National Immigration Law Center
Sign up for email updates.

Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Immigrants' Rights Update | April 6, 2011



NILC Statements, NILC in the News

New & Updated NILC Resources

Other Important New Resources

New Reports Available on the Web


NILC Statements, NILC in the News

Since Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives after last November’s midterm elections, the national debate about America’s future has grown ever more contentious.  In “For the Children?,” published in The Huffington Post, NILC executive director Marielena Hincapié responds to claims that federal spending must be slashed and safety-net programs cut “for the sake” of our children and future generations.

Marielena also issued a statement commenting on President Obama’s State of the Union Address and, in early January, wrote a response to the highly publicized announcement by a group of state legislators that they were launching a concerted effort to deny U.S. citizenship to U.S.-born babies.

Meanwhile, NILC policy director Tyler Moran most recently blogged, in Immigration Impact, about the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s brand new “E-Verify Self Check” service, noting, among other things, that Self Check “will likely be inaccessible to many -- including the low-income workers who most need it.”  And earlier this year, she wrote “How Expanding E-Verify Hurts the Economy and American Workers” for the same blog.

Speaking of low-income workers, at a rally held by former employees (and their supporters) of DC-area Chipotle restaurants, who’d been fired without being given any advance notice, NILC employment policy attorney Emily Tulli was among the speakers demanding justice for the workers (YouTube video).

NILC filed a Freedom of Information Act action on Mar. 2, demanding that the Dept. of Homeland Security shed light on its secretive strategy of questioning, fingerprinting, and processing undocumented immigrants voluntarily leaving the U.S. and returning to Mexico.  NILC seeks basic information (PDF) about the program, including why it was initiated, when it began, and what, if any, immigration consequences individuals stopped as they leave the U.S. on their own initiative may face.

Many more NILC statements, news releases, articles, etc., issued in response to emerging developments that affect low-income immigrants and their family members are available from our News Releases and NILC in the News pages.

New & Updated NILC Resources

Since the last newsletter was published, we’ve posted these new or updated resources on our website:

IMMIGRANT STUDENTS.  Our new State Bills on Access to Education for Immigrants – 2011 table lists state bills that would improve access by providing in-state tuition to a state’s high school graduates regardless of their status, or by increasing access to financial aid or scholarships.  It also lists bills that seek to restrict access to education by banning enrollment, in-state tuition, or by creating other barriers to postsecondary or K-12 education for immigrant students.  It will be updated as this year’s state legislative sessions progress.

HEALTH CARE.  As part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, Congress created a new option that allows states to receive federal funding to provide affordable health care coverage to lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women under Medicaid and CHIP.  A NILC training held late last year, for which How States Can Cover More Immigrants in Medicaid and CHIP: Facts about the “Lawfully Residing” State Option (PDF of PowerPoint presentation) was prepared, reviewed July 2010 federal guidance about this option and was designed to help advocates understand the categories of immigrants that are considered “lawfully residing” under the new Medicaid and CHIP option.

In January, we submitted comments (PDF) supporting proposed enhanced federal funding to states to improve their electronic Medicaid eligibility determination and enrollment activities, to ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements,  but we also recommended additional conditions and standards that states should have to satisfy in order to receive the enhanced funding.  The comments were in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Proposed Rule for Federal Funding for Medicaid Eligibility Determination and Enrollment Activities, published at 75 Fed. Reg. 68583-95 (Nov. 8, 2010) (PDF).

PUBLIC BENEFITS.  From a review of online application forms in 26 states, the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture found many that asked for immigration status–related information not needed to establish the eligibility of individuals seeking assistance.  As a result, on Feb. 18, 2011, FNS issued guidance advising state agencies of changes needed to online application forms to reduce barriers to access by eligible applicants in immigrant families and prevent violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  We published our summary and analysis of the guidance shortly afterwards (State Online SNAP Applications May Not Ask Unnecessary Questions Regarding Immigration Status or Social Security Numbers, FNS Reaffirms (PDF)).

Every year when the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services issues its poverty income guidelines (this year it was Jan. 20), we update our 125 Percent of Poverty Line table and our “Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal ProgramsErrata and Updates sheet (PDF).

