The deplorable conditions in U.S. Border Patrol—an agency within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—detention facilities have been widely documented in numerous media accounts and NGO reports and challenged in federal lawsuits. Immigrant children and other immigrants detained in these facilities—often called “hieleras” or “iceboxes” because of their cold temperatures—consistently describe extremely crowded holding cells where they are forced to sleep on concrete floors, have no access to showers or basic hygiene items like soap, are provided inadequate food and have no opportunity to contact family members or lawyers. Earlier this year, the ACLU Border Litigation Project and other groups filed a complaint with DHS on behalf of 116 children detained in hieleras. The complaint alleges physical and verbal abuse, sexual assault, failure to provide medical treatment, mistreatment of infants and pregnant or nursing mothers, shackling, inhumane detention conditions and other due process concerns. Continue reading
September 16, 2014
United States Congress
Dear Member of Congress:
As the national bar association of more than 13,000 immigration lawyers and law professors, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) writes to express our deep opposition to the Administration’s detention and rapid deportation of mothers and children who have fled from Central America and are seeking asylum under U.S. law. We have asked the Administration to close the Artesia, New Mexico family detention center immediately and to reverse its deportation and detention strategy. We urge you to investigate this situation and to oppose the inhumane practices that are taking place at Artesia and any funding requests for the detention of families.
In response to the humanitarian crisis in Central America that has compelled tens of thousands of mothers and children to flee their home countries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) opened a hastily conceived facility in Artesia to detain mothers and children and rush them through the deportation process. Since July, AILA members have responded to the urgent need for– indeed the complete lack of– legal representation at Artesia by travelling at their own expense to this remote facility. Even working 18-20 hours a day, seven days a week, volunteers have barely been able to meet the demand for legal help, serving as many detainees as humanly possible through the AILA Pro Bono Project (Project).
Based on hundreds of interviews with these detained families that our expert lawyers have conducted, AILA has concluded that Artesia is a due process failure and a humanitarian disaster that cannot be fixed and must be closed immediately. Attorneys with long histories of representing clients at remote detention facilities have described Artesia as not just the worst situation they have ever encountered, but something far worse than anything they could have imagined.
Moreover, we are deeply concerned about DHS’s continued expansion of family detention– including a new facility in Karnes, Texas with at least 500 beds and a planned 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas. Within months DHS will be detaining nearly 4,000 mothers and children, a forty-fold increase in the use of detention on immigrant families. If these facilities implement the same rapid deportation model as is used in Artesia, hundreds if not thousands of mothers and children who have suffered domestic violence, sexual assault, gang violence and other atrocities protected under U.S. asylum and humanitarian law will be unlawfully repatriated to their home countries. We urge you to stop this from happening. Continue reading
Released on Wed, Sep 03, 2014
Washington D.C. — U.S. law professors sent a letter today to the White House stating that President Obama has wide legal authority to make needed changes to immigration enforcement policy. The president is considering how to use his authority to mitigate the damage caused by our dysfunctional immigration system and protect certain individuals from deportation.
The letter was written by Stephen H. Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University School of Law and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief Counsel; Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law; and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. It was signed by professors from 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
“As part of the administration’s legal team that ironed out the details of DACA, I can personally attest that we took pains to make sure the program meticulously satisfied every conceivable legal requirement,” said Legomsky. “In this letter, 136 law professors who specialize in immigration reach the same conclusion and explain why similar programs would be equally lawful.” (DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program the president initiated in June 2012.)
In their letter, the law professors point out that “The administration has the legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for managing resources and protecting individuals residing in and contributing to the United States in meaningful ways.” The letter goes on to explain that presidents from both parties have used prosecutorial discretion to prevent specific, and often large, groups of immigrants from being deported.
“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Wadhia. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”
This is the second major letter about prosecutorial discretion that law professors have sent to President Obama. Thefirst letter, sent in 2012, outlined the legal argument for expanded administrative relief, which later became the blueprint for the president’s DACA program. That program allows qualifying noncitizens who came to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation and work authorization. Continue reading
Comprehensive immigration reform legislation would give a majority of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and work authorization. But with immigration reform stalled in the House, President Obama announced that he plans to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.” The President is reportedly considering deferring the deportations of up to 5 million immigrants, starting with those with families. While most columnists have supported the President’s authority to take action, a minority have accused President Obama of “rewriting the law” and called him a “domestic Caesar.”
UCLA Professor of Law Hiroshi Motomura’s report, The President’s Discretion, Immigration Enforcement, and the Rule of Law, thoughtfully argues that President Obama has broad executive authority to defer deportations, if he so chooses. Motomura concludes that the “President has the legal authority to make a significant number of unauthorized migrants eligible for temporary relief from deportation,” “similar to the relief available under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.” The technical term is “administrative action”—action by the President’s administrative agencies, such as Department of Homeland Security.
