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Recent State & Local Immigration Developments (May 2014)

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Florida Becomes 20th State to Offer In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students

Advocates had been pushing for tuition equity in Florida for over a decade.  On May 2, 2014 the state legislature passed HB 851, a bi-partisan bill that will grant in-state tuition at public universities and colleges to all qualified Florida residents, regardless of immigration status.  The bill is still awaiting signature by Governor Rick Scott who called it “an exciting day for every student that dreams of a college education.”  Under the new law, Florida high school graduates who attended at least 3 years of high school in the state will now qualify for in-state tuition rates. Approximately 200,000 students may now be able to pursue higher education. According to one young advocate: “Some of Florida’s best and brightest students are forced into low-wage jobs instead of going to college—jobs in construction, agriculture, and housekeeping—that kept me and my fellow immigrant students in the shadows instead of giving us the opportunity to contribute our best to our communities and our state…For me, the passage of the bill is the answer to my prayers and the prayers of all the undocumented youth in Florida.”


Legislature Attempts to Pave the Way for Undocumented Lawyers Seeking Bar Admission in Florida

On May 1, 2014, the Florida legislature passed HB 755, a family law bill with a provision authorizing the State Supreme Court to admit to the Florida Bar undocumented attorneys who were brought to the U.S. as children, have been in the country for over 10 years, and have received work authorization and a social security number as long as they meet the other admission requirements.  This law followed a March decision by the Supreme Court of Florida denying admission to DACA recipient Jose Godinez-Samperio based on his undocumented status.  It is now up to the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decision and decide whether to admit Mr. Godinez-Samperio.  Florida’s law is similar to one passed by the California legislature last year.


Supreme Court Will Not Interfere with Fremont’s Anti-Immigrant Housing Ordinance

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the legal challenge to the Fremont, Nebraska ordinance aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from renting housing.  As a result, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2013 decision, which found the city’s rental ordinance does not interfere with federal immigration laws, will stand.  City police began implementing the ordinance last month and report that 140 occupancy licenses have already been issued to renters who have paid the $5 fee and attested to their immigration status. According to Fremont’s mayor, the town has already spent $186,000 defending and enforcing the ordinance and plans to spend up to $1.5 million moving ahead.  Opponents are monitoring the ordinance’s implementation and may bring a future legal challenge if prospective tenants report discriminatory enforcement.  Kansas’ Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, who defended the ordinance, called the Supreme Court’s decision a “bright green light” for cities in other states in the jurisdiction of the 8th Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota) to adopt similar measures. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases involving similar ordinances in Hazelton, Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch, Texas that were found to be unconstitutional by the 3rd and 5th Circuit Courts. Despite the obvious circuit split, the Supreme Court has been unwilling to get involved so far but may decide to weigh in on the issue at some point in the future.


Federal Government Reminds Schools about Immigrants’ Right to Education

On May 8, the Departments of Education and Justice updated their guidance to public elementary and secondary schools about their obligations to provide all children with equal access to an education.  The resources aim “to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all” and that enrollment processes do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, or immigration status (including the status of students’ parents or guardians).  Included in the practical guidance are examples of the types of documents schools may accept as proof of a child’s age or residency (including foreign birth certificates) and reminders about the impermissibility of requiring certain documents – such as parents’ state-issued driver’s licenses (which are often unavailable to undocumented residents).  Schools are asked to translate information about enrollment into languages other than English for parents with limited English proficiency.  The Department of Education has resolved complaints against 11 schools or districts since 2011 and investigations are ongoing against schools in Louisiana, New Mexico, and South Carolina. The Justice Department has entered into settlement agreements with school districts in Georgia, Florida, and Virginia.  Examples of improper practices include requiring students to provide their immigration status or date of entry into the U.S. or denying enrollment because of a parent’s decision not to provide the child’s Social Security number.    


California Legislature Continues to Lead the Country with Pro-Immigrant Bills

For those looking to promote pro-immigrant integration bills in state legislatures, consider some measures being debated in California this session.  SB 1005 would extend affordable, all-inclusive health coverage to undocumented Californians.  Specifically, it would expand eligibility for Medi-Cal (California's Medicaid program) to low-income individuals who cannot currently qualify due to lack of immigration status and would also create a state-run exchange for the undocumented to purchase health care insurance. Its sponsor claims the bill will save taxpayers money by facilitating preventative treatment and reducing reliance on expensive emergency room care.

Another California bill, SB 1159, would remove professional licensing barriers that prevent undocumented workers from practicing their occupations including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, real estate agents, and security guards.  The bill would allow 40 state boards to accept a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in lieu of a Social Security number as proof of identity for individuals applying for professional licenses.  The bill was passed by the Senate on May 8, 2014 and will now go to the Assembly.  The change would be of tremendous benefit to California’s workforce, an estimated 1.85 million of who are undocumented.

