uses detainers, and the use of detainers has expanded over time with enforcement programs like 287(g), Secure Communities, and the Criminal Alien Program. To address the criticisms, ICE developed new draft guidelines on the issuance of detainers.
 
The Immigration Council acknowledges ICE's attempt to ameliorate its detainer policies and is grateful for the opportunity to comment.  However, the comments identify several major problems with the proposed guidance, including:

  • The proposed guidelines do not reflect ICE's stated enforcement priorities.  In July, ICE issued a memo on its enforcement priorities, focusing on immigrants with serious criminal histories.  ICE's proposed detainer guidelines contradict those priorities.  Although ICE claims to target convicted criminals who pose a threat to public safety, the proposed guidance would allow ICE to issue detainers against people arrested for minor offenses and suspects charged with crimes but not convicted.

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09/30/10 | Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate

Washington D.C. - On Wednesday, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S.B. 3932, The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010. The bill takes a broad approach to solving the wide range of problems that plague our broken immigration system. It offers proposals on border, interior, and worksite enforcement, on legalization, and on future flows of immigration. Now the Senate and House both have a vehicle (Congressman Luis Gutierrez previously introduced a CIR bill in the House last December) for generating a serious discussion on immigration reform in the coming weeks. These bills are a direct response to the overwhelming public demand for solutions to our broken immigration system. Both political parties have acknowledged that this broken system is no longer sustainable, and is disrupting America's businesses, families, and long-term economic recovery.

"It is hard to turn ideas into legislation and legislation into good law, but Senators Menendez and Leahy have injected new life into the immigration reform debate," said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. "At a time when every social issue we care about bumps up against immigration - healthcare, national security, and the economy - this bill is a step in the right direction. However, attention now turns to the rest of the Senate and House - where there are serious comprehensive proposals which lawmakers can react to and build upon - and the question remains; will they embrace this challenge or kick it down the road once again?"

The Immigration Policy Center has prepared a summary of the The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 which can be accessed at:

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09/21/10 | DREAM Delayed in the Senate

Washington D.C. - Today, the Senate voted 56 to 43 against proceeding to the Defense Authorization Act. This procedural vote, which basically followed party lines, ends consideration of critical social issues that affect the military and were to be offered as amendments to the bill. Among the amendments not considered is the DREAM Act, an immigration bill that would provide legal status to young people who graduate from high school and pursue college or military service.

The following is a statement from Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center:

"The political gridlock that has immobilized the Senate has resulted once again in a lost opportunity for the American people. By refusing to allow the Defense Authorization Act to proceed, America will not see, at this time, an up or down vote on the DREAM Act, which would have been a first legislative step in resolving our immigration crisis. The Senators who voted "no" today are ignoring unequivocal evidence that the DREAM Act is good for military readiness, the American workforce and the U.S. economy. 

The energy and enthusiasm of thousands of young people who have poured themselves into promoting the DREAM Act has not been wasted, however. Because of their efforts, more people today understand the importance of DREAM to our economy, our military, and the future of our country than ever before."

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For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at wsefsaf@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524.

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09/16/10 | LAC Seeks Greater Safeguards in Removal Proceedings for Immigrants with Mental Disabilities

Earlier this week, the American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center (LAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center filed an amicus brief with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) urging the government to protect the rights of immigrants whose mental disabilities prevent them from participating meaningfully in their own removal hearings.  "This is particularly disturbing given that these immigrants are not granted court-appointed counsel in removal proceedings" said Melissa Crow, Director of the Legal Action Center.

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09/15/10 | DREAM Act Coming to the Senate Floor

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would attach the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to the Department of Defense authorization bill expected to come before the Senate as early as next week. The vote will be an important test of whether Congress can transcend partisan politics and work together on crafting solutions to the broken immigration system that both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge is in desperate need of reform. That the proposal will be considered as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill is appropriate, given the Department of Defense's support for DREAM Act as a way to improve military readiness. 

First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act would address the plight of young immigrants who have been raised in the U.S. and managed to succeed despite the challenges of being brought to the U.S. without proper documentation. The proposal would offer a path to legal status to those who have graduated from high-school, have stayed out of trouble and plan to attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.
 
Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, many at the top of their classes, but cannot go to college, join the military, work, or otherwise pursue their dreams. They belong to the 1.5 generation - any (first generation) immigrants brought to the United States at a young age who were largely raised in this country and therefore share much in common with second generation Americans. These students are culturally American, growing up here and often having little attachment to their country of birth. They tend to be bicultural and fluent in English.

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09/07/10 | American Immigration Council Announces New Leadership of its Legal Action Center

The American Immigration Council (AIC) is pleased to announce a new leadership team at our Legal Action Center (LAC). Melissa Crow has joined our staff as the new Director and Beth Werlin has been promoted to Deputy Director of the LAC. These two incredibly talented lawyers bring a diverse set of skills and experiences that will strengthen and expand the important work of the Center.

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09/02/10 | 14th Annual Creative Writing Contest Launched

The American Immigration Council's Community Education Center has launced the 14th Annual "Celebrate America" creative writing contest.  Every year thousands of 5th graders from across the country participate in local contests.

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08/11/10 | Pew Report Sheds Little Light on Birthright Citizenship

Washington D.C. - Over the last several weeks, a handful of elected officials have re-ignited a call for the repeal of birthright citizenship. Claiming that countless unauthorized and temporary immigrants are coming to the United States solely to give birth, some are suggesting changing the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, thereby forcing the U.S. government to individually determine the citizenship of every single child born in the country.

A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center is intended to provide data on the numbers of children born to unauthorized immigrants each year. However, the report offers no real clarity on the question of birthright citizenship. Limitations in the Census data upon which the report is based make it impossible to determine how many children are born into families in which both parents are unauthorized or temporarily in the United States. As a result, the report is only able estimate that 340,000 of the 4.3 million children born in the United States in 2008 had at least one unauthorized parent. In other words, this figure includes families in which one parent is unauthorized and the other a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant, so we still have no idea how many children would be affected by a change to the Fourteenth Amendment. If anything, the Pew report highlights how complicated this issue is given that so many unauthorized immigrants live in "mixed status" families that also include U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.

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07/28/10 | Arizona Judge Delineates Between State and Federal Authority

Washington, D.C. - Today, Phoenix district court judge Susan Bolton enjoined key provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070. The judge recognized that the federal government has primary authority over making and enforcing immigration law, and that while states have limited authority in this arena, they cannot interfere with federal enforcement or undermine federal priorities. The decision acknowledges the complex nature of immigration law and the harmful consequences of local police attempting to make immigration determinations. The judge also recognized the serious strain that the Arizona law would place on federal resources, which would detract from the federal government's ability to enforce immigration laws in other states and target resources toward serious criminals.

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