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ACLU and NILC File Lawsuit Challenging Indiana’s State Anti-Immigrant Law

May 30th, 2011 No comments
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the law firm of Lewis & Kappes, P.C. filed a class action lawsuit recently challenging an Indiana law inspired by Arizona’s infamous SB 1070. According to the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, “Indiana has created a law that not only tramples on the constitutional rights of Hoosiers, but also improperly involves Indiana in areas that are clearly of federal, not state, concerns.”

Some state lawmakers oppose the extreme law, saying it will increase law enforcement costs and deter both employers and employees from coming to the state. Additionally, Indiana University also is concerned that the law will discourage enrollment and academic participation, since the institution hosts thousands of foreign national students, faculty members and visitors every school year.

Since immigration bills inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070 have been introduced across the country, Indiana is now the third state to pass the controversial legislation this year, becoming one of four states to enact rigorous state-based immigration laws, along with Arizona, Utah and Georgia.

Unfortunately, this provision, like the rest of the law, is misguided and without a doubt, have unintended social and economic consequences.

U.S. Reverses its Decision to Deny Visa to Leading Colombian Journalist

August 3rd, 2010 No comments
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BOGOTA, Colombia — The U.S. State Department has reversed its decision to deny a visa to a leading Colombian journalist whose reporting has been highly critical of the country’s U.S.-allied president.

Morris and his family picked up their visas at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday and now can travel to Harvard for a yearlong Nieman Foundation fellowship for mid-career journalists.

According to a U.S. consular officer in Bogota, Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the “terrorist activities” clause of the USA Patriot Act.

In addition, Morris said he was not given an explanation for the denial or the reversal. However he expressed deep gratitude for the support he has gotten from fellow journalists at home and abroad, lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and organizations including Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, The InterAmerican Press Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, who decried the visa denial as an attack on free speech.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman stated they could not discuss the issue due to privacy rules.

Morris, who produces the TV news show, has reported on ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in Latin America.

The 41-year-old Morris, one of 12 foreign journalists admitted to the Nieman program for the 2010-2011 academic year, is among the most controversial chroniclers of Colombia’s long-running conflict.

On various occasions, Uribe has accused him of collaborating with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which killed Uribe’s father in a 1983 botched kidnapping.

Morris acknowledges having contacts with the FARC, because it is part of his work, however he denied aiding, abetting or advising the rebels in any way.

In addition to making public letters they’d written to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton protesting the visa denial, the U.S. rights groups that supported Morris privately lobbied State Department officials.

Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office on Aug. 7, was a Nieman fellow in 1988.

Advocates Rethink Their Strategy Regarding Immigration Reform

July 4th, 2010 No comments
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When President Obama announced last month that he would ask Congress for $500 million and deploy the National Guard to strengthen security on the border with Mexico, several advocacy groups in the region that had campaigned for a different approach were forced to confront a disappointing reality: Washington still wasn’t listening to them.

So, members of groups from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California were among the roughly 45 delegates who came together in San Diego. At the top of the agenda was how to counter Obama’s message that further security measures are needed. The delegates acknowledged that their goal, comprehensive immigration reform, is unlikely to be taken up by Congress this year.

According to Louie Gilot of the Border Network for Human Rights based in El Paso, we were promised change by the administration, however we’re not only getting the same enforcement-only policy, we’re getting even more of it.

Homeland Security Department officials disputed that, citing a speech by Secretary Janet Napolitano this week in which she argued that the administration has backed calls for comprehensive immigration reform and has adopted a “smarter” approach than its predecessor.

The border groups had hoped to convince administration officials that, with arrests of illegal immigrants on the border at the lowest levels since the early 1970s, the current enforcement strategy is working. They noted that the number of border agents has already risen from about 11,000 in 2004 to 20,000 today.

According to Andrea Guerrero, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego, some of the advocates had been meeting over the past year and a half with Customs and Border Protection officials to encourage more humane policies, including cell phone towers to help border crossers who find themselves endangered in the desert. The groups had also encouraged a better relationship between the agency and local communities.

The groups pledged to combine their efforts. According to Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, enforcement is needed and they recognize that. But it has to be infused with our American values, such as accountability, fiscal responsibility, respect to human rights and community security.

ACLU and Coalition of Civil Rights Groups File Class Action Against Arizona for Anti-Immigrant Law

May 22nd, 2010 No comments
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The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging Arizona’s new law which authorizes police to demand “papers” from people who they suspect are not legally in the U.S.