On May 23, the California State Assembly passed AB 1876, a bill that would reduce the cost of phone calls for immigrants and others detained in California’s jails and limit the ability of phone companies, law enforcement agencies, and private prison corporations to profit from inflated phone rates. The exorbitant cost of phone calls for those held in county jails is an affront to human dignity because it prevents detainees from communicating with their families and limits their ability to obtain and communicate with legal counsel.  The bill now moves to the Senate.  

On May 28, the Senate passed SB 1210 which would create the California DREAM loan program to provide loans of up to $4,000 to qualifying undocumented youth who wish to study at participating institutions within the University of California and California State University systems.


Reacting to Court Decisions on Immigration Detainers, Dozens of Counties Say “No” to ICE

Two recent court decisions on the use of ICE detainers have resulted in a domino effect of local law enforcement policies limiting cooperation with ICE in enforcing immigration laws. In March, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that immigration detainers are not mandatory and that Lehigh County, Pennsylvania could be violating the Constitution by complying with ICE detainers.  In April, a U.S. District Court in Oregon found that Clackamas County sheriffs had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of an individual they continued to hold under an ICE detainer without probable cause. In the wake of these decisions, local law enforcement agencies across the country are changing their policies about when they will hold individuals for ICE.  More than 75 counties in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California as well as Lehigh County, Pennsylvania and Somerville, Massachusetts have announced they will only honor detainer requests from ICE under limited circumstances, such as when a federal magistrate has issued an arrest warrant.  Many local law enforcement leaders cited fears of civil liability in addition to concerns about the constitutionality of ICE detainers. A complete list of the jurisdictions that limit compliance with ICE detainers is available here.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is in the process of conducting a review of federal immigration enforcement policies following a request in March by President Obama to look into ways to make enforcement more “humane.” On May 29, 2014, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson testified at an oversight hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security that the controversial Secure Communities program “need[s] a fresh start.”  Through Secure Communities, the fingerprints of people arrested by local police are automatically run through a DHS database so that ICE can decide whether to issue detainers in order to take these individuals into immigration custody.


The 15 States with the Largest Immigrant Populations

The Pew Research Center recently compiled a summary of the percentages of foreign-born residents living in each of the 15 “top immigrant states.” According to the 2012 data, 79% of the country’s total immigrants reside in these 15 states. In California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida, one in five residents are foreign-born. Click here to see the data in addition to how the rankings have changed over the past two decades.




 This document was prepared in May 2014 for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at or (301) 565-4807.

Webinar: Immigration Advocacy: From Capitol Hill to Your Neighborhood

This webinar is for current and aspiring immigrant advocates on a grassroots level. Immigration laws and policies come from the federal government but immigrants' lives are also impacted by state and local laws and policies. This webinar provides an overview of the role each level of government plays in regulating the lives and livelihoods of immigrants. You will learn about our broken federal immigration system and what you can do to help convince Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We also cover the limited role of the Executive Branch in setting immigration policies. Finally, we discuss the types of laws and policies that state and local governments around the country are passing on such important matters as higher education, driver's licenses, immigration fraud, and police involvement in immigration enforcement. In addition to learning about these issues, you will acquire tools and strategies for advocating to change policies and practices in your communities.

Held on: 5/22/14


  • Allison Posner, Director of Advocacy, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC)
  • Jen Riddle, State and Local Advocacy Attorney, CLINIC
  • Reverend Timothy Graff, Pastor, St. Joseph's Parish, Bogota, NJ and Director of Human Concerns, Archdiocese of Newark

Latest Developments in State and Local Immigration Enforcement (Jul 2013)


On May 31, Connecticut’s State Legislature unanimously passed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, the country’s first state anti-detainer law designed to limit participation in the federal/state immigration enforcement partnership known as Secure Communities. Under Secure Communities, fingerprints taken by local police when booking an individual charged with a state or local crime are checked against federal immigration databases to see whether that individual might be removable from the U.S. If Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reason to believe that the arrested individual may be removable, it can issue an immigration detainer requesting thatthe local law enforcement agency continue to hold that individual for up to 48 hours to give ICE a chance to place the person into immigration custody.  Secure Communities has resulted in the deportation of more than 272,000 immigrants, including many with no criminal history or who have only been charged with minor traffic offenses.   Connecticut’s TRUST Act limits the circumstances under which state and local police will hold immigrants for possible deportation by ICE.  The act permits state and local law enforcement to honor immigration detainers only when the requested individual has a felony conviction, is on a terrorist watch list, is a known member of a violent gang, already has an outstanding order of removal or deportation, or presents an unacceptable risk to public safety.  The bill is awaiting signature by the Governor of Connecticut and would go into effect on January 1, 2014.     