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT.  Congress Should Oppose Attempts to Require or Authorize States to Regulate Immigration (PDF) makes its case by pointing out that federal proposals to authorize state regulation of immigration law have repeatedly failed;  state attempts to regulate immigration law are time-consuming, expensive, and unconstitutional;  state and local laws attempting to regulate immigration are bad for communities;  and many state and local police chiefs oppose having to enforce immigration law.

When, on March 4, the Utah Legislature passed two immigration enforcement bills (which Gov. Gary Herbert signed on Mar. 15), we went to work on Utah: Going Down Arizona’s Unconstitutional Path, which summarizes and analyzes the two bills -- the “Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act” (H.B. 497) and the “Utah Immigration Accountability and Enforcement Act” (H.B.116) (which attempts to establish a state immigrant worker permit system).

DHS’s “Secure Communities”: No Rules of the Road presents facts showing that the federal government is imposing its Secure Communities immigration enforcement program on localities nationwide despite earlier insistence that the program was voluntary;  that SCOMM amounts to an unfunded mandate that local communities enforce federal immigration law;  that SCOMM targets everyone who has ever had any dealings with the immigration system rather than focusing on dangerous criminals, as the government claims it does;  and that SCOMM operates in what is essentially a rule-free environment.

As a result of Secure Communities, 287(g), the Criminal Alien Program -- any program that involves state and local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement -- crime victims and witnesses are at particular risk, argues Victimizing the Victims.  Such programs are an attack on all people who “look” or “sound” foreign, regardless of whether they have been convicted of an offense and regardless of their immigration status.

In February, two New Orleans reconstruction workers filed a lawsuit (PDF) charging that Orleans Parish sheriff Marlin Gusman’s policy and practice of submitting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement “hold requests” -- also called “immigration holds” or “immigration detainers” -- and holding individuals in indefinite detention on this basis alone violated their fundamental rights and harmed the New Orleans community.  An ICE hold request provides no legal authority to detain individuals beyond 48 hours after the resolution of traffic, municipal, or state criminal charges.  ICE makes such hold requests on the mere suspicion that an individual has committed a civil immigration violation -- a suspicion that often is based on racial profiling alone.  The two men are represented by NILC and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

Finally, earlier this year NILC staff cowrote an article for Revista Migrantes, a magazine for Spanish-speaking activists along the border, titled Deportación sin una audiencia: Riesgos y beneficios (PDF) (“Deportation Without a Hearing: Risks & Benefits”).   The article explains, in Spanish, two of the main forms of deportation/removal without a hearing:  removal via (1) a “stipulated order of removal” and (2) “expedited removal.”  It also explains “voluntary departure” (also known as “voluntary return”), so that advocates assisting migrants may explain to them the important technical and practical differences between being “removed” and leaving the U.S. under a grant of voluntary departure.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS | E-VERIFY.  Proposals to expand the federal E-Verify employment eligibility verification program entirely ignore the negative effects that expanding the program would have on U.S. citizens and lawfully present noncitizens, effects spelled out in How Errors in E-Verify Databases Impact U.S. Citizens and Lawfully Present Immigrants (PDF).  We should not enact policies that will increase unemployment and jeopardize the job security of U.S. workers.

Not fully convinced that further expanding E-Verify would be a bad idea?  Expanding E-Verify Will Undermine Job Growth and Cripple Small Businesses (PDF) provides facts to show that, unless currently unauthorized workers are provided a path to legalizing their immigration status, E-Verify will impose new costs on employers, drive jobs into the underground economy, increase unemployment, and deprive government of revenue.

Other recently posted E-Verify-related resources include:

WORKERS’ RIGHTS | WORKSITE ENFORCEMENT.  What is an ICE I-9 audit?  Why did ICE audit my employer?  What should I do if my employer tells me there is a problem with my documents?  What are employers not allowed to do during an I-9 audit?  ICE I-9 Audits (Inspections): Rights and Responsibilities, a 2-pager designed for workers’ advocates to use when talking to workers of employers targeted for an I-9 audit, is available in NILC memo format (PDF) and a more generic format (PDF).

