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Recent State & Local Immigration Developments (Aug 2014)

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New York Passes Law to Protect Immigrants Against Fraud

 On August 6, 2014, New York enacted the Immigrant Assistance Service Enforcement Act to protect individuals against immigration fraud and punish perpetrators. The law ensures that only attorneys and representatives accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) can provide immigration legal services, strengthens translation requirements, increases civil penalties for immigration fraud violations, and creates two new immigration assistance fraud crimes – a felony and a misdemeanor. The legislation also institutionalizes the New York State Office for New Americans, an entity created by the Governor last March to offer immigrant communities legal services, civics and English as a Second Language classes, and other services. This law will serve as a model for other state legislatures around the country. Congratulations to Catholic Charities of New York which worked with other allies to get the bill passed.


Colorado Begins Issuing Licenses to Undocumented Drivers

 Starting August 1, 2014, undocumented residents of Colorado began applying for driver’s licenses at five Department of Revenue locations across the state. Colorado’s law permits residents who cannot demonstrate lawful presence but have a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for a three-year driving license. However, the license is distinguishable from the standard license in that it has a black banner on the front reading “Not Valid For Federal Identification, Voting or Public Benefit Purposes.” An estimated 45,000 people are expected to be eligible.  Colorado was one of eight states that passed laws last year permitting undocumented residents to apply for driving privileges. Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont have already begun granting licenses. California and Connecticut will start in January 2015. The implementation of Oregon’s driver’s license law is on hold pending the outcome of a voter referendum in November.


According to Appeals Court, Arizona Must Grant Driver’s Licenses to DACA Recipients

On July 7, 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Arizona’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to state residents with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). According to the court, the plaintiffs succeeded in showing that they were likely to suffer serious harm as a result of the state policy.  The Appeals Court ordered the lower federal court in Phoenix to issue an order prohibiting the state from refusing to accept DACA recipients’ employment authorization documents as proof that they are authorized under federal law to be present in the United States and, therefore, eligible to receive a driver’s license. However the lower court has not yet issued the order because the state of Arizona has asked for a rehearing. The only other state that continues to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients is Nebraska.


Boston Becomes the Latest Major City to Limit Police Cooperation with ICE

On August 20, 2014, the Boston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance limiting the instances in which police will detain immigrants for possible deportation. The Boston TRUST Act prohibits law enforcement from holding someone pursuant to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer unless the individual in custody has been convicted of a violent crime; has been convicted of a felony in the past ten years; is a registered sex offender; is on the federal terrorist watch list; or is the subject of a criminal warrant. Advocates claim the measure will improve relations between police and immigrants who often fear that reporting crimes will result in deportation. According to federal statistics, nearly half of the 757 individuals deported from Boston and Suffolk County from 2008 through March 2014 had no criminal record. The act will also protect Boston from civil lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of detaining immigrants.  Boston’s Mayor believes the ordinance will uphold immigrants’ rights and preserve public safety, family unity, and due process, and has expressed his intent to sign the measure into law. Boston joins more than 200 municipalities across the country that have adopted anti-detainer measures.  


Maricopa County Agrees to Stop “Self-Smuggling” Prosecutions Under Arizona Law

 In late July, Maricopa County agreed to settle a lawsuit challenging its controversial policy of prosecuting undocumented immigrants for the felony of conspiring to “smuggle themselves” into the United States. According to a 2005 law, it is a state crime to smuggle unauthorized immigrants into Arizona. While this law was passed to target human smugglers, Maricopa County was using it to also charge migrants – i.e. individuals who had paid to be smuggled into the country. Since 2006, the county convicted approximately 14,000 individuals of felony conspiracy to smuggle themselves. This conviction made them ineligible to legalize their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents in the future. Last year, a U.S. District Court in Phoenix found these prosecutions were an unconstitutional attempt by a state to regulate immigration, which is a federal matter. However, Maricopa County appealed the court’s ruling. Now, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has decided to end the litigation, pay $675,000 in attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs, and cease the practice.


San Francisco and Alameda Counties Provide Free Representation to Immigrants Facing Deportation

 New York City was the first jurisdiction in the country to create a functioning public defender system for immigrants facing deportation. In June, the city announced that its municipally funded Immigrant Family Unity Project would guarantee legal representation to all detained immigrants in deportation proceedings. Recently, the public defender offices in San Francisco and Alameda counties have each hired an immigration lawyer to provide free representation to noncitizen public defender clients who face subsequent deportation proceedings. These immigration experts will also advise their fellow public defenders about the complicated intersection between criminal law and immigration law.  Both counties hope that this model will inspire other county public defender offices to develop similar programs which can play a critical role in ensuring due process for immigrants.  In the words of San Francisco Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, “Even a minor brush with the law can trigger devastating consequences for…families. This collateral damage is far worse than a jail sentence and includes losing the right to work, to support one's children and to stay in the country.”