The coalition filing the lawsuit includes the ACLU, MALDEF, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), ACLU of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) – a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

The lawsuit charges that the Arizona law unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; invites racial profiling against people of color by law enforcement in violation of the equal protection guarantee and prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the 14th and Fourth Amendments; and infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers and others in Arizona.

One of the individuals the coalition is representing in the case, Jim Shee, who is a U.S.-born 70-year-old American citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent. Shee asserts that he will be vulnerable to racial profiling under the law, and that, although the law has not yet gone into effect, he has already been stopped twice by local law enforcement officers in Arizona and asked to produce his “papers” to proof his legal presence in the U.S.

Another plaintiff, Jesus Cuauhtémoc Villa, is a resident of the state of New Mexico who is currently attending Arizona State University. The state of New Mexico does not require proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status to obtain a driver’s license. Villa does not have a U.S. passport and does not want to risk losing his birth certificate by carrying it with him. He worries about traveling in Arizona without a valid form of identification that would prove his citizenship to police if he is pulled over. If he cannot supply proof upon demand, Arizona law enforcement is required to arrest and detain him.

Several prominent law enforcement groups, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose the law because the law sends a clear message to communities of color that the authorities are not to be trusted, making them less likely to come forward as victims of or witnesses to crime.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of labor, domestic violence, day laborer, human services and social justice organizations, including Friendly House, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Local 5, United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW), Arizona South Asians for Safe Families (ASAFSF), Southside Presbyterian Church, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network, Tonatierra Community Development Institute, Muslim American Society, Japanese American Citizens League, Valle del Sol, Inc., Coalicíon De Derechos Humanos, and individual named plaintiffs who will be subject to harassment or arrest under the law and a class of similarly situated persons.

According to Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON day laborers have repeatedly defended their First Amendment rights in federal courts and successfully established their undeniable right to seek work in public areas. Moreover, Alvarado believes that Arizona’s effort to criminalize day laborers and migrants is an affront to the Constitution and threatens to disrupt national unity, and they are confident that federal courts will intervene to ensure the protection of their bedrock civil rights.”

Even prior to the passage of the statute, local enforcement of federal immigration law has already caused an increase on racial profiling of Latinos in Arizona. The ACLU, MALDEF and other members of the coalition have several pending lawsuits against government officials in Arizona because of civil rights abuses of U.S. citizens and immigrants.

ACLU Challenges Prolonged Detention for Immigrants – 350 Detainees Held for Over Six Months

May 21st, 2010 No comments
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According to a list recently released by the federal government, more than 350 immigrant detainees in Los Angeles have been held in detention for more than six months while fighting deportation.

The list of names was turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California last month as part of a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The ACLU is battling for the right of detainees held for six months or more to have hearings on whether they can be released from custody while their cases are pending.

The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on the lawsuit. The department opposed releasing the names but was ordered to do so by a federal judge. Its lawyers are continuing to oppose the bond hearings.

Ahilan Arulanantham, who directs the immigrants’ rights and national security program for the ACLU of Southern California, said he was shocked that so many immigrants were being held in detention for longer than six months.

There are about more than a thousand immigrant detainees in the area, and at least 30% were never represented by an attorney.

The team of attorneys is sending letters to its clients. Many of the class members are seeking asylum and some have been held for years.

One of the class members, Damdin Borjgin, a Mongolian man seeking asylum in the United States, has been in custody at Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster since November 2007. Borjgin said he has never had a hearing to see if he would be eligible for release.

“I didn’t think I would be locked up in the jail for this much time,” Borjgin said through an interpreter in a recent interview. “I am living here as a prisoner. My rights are limited.”
Afraid for his safety, he came to the United States, where he was detained at Los Angeles International Airport and taken to the detention center.

Borjgin, who did not have an attorney, lost his case in Immigration Court and at the Board of Immigration Appeals. The case now is pending in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Currently, most immigrant detainees are not entitled to bond hearings: foreigners that are arrested upon arrival in the United States; foreigners who have committed certain crimes; or foreigners who have lost their cases and have final orders of deportation.  However, detainees who cannot be deported within six months of the conclusion of the case may be entitled to be released.