A companion resource, for advocates to use when talking to an employer targeted for an I-9 audit, is Talking Points Regarding I-9 Audits (PDF), available only in the more generic format.

And NILC employment policy attorney Emily Tulli submitted a written statement (PDF) to a Jan. 26 House subcommittee hearing on ICE worksite enforcement in which she argued that ICE should use its enforcement muscle against labor law-breakers and other abusive employers. Unless the existing unauthorized workforce is provided a path to legalization, an enforcement-only scheme is bound to fail and, in fact, will be counterproductive, because it will not address the economic incentive that employers have to hire undocumented workers by any means possible.

Other Important New Resources

Here are other newly available resources, as well as news or reminders we’d like to call to your attention:

Library Guide (“LibGuide”) on Arizona’s SB 1070 in context.  This online resource, made available by the UCLA Law Library, “has evolved into a resource bank . . . about the current immigration debate . . . . Critical topics include SB 1070 and its copycats, historical precedents, demographic data, growing federal enforcement programs, ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’ community-based and global activism, and much more.”

Revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor Concerning Enforcement Activities at Worksites.  It’s been a long time coming! (in the immortal words of the CSN&Y song), but finally it’s here.  The MOU, which hadn’t been updated since 1998, is intended to better protect the rights of immigrant workers while on the job.  It represents an initial step to minimize retaliation by bad-apple employers against immigrant workers seeking to vindicate their labor rights.  (Read NILC’s statement about the MOU.)

Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9.  “Know your government handbooks” is the advocate’s equivalent of the Boy Scout’s “Be prepared.”  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued the latest edition of this handbook (PDF) in January.

Immigrant Services Directory: A National Guide of Service Providers, 2nd Edition.  The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project has updated its directory of organizations that provide services to immigrants -- and made it available to download free of charge!

Guide to Establishing the Asylum Eligibility of Victims of Human Trafficking and Forced Marriage. This manual (PDF) focuses on asylum as an alternative form of relief by presenting a legal framework for establishing asylum eligibility on the basis of trafficking and/or forced marriage.  The manual also includes brief sections on withholding of removal under INA § 241(b) and protection under the Convention Against Torture.”

Guidance: Adjudicating Stay Requests Filed by U Nonimmigrant Status (U-Visa) Applicants.  This memorandum (PDF) from David J. Venturella, Acting Director, Detention and Removal Operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “provides guidance to [ICE] Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Field Office Directors (FODs) about the factors to consider when adjudicating requests for a Stay of a Final Administrative Order of Removal filed by an alien with a pending petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (U-visa).”

Federal documents related to the “Secure Communities” immigration enforcement program.  Documents obtained by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigrant Justice Clinic via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit are available from Uncover the Truth website.

Not in Our State: What Community-based Organizations Can Do to Combat SB1070 Copycat Legislation.  This toolkit for advocates is available from the website of the National Council of La Raza.  SB 1070 is the Arizona statute, in large part currently enjoined by a federal court, that comprises part of the Arizona government’s efforts to conduct immigration enforcement.

Deportation Nation: A Timeline of Immigrant Criminalization.  You are hereby urged to check out this very nifty resource.  Great for progressive educators.  “Click to watch videos and learn how the Founding Fathers allotted power to decide who can enter, and who will be deported.  Context is key to understanding the ‘deportation delirium’ that has led to a record number of removals under the Obama administration.”

Two important memos from John Morton, DHS Asst. Sec. for ICE.  We recently posted these memos on our website because, whenever ICE tinkers with its website, links to important items such as these are broken.  The two memos are:  Guidance Regarding the Handling of Removal Proceedings of Aliens with Pending or Approved Applications or Petitions (PDF) (“This policy outlines a framework for ICE to request expedited adjudication of an application or petition for an alien in removal proceedings that is pending before [USCIS] if the approval of such an application or petition would provide an immediate basis for relief for the alien.”) and  Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens (PDF) (“These priorities shall apply across all ICE programs and shall inform enforcement activity, detention decisions, budget requests and execution, and strategic planning.”).

New Reports Available on the Web

And finally, here’s a selection of the many immigrants’ rights-related reports that have caught your editor’s eye since December (most of the below links are to PDFs).