On May 16, 2013, the California State Assembly passed a similar bill also called the TRUST Act (AB 4).  The bill would permit local or state law enforcement officials to continue to hold an individual under an ICE immigration detainer only if the individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony and his or her continued detention would not violate any federal, state, or local law or policy. The bill has moved to the State Senate where it awaits further discussion by the Public Safety Committee which will hold its next hearing on July 2, 2013. A version of California’s TRUST Act was passed by both houses in 2012 but vetoed by California Governor Jerry Brown. Over 96,800 Californians have been deported as a result of the Secure Communities program -- more deportations than from any other state.  Last December, California’s Attorney General instructed local law enforcement that participation in Secure Communities was optional given that the program increased distrust of police among immigrant communities and targeted non-criminal immigrants. California taxpayers spend an estimated $65 million each year detaining immigrants for ICE.  According to the TRUST Act’s sponsor and author, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, “Immigrants want to live in safe communities but when trivial issues such as selling tamales without a permit or having barking dogs…can turn into extended detention and deportation, confidence and trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities is eroded…It doesn’t make sense to deport an undocumented Californian today who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”  



 On April 26, 2013, Colorado’s governor signed into law the Community and Law Enforcement Trust Act (HB 1258) which repealed a 2006 law (SB 90) requiring police to report to ICE those individuals in police custody who were suspected of being in the U.S. without authorization.  SB 90 had been blamed for inspiring the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 and other state immigration enforcement laws.  According to the Colorado legislature, this new law will promote public safety by allowing police to build trust with immigrant communities – trust that SB 90 substantially undermined by creating fear of deportation among immigrant witnesses and victims who would otherwise have reported crimes.  Colorado law enforcement and public safety officials assert that community trust is essential for effective local policing and that this law will ensure equal protection and safety for all Coloradans including witnesses and victims of crime.  According to various local law enforcement agencies in Colorado, their time and resources are better spent protecting the public, as opposed to enforcing federal immigration laws.  The enactment of the Community and Law Enforcement Trust Act makes Colorado the first state in the country to repeal a “show me your papers" provision similar to those that are still in effect in Arizona (SB 1070), Alabama (HB 56), Georgia (HB 87), and South Carolina (SB 20).


North Carolina

 On April 10, 2013, North Carolina legislators introduced HB 786, the Reasonable Enactment of Comprehensive Legislation Addressing Immigration Matters (RECLAIM) Act.  The bill contains a provision similar to the “show me your papers” section of Arizona’s anti-immigration law SB 1070. The RECLAIM Act permits local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of any individual they stop, detain, or arrest and who they have reasonable suspicion to believe is unlawfully present in the U.S.  This raises serious concerns about racial profiling by North Carolina law enforcement agents who lack immigration law training and might consider appearance or ethnicity in making such a determination.  The bill also requires undocumented drivers to obtain driving permits that would be marked to distinguish them from the driver’s licenses issued to other state residents. It also permits the police to immediately seize and sell the cars of individuals driving without a driver’s permit or car insurance, and requires the state to charge any undocumented immigrant in criminal custody for the costs of his or her incarceration.  The bill is currently under consideration by the House Finance Committee.  An estimated 325,000  undocumented immigrants reside in North Carolina and foreign-born workers comprise 9.9% of the state’s workforce.          



 On May 24, 2013, a U.S. federal court found that Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in a pattern of racial profiling against Hispanic drivers and passengers.  According to the decision, the MCSO used traffic stops as an excuse to identify and report individuals who are in the country without authorization and considered an individual’s Latino identity as a factor in determining whether to investigate that person’s immigration status.  The federal district court determined that Arpaio’s immigration enforcement policies and practices violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures) and Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Arizona Constitution.  Accordingly, the MCSO was ordered to stop using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in stopping vehicles or making law enforcement decisions related to whether an individual may be in the country without authorization.  The court is overseeing negotiations between the MCSO, the plaintiffs, and the Department of Justice (who filed a separate discrimination lawsuit  against the MSCO) to determine what

specific steps the MCSO needs to take to ensure compliance with the court’s order. The next hearing will be August 30, 2013. Hopefully, this ruling will serve as a deterrent, not only for Sheriff Arpaio, but for other local and state law enforcement agencies who are overstepping the bounds of their authority in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.  