Arulanantham said that Borjgin might have never been placed behind bars in the first place. Immigration officials now release arriving asylum seekers from detention if they have a credible fear of persecution, prove their identity and pose neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

“ICE’s detention capacity is not unlimited,” said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We want to ensure we’re using our detention resources to keep criminals and other dangerous aliens in custody while we seek their removal from the country.”

The change was part of an overhaul of the detention system announced last year. John Morton, the chief of the immigration agency, said he would make immigration detention less reliant on prisons and jails and more specifically designed for civil detainees.

Since the announcement, the agency has reduced the number of detention facilities nationwide and canceled contracts at 10 sites because of reported problems. Visitation, recreation and legal access also have been expanded at some facilities.

If you are someone you know is being detained in Lancaster’s Mira Loma facility, Otay Mesa or another detention facility, contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a free consultation. Managing attorney Jay Nunez will discuss your situation with you and help you better understand your options.

Settlement Aims to Stop Horrible Detention Conditions for Detained Immigrants Held in Downtown Los Angeles’ B-18

September 17th, 2009 No comments
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For too long now immigrants detained in Downtown Los Angeles’ B-18 Unit have been held in deplorable conditions. Detained immigrants were denied sanitary drinking water for days. They were not allowed to brush their teeth or change clothes for weeks. Toilets would regularly overflow and be left that way. B-18 is a holding unit in the basement of the federal building. Generally, it is used for detained immigrants awaiting a court hearing in the building; however, many immigrants were forced to stay there for weeks at a time.

On Wednesday, a settlement was reached between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the attorneys that filed a lawsuit complaining about the horrendous conditions of B-18. The ACLU of Southern California, the Paul Hastings Law Firm, and the National Immigration Law Center represented the immigrants’ interests.

Under the terms of the settlement, a detainee cannot be held in B-18 for more than 12 hours unless s/he is awaiting a court hearing. Lawyers for detainees may visit their clients while in detention in B-18, and ICE will provide lists of people being detained in B-18 as well.

Although the settlement is welcome news for detained immigrants, their families and immigrant advocates, the director of immigrants rights for the ACLU of Southern California, Ahilan Arulanantham, warns that the conditions in B-18 are not unique among federal detention facilities nationwide. “This is an important step,” he said, “but it’s one small step.”

If your loved one is being detained while awaiting immigration court proceedings in Los Angeles, Lancaster, San Diego or elsewhere, contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a free consultation. Managing Attorney Jay Nunez will discuss your case with you and help you understand the options available to you.

Immigration Raids Result in Lawsuit Against Sheriff Arpaio

August 20th, 2009 No comments
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Two men, Julian and Julio Mora, have filed a civil complaint against Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona. The complaint alleges that Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution. Additionally, the men allege that they were assaulted, falsely arrested and imprisoned and suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress due to the incident. This is the first lawsuit to result from Sheriff Arpaio’s practice of raiding businesses and detaining everyone on the premises for fraud and identity-theft claims. “Every time he conducts a raid, he detains everybody on site,” said Annie Lai, one of the Moras’ lawyers.

Although Julio Mora, 19 years old, was born in the United States and is a U.S. Citizen, he was detained for hours during the raid. His father, Julian Mora, is 66 years old and has lived in the United States for 30 years. He is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and is authorized to work in the United States.

For his part, Sheriff Arpaio does not apologize in the slightest. “This lawsuit is just another way to intimidate me; it’s political,” said Arpaio. “They’re using a couple of instances to further their own philosophy.”

The Moras are represented by the ACLU, and their attorneys warn, “If it occurred to these folks, it could occur to anybody here in Maricopa County,” said Dan Pochoda, legal director for the Arizona ACLU.

If you are currently working or living in the United Status without immigration status, contact The Nunez Firm to discuss your options and possible strategies to obtain legal immigration status. The Nunez Firm offers free consultations.

Airport Laptop Searches by Immigration Agents Subject of ACLU FOIA Request

June 12th, 2009 No comments
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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the US Customs and Border Protection policy permitting CBP officers to search travelers’ laptops without suspicion of wrongdoing.

CBP, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, developed the policy in July 2008. The CBP policy allows inspectors to search the laptops, documents and other electronic devices of those entering the United States, including US citizens.

The ACLU is concerned that these suspicionless information searches violate the Fourth Amendment privacy rights and First Amendment freedoms of speech, inquiry and association.

“These highly intrusive government searches into a traveler’s most private information, without any reasonable suspicion, are a threat to the most basic privacy rights guaranteed in the Constitution,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group.

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