New State-Level Data on DACA Applicants and Recipients

 It has been 2 years since the Obama Administration implemented the DACA program.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released statistics on the characteristics of DACA applicants and recipients, including the number of applicants and recipients and the application approval rates based on state and metropolitan area.  The Brookings Institute took a closer look at the metropolitan data. Finally, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) issued a profile of DACA applicants containing the application rates in the 15 states with the highest number of DACA-eligible residents as well as an interactive map with detailed state profiles of the DACA-eligible population. 


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

Recent State & Local Immigration Developments (June 2014)

New York City Council Approves Municipal Identification Card Program

On June 26, the New York City Council voted 43-3 to create a municipal identification card for city residents. Starting in early 2015, the new “City ID” card will be available to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, and will be recognized as proof of identity by all city agencies. New York’s municipal ID program will be the largest in the country and could benefit as many as 500,000 undocumented immigrants in addition to other vulnerable New Yorkers. The cards will empower holders to report crimes to the police, allow them to establish their identity to emergency medical responders, and enhance their access to essential services from opening bank accounts and obtaining loans to renting apartments, filling prescriptions, and picking up children from school. According to Mayor de Blasio, who is expected to sign the bill into law, "the municipal ID is more than just a card—it provides New Yorkers who are currently living in the shadows with dignity and peace of mind.” Similar programs are active in a handful of cities including New Haven, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A recent Center for Popular Democracy report found that municipal ID cards “play a consistently positive role in empowering and protecting vulnerable communities” and result in practical benefits as well as carrying “symbolic importance in creating a sense of shared community and belonging for immigrants and other marginalized individuals.” If you are interested in advocating for municipal IDs in your county or city, please consult CLINIC’s talking points on why such programs are fundamentally fair, make our communities safer, promote community inclusiveness, and further Catholic social teaching as well as a list of ways in which ID cards will enhance individuals’ daily lives.


New York City Breaks New Ground by Funding Lawyers for All Detained Immigrant Facing Deportation

This month, the New York City Council allocated $4.9 million dollars to fund the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. The program began as a pilot last year in two public defenders’ offices but the increased funding will guarantee that, starting in 2015, all of New York City’s poor detained immigrants have legal representation in their removal proceedings. The federal government does not provide immigrants facing deportation with free court-appointed attorneys, and those who are detained are even less likely to be represented by counsel and, as a result, more likely to be deported. According to Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, “New York City will become the first jurisdiction in the nation to have a functioning public defender system for immigrants facing deportation…[and] no family will have a loved one locked up and deported simply because they cannot afford a lawyer.” The project will fund representation for well over 1,300 immigrants, and advocates hope to eventually expand the project to cover all immigrants facing deportation in the state of New York. Proponents believe a state-wide project would save the government millions of dollars by reducing the length of adults’ stay in detention and the costs of foster care and health care for the U.S. citizen children of those deported, as well as savings to employers who have to replace workers who are detained and deported.


First of Its Kind State Citizenship Bill Introduced in New York Legislature

On June 16, days before the New York legislature adjourned for 2014, the New York Is Home Act (SB 7879/ A. 10129) was introduced.  The bill would grant “state citizenship” to an estimated 2.7 million non-citizens - both documented and undocumented - who have lived and paid taxes in New York for at least three years. Intended to promote fuller civic, economic, and political participation by immigrants, the bill would confer the right to vote in state and local elections and run for public office in addition to access to state Medicaid coverage, professional licensing, tuition assistance, and driver’s licenses. The responsibilities of state citizenship would include swearing to uphold the state's constitution and laws and committing to serve on a jury. Finally, the bill would limit state and local law enforcement officers’ participation in immigration enforcement by prohibiting them from honoring immigration detainers, restricting ICE’s access to state and local facilities such as courthouses, and limiting information sharing with the Department of Homeland Security without a criminal warrant. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Gustavo Rivera, says the bill is a direct response to the failure of Congress to pass federal immigration reform and he hopes it will start a conversation, both locally and nationally, about what changes can be made at the state level. The bill is expected to be re-introduced in 2015 and may serve as a model for other states seeking to pass pro-immigrant integration measures.