At the outset, Motomura makes clear that the President is only considering temporary reprieves from deportation. The President cannot unilaterally change the rules for granting green cards or citizenship. Nor did the President “enact” the DREAM Act when he announced DACA. While the DREAM Act would provide a path to a green card and citizenship for immigrants brought to America while children, DACA only gave them a temporary, renewable two-year reprieve. Continue reading
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contains a provision making an individual inadmissible to the United States if he or she has admitted to the commission of certain crimes, including controlled substance offenses. Inadmissibility prevents an individual from being able to obtain certain immigration benefits, unless the individual can obtain a waiver. In order for an individual to trigger inadmissibility under the “admission” clause of the INA, the government must find that the essential elements of the crime were explained to the individual in layman’s terms, that the individual admitted to each element, and that the admission was voluntary and unequivocal. Further, several precedent decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have held that if an admission was made as part of criminal proceedings that did not result in a conviction, the admission may not be used against the individual to trigger inadmissibility. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the White House is moving forward on plans to expand deportation relief through executive action to roughly 5 million immigrants of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The plans could offer immigrants temporary legal status, similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Officials told the paper that there are two options being considered:
One option would allow immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens to apply for temporary legal status which would let them work legally in the U.S. Because children born in the country automatically receive U.S. citizenship, that option could affect about 5 million people, researchers estimate.
A second option would be to allow temporary legal status for the parents of young people already granted deportation deferrals by the Obama administration. That would affect a smaller, but still sizable, number of people.
White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said at an event Friday that executive action on immigration will happen at the end of the summer.
- See more at: http://immigrationimpact.com/2014/07/28/white-house-considering-plans-to-expand-temporary-legal-status-for-more-immigrants/#sthash.1vs3dPyX.dpuf
This week, President Obama concluded that the House would not act on immigration reform this year, leading him to announce that he would use his executive authority to fix what he could of the immigration system on his own. This is a welcome decision, although details of his plans are unlikely to unfold until later in the summer, following consultation with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder. There are no shortage of suggestions, however, about how the president can improve the current system, starting with a revision of current enforcement policies and expanding to include more permanent and temporary relief from removal. A timely new analysis from the Center for American Progress makes the case that the president should “go big,” implementing policies and programs that help the maximum number of people.
The CAP report delves into the background and legal authority for using executive branch authority in the context of immigration enforcement, noting that we have been down this road before. “As the Congressional Research Service has illustrated, categorical grants of affirmative relief to non-citizens have been made 21 times by six presidents protecting millions of immigrants just since 1976. What’s more, in many instances, Congress was actively considering legislation that would have provided relief to the groups of people protected by the executive action. That, of course, is precisely the case today.” Continue reading
McALLEN, Tex. — The Obama administration, stepping up efforts to reduce the influx of Central American migrants crossing the Southwest border illegally and saying that misinformation about its border policies may have helped spur it, will detain more of those migrants and accelerate their cases in immigration courts so they can be deported more quickly, officials said. Continue reading
There have been four recent federal court decisions ruling that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents cannot require local jurisdictions to detain someone and that local law enforcement can be held liable for holding someone for no reason other than an ICE detainer.
ICE detainers are written requests for local jails or other law enforcement agencies to hold a person for an additional 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after the release date so that ICE agents can decide whether to take the person into federal custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. A judge does not review the requests, and as the ACLU explains, detainers have led to “the illegal imprisonment of countless individuals—including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Latinos in particular—without any charges pending, sometimes for days or weeks after they should have been released from custody.”
The court rulings have fueled a wave of localities ending or limiting their detainer policies. Nearly 100 cities and counties across the country have decided to restrict situations in which they comply with detainer requests. That’s in addition to more than 20 states, cities, and counties that already had such policies. Continue reading
June 5, 2014
Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council welcomes last week’s ruling by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, which held that a noncitizen’s grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) qualifies as “inspection and admission” into the United States. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, inspection and admission are eligibility requirements for lawful permanent residence (LPR). Jesus Ramirez, the plaintiff in Ramirez v Dougherty, was granted TPS in 2001 following the devastating earthquake in El Salvador, his home country, and has renewed this status ever since. He now seeks to become an LPR on the basis of his marriage to a United States citizen. The American Immigration Council and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, and subsequently NWIRP became counsel for the plaintiff.
The court based its decision on the language of the TPS statute. However, the court also noted important policy reasons supporting its interpretation, stressing that Mr. Ramirez had been in the United States for approximately fifteen years, had established roots here, and “has waited his turn for an independent, legal, and legitimate pathway to citizenship, through the immediate relative visa application.” Relying on a decision from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the court found that the government’s solution – which would require Mr. Ramirez to leave the country, be readmitted, and then go through the immigration process all over again – was a “waste of energy, time, government resources, and will have negative effects on his family.”
To view the decision in its entirety, see:
- Ramirez v Dougherty District Court Ruling (May 30, 2014)