Updated Resource for Community Advocates Concerned With ICE Partnerships with Local Law Enforcement 

 CLINIC has updated its tool kit that provides an overview of ICE partnerships with local law enforcement agencies including the Criminal Alien Program, the Secure Communities Program, and the 287(g) Program. The toolkit also recommends strategies for communities to advocate against the implementation and continuation of these programs.


This document was prepared in July 2013 by CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle. This document is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact Jen Riddle at or (202) 635-7410.

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DOJ’s Findings on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office a Wakeup Call (2011)

Karen Siciliano Lucas

On December 15th, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published its extensive factual findings of racism and discriminatory policing at the highest levels of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).  DOJ observed that not only had racism against Latinos infiltrated almost every aspect of criminal justice in this locality, but MCSO’s bigotry had likely undermined its ability to protect public safety.  DOJ articulated serious concerns that “MCSO’s prioritization of immigration enforcement may have compromised its ability to secure the safety and security of Maricopa County residents.”  Since shifting its focus to immigration enforcement, DOJ reports, “violent crime rates have increased significantly as compared to similarly situated jurisdictions.”  DOJ announced that it will continue to investigate whether MCSO implemented its immigration enforcement “with deliberate indifference to the way in which the program compromises MCSO’s ability to provide effective policing services to Maricopa County’s residents.”

The manner of its enforcement has “poisoned” the relationship between Latinos and MCSO, the Police Executive Research Forum concluded.  By MCSO’s own admission, DOJ reported, fully 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation were improperly investigated over three years.

For those of us who have seen first-hand the devastating fear felt by crime victims (especially by victims of domestic and sexual violence) in jurisdictions where police have gotten into the business of immigration enforcement, the serious attention that DOJ gives to this matter is welcome.  DOJ’s findings in Maricopa County should be a wake-up call to the entire nation that we need to think critically about what we mean by security.  What actually makes us more secure?  Police play a critical public safety function in our communities, but their enforcement of our criminal laws is not all that makes us safe.  Stable and vibrant social institutions – like our families, churches and schools – also ensure our security.  These institutions serve as bulwarks against criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency.  But state-level immigration enforcement undermines these critical institutions.  It breaks up families.  It makes children afraid to go to school.  It empties out Hispanic church congregations.  Does this make us more secure? 

The majority of “offenders” caught up in federal/state enforcement partnerships like Secure Communities are minor traffic offenders or those who have never been convicted of any crime at all.  So public safety is not even being served.  We should be very concerned by the trend in states like Alabama to criminalize the everyday lives of immigrants – actions like asking for work, registering a car, or driving to the hospital.  The more behaviors the state considers “criminal,” the more our institutions are shattered by Secure Communities.

We should be very careful to avoid assuring ourselves that Maricopa County is a solitary case.  DOJ has already found such racism against Latinos to have wormed its way into the policing practices of the New Orleans Police Department, for example.  A recent study by the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley provides evidence to suggest that Secure Communities operates nationally with a racial bias. 

Racial discrimination against Latinos is real.  And it undergirds more laws than we know.  Just ask DOJ.   

DHS Ends Enforcement Agreement with Maricopa County (2011)

Karen Siciliano Lucas

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chose to sever its 287(g) immigration enforcement partnership with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) based on extensive findings by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that MCSO had engaged in a pattern and practice of civil rights violations.  The Department of Justice found overwhelming evidence of discrimination against Latinos in this jurisdiction.  Sadly, these findings demonstrate the potential of these federal/state partnerships to serve as a conduit for racially-biased policing that devastates families and communities.  “Tying federal civil immigration enforcement to local criminal law enforcement is misguided.  It makes our communities less secure, endangers parental rights and family unity, and undermines the federal government’s ability to focus enforcement on truly dangerous criminals,” said Maria M. Odom, CLINIC’s Executive Director.  This is particularly true in states like Alabama, which have sought to criminalize the everyday lives and activities of immigrants.  Programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities can operate as a force-multiplier for these state efforts. 

The DOJ "observed that MCSO has implemented its immigration enforcement program in a way that has created a 'wall of distrust' betweeen MCSO officers and Maricopa County's Latino residents -- a wall of distrust that has significantly compromised MCSO's ability to provide police protection to Maricopa County's Latino residents."  [emphasis added]  CLINIC welcomes the many steps DHS has announced it will take to ensure that ICE's immigration enforcement programs "are not inadvertently a part of constitutional abuses" as ICE Director John Morton stated in his letter to Maricopa County officials.  CLINIC reiterates its call for substantial reforms of the Secure Communities program throughout the United States and calls upon DHS to freeze Secure Communities until these reforms are undertaken.