Courts Find Utah and Montana Immigration Enforcement Laws Unconstitutional

On June 20, a federal district court in Montana ruled that provisions of a law requiring state agencies to make immigration status determinations before they could grant certain state services were preempted by federal immigration law. Legislative Referendum No. 21 was approved in 2012 by more than 80% of Montana voters and would have required all Montana residents to prove their citizenship or legal immigration status before they could attend a public university, receive unemployment insurance benefits, obtain a professional license, work for a state agency, or receive services for crime victims or the physically disabled. The law permitted state agencies to determine whether or not a Montana resident was an “illegal alien” (the term used by the law) and required state employees to report unlawfully present non-citizens to the federal government. Since only authorized federal agents are permitted to determine someone’s immigration status, the court found this aspect to be an impermissible state regulation of immigration. While the court upheld the provision permitting state agencies to report an individual’s immigration status to ICE, it is believed that they will not do so since they are not permitted to make immigration status determinations in the first place. This law was initially proposed by the legislature, which subsequently referred it to the state’s voters instead.  The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance attorney who filed the lawsuit hopes that Montana’s legislature and other state legislatures will learn “from this ruling that the state has no business enforcing federal immigration policy and needs to leave these issues to the federal government.”

On June 18, a federal judge in Utah struck down several sections of Utah’s 2011 immigration enforcement law, HB 497. Notably, the court found that federal law preempted the provision allowing warrantless arrests based on the suspicion that someone has violated his or her immigration status as well as the provision making it a state crime to harbor or transport an undocumented individual (including such activities as driving someone to church or to the store). The decision also clarified that people are not required to carry federal documents verifying their immigration status with them at all times. The district court upheld the “show me your papers” provision of Utah’s law that allows police to check the immigration status of those stopped for other lawful reasons. However, it imposed limits on how this section can be enforced. For example, Utah police may not prolong the detention of individuals during traffic stops or other types of stops solely to verify immigration status with federal officials.  Provisions similar to those struck down this month by the Utah court have already been halted in other states including Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana. According to an attorney for the plaintiffs, “[this] decision really is the last across the country to issue a stinging rebuke of the anti-immigration agenda.”


Maine Restricts Undocumented Immigrants’ Rights to State Welfare

On June 11, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") announced a change in who will be eligible for welfare benefits under the state’s General Assistance program that helps low-income residents cover necessary living expenses. Under the previous rules, an applicant was only required to demonstrate need, without verifying his or her immigration status, in order to qualify for the municipally-administered benefits that are jointly funded by state and local taxes. Under the new policy, the state will cease its General Assistance funding for undocumented residents. Maine’s DHHS Commissioner claims the change in policy is required under 8 U.S.C. 1621(a), a federal law that prohibits states from providing certain public benefits to non-citizens without lawful status unless the state has adopted a law affirmatively providing for the provision of such benefits.  According to the Commissioner, Maine does not have such a statute. Among opponents to the recent policy change are Maine’s Attorney General who objected to an earlier and broader proposal to deny General Assistance not only to undocumented immigrants but also to those with lawful status including asylum seekers and asylees. According to the Attorney General’s legal opinion, the proposal would violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. and state constitutions and requires approval by the Maine legislature. She warned, “You can’t make every town in Maine a mini immigration office.” The recent change in policy may affect an estimated 1,000 Maine residents.    


Judge Dismisses DACA Grantees’ Lawsuit Seeking In-State Tuition in Georgia

A superior court judge dismissed the lawsuit brought against the Georgia Board of Regents by 39 DACA grantees last year seeking eligibility for in-state tuition at public universities.  According to the board’s policy, non-citizens with “lawful presence” qualify for in-state tuition rates, yet students with DACA have been denied. The plaintiffs argued that this language covers DACA recipients who are recognized as lawfully present by the federal government. According to the court, the case must be dismissed under the concept of sovereign immunity which prevents the state from being sued for “declaratory relief” (a legal term for a judge’s determination of the parties’ legal rights). The DACA students plan to appeal and are also considering filing a new lawsuit in federal court alleging a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.


U.S. Citizen Challenges Tuition Policy of South Carolina Commission on Higher Education 

On June 10, a South Carolina student filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the state Commission on Higher Education’s policy that denies U.S. citizens with undocumented parents eligibility for financial aid and in-state tuition. The plaintiff, a U.S. citizen and long-time South Carolina resident, was denied financial aid and in-state tuition because, as a dependent of undocumented parents who are not considered to be state residents, she is also considered a “non-resident” under the commission’s policy. The lawsuit alleges that the student has been denied equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 


New Report Examines States’ Role in Implementing Immigration Reform

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a report exploring the critical role that states and localities would play if Congress were to pass immigration reform with a legalization component. Among the state and local governments’ responsibilities in implementing legalization and integrating its beneficiaries are conducting outreach and public education, providing documentation needed to meet the eligibility requirements of the program, offering English language and civics education, and protecting immigrants from fraudulent legal service providers.  The report also provides data and a map of the growth and size of the unauthorized immigrant population across the 50 states.


Massachusetts Legislature Declines to Pass Driver’s License Law for Undocumented Residents

On June 23, the Massachusetts legislature voted to send the “Safe Driving Bill” (HR 3285) to study rather than proceeding to approve the legislation.  The bill would have made driver's licenses available to undocumented residents by removing the requirement that applicants present a Social Security number.  Advocates are committed to reviving the bill during next legislative session. Click here for information about the 11 states that have passed laws permitting undocumented drivers to apply for licenses. 


Florida Governor Signs Bills on Tuition Equity and Law Licenses into Law

This month Governor Rick Scott signed into law two pro-immigrant measures passed by the state legislature this session. HB 851 extends eligibility for in-state tuition at public universities and colleges to undocumented residents. Click here to listen to an interview with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops about advocating for passage of the new tuition equity law.  Governor Scott also signed HB 755, a bill that will permit DACA recipients who have been in the U.S. for over 10 years to practice law so long as they meet the other requirements for acquiring a law license in the state.  



This document was prepared in June 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.

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

Recent State & Local Immigration Developments (Apr 2013)

Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Majority of Counties in Oregon Limit Local Police Involvement in Enforcing Immigration Laws

The list of localities that have adopted ICE detainer policies that enhance public safety and build trust between immigrant communities and police continues to grow. On April 16, the Mayor of Philadelphia signed an Executive Order restricting when city police will detain individuals to hand over to ICE for immigration enforcement. Philadelphia’s policy has been called “one of the most progressive in the country.” It prevents police from honoring an immigration detainer request unless the individual has been convicted of a violent felony and ICE has obtained a judicial warrant based on probable cause. This policy comes on the heels of last month’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision, holding that ICE detainers are merely requests and state and local law enforcement are not required to honor them.  

Under an April 18 policy, the Baltimore City Detention Center will only hold individuals for possible deportation by ICE when they have been charged with or convicted of a felony, three misdemeanors, or a “serious” misdemeanor.  In announcing the change, Maryland’s Governor O’Malley stressed the need to limit compliance with ICE detainers to cases where there is an actual public safety threat rather than separating families simply because Congress is unwilling to “reach a reasonable compromise on comprehensive immigration reform.” 

Finally, 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties have ceased honoring ICE detainers. These policies followed a federal court decision finding that Clackamas County sheriffs violated the Fourth Amendment rights of an Oregon immigrant they continued to hold for 19 hours after her state charges were resolved and she was eligible for release. The federal court agreed that immigration detainers are only requests and the mere existence of a detainer did not constitute probable cause permitting the County to continue to detain this individual. This ruling clarified that honoring ICE detainers may result in constitutional violations. Fears of legal liability may spur other cities and counties to adopt detainer policies such as those recently announced in Oregon, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. 

Click here for a comprehensive list of the states and localities that to date have limited compliance with immigration detainers and here for Talking Points on Why States Should Separate Local Policing From Immigration Enforcement.


Harboring Provision of Arizona’s SB 1070 Will Remain Blocked

On April 21, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal brought by the state of Arizona in Arizona v. Valle del Sol, Inc. This case involved the provision of SB 1070 that would have made it a state crime to encourage unauthorized immigrants to enter Arizona or to harbor or transport them within the state. Both the district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had prevented the provision from going into effect after finding that it was preempted by the federal law against harboring (8 U.S.C. §1324). The Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene is a relief for the parishes, teachers, social workers, and others who work regularly with immigrant communities in Arizona and may provide shelter or rides to many of its estimated 400,000 undocumented residents.   


Which Ten States Have the Largest Populations of Unauthorized Immigrants (According to DHS)?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released statistics on the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States as of January 2012. According to the report, the total number of undocumented individuals in the country was 11.4 million. DHS also published the following estimates for the 10 states with the highest numbers of undocumented residents:

  1. California (2,820,000)
  2. Texas (1,830,000)
  3. Florida (730,000)
  4. New York (580,000)
  5. Illinois (540,000)
  6. New Jersey (430,000)
  7. Georgia (400,000)
  8. North Carolina (360,000)
  9. Arizona (350,000)
  10. Washington (270,000)

Virginia Attorney General Extends In-State Tuition Eligibility to DACA Recipients

 On April 29, the Attorney General of Virginia announced that young Virginians who were brought to the U.S. as children and have been recognized under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would no longer be treated as “international students” for college tuition purposes. Moving forward, these students may legally establish Virginia domicile and will be eligible for in-state tuition rates at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. State legislators in Virginia have introduced tuition equity bills for several years but such proposals have been unable to pass. Last year, a group of DACA recipients, who pay out-of-state tuition rates of 230% to 245% more than in-state rates at the Virginia community colleges, filed a lawsuit against the State Council of Higher Education. The change in Virginia tuition policy is being celebrated by the student plaintiffs. According to the Legal Aid Justice Center, which represented them in the legal challenge, “we continue to fight on the federal level for a path to full citizenship for these Virginia students and their families.” 




This document was prepared in April 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.

Recent Immigration Developments from the States (Mar 2014)

Supreme Court Leaves Lower Court Decisions on Anti-Immigrant Housing Regulations Intact

On March 3, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals brought by the towns of Hazelton, Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch, Texas related to their anti-immigrant housing ordinances. As a result, the decisions of the 3rd and 5th Circuit Courts of Appeals, finding that the housing ordinances were unconstitutionally preempted by federal immigration law, remain intact. Both ordinances would have required prospective tenants to prove their lawful presence in the United States and obtain a rental license before being permitted to rent an apartment. At this time, the only discriminatory housing ordinance that has withstood legal challenge is the policy that will go into effect on April 10 in Fremont, Nebraska. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Fremont’s anti-immigrant rental ordinance last year and a majority of the town’s residents voted last month to keep the law. Fortunately, other localities across the country, including Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, are choosing instead to embrace and integrate immigrants into their communities and economies through a number of welcoming initiatives.        


Legal Settlement Blocks Key Sections of South Carolina’s 2011 Anti-Immigrant Law

Following in the steps of Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, South Carolina is the latest state to limit enforcement of its harsh anti-immigrant law. The state has agreed to a settlement in legal challenges to key provisions of SB 20 that sought to criminalize undocumented immigrants and drive them out of the state. Once the settlement with civil rights organizations and the U.S. Department of Justice is approved by the federal court, it will limit how the state can enforce the law’s controversial “show me your papers” provisions which permit local police to request immigration status documents from individuals stopped or detained for other lawful reasons.  The South Carolina Attorney General issued a formal opinion clarifying that law enforcement agents cannot continue to hold people to investigate their immigration status after the original reason for stopping or detaining them has been resolved. The pending settlement will also permanently block the section of the law that makes it a state misdemeanor to fail to carry immigration documents. Finally, the settlement will permanently enjoin the provisions making it a state felony to engage in such routine interactions with undocumented immigrants as driving them to church or renting them a room. Similar provisions criminalizing transporting and harboring have also been blocked in Alabama and Georgia. 


Tuition Equity Bill Advances in Florida Legislature While Financial Aid Bill Is Defeated in New York

On March 20, the Florida House voted to approve HB 851 that would permit undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities. All eyes now turn to the state Senate where the Judiciary Committee recently approved a similar proposal (SB 1400) that must eventually clear the Senate as a whole.  Reports indicate that Governor Scott would sign the tuition equity bill, if passed by the legislature. If Florida does enact this legislation, it would become the 20th state with a law or policy extending in-state tuition to undocumented residents.  Only four of these states (California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington) also permit undocumented students to qualify for state financial aid. New York, which has offered in-state tuition to undocumented residents since 2002, was considering a bill enabling undocumented students to qualify for state financial aid, but the legislation was defeated by the state Senate on March 17.  Click here for CLINIC’s Talking Points on Why States Should Offer In-State Tuition to All Residents.


Massachusetts May Become Third State to Decline to Hold Individuals for ICE

Massachusetts’ SB 1135, an Act to restore community trust in Massachusetts law enforcement, passed out of the Joint Public Safety Committee on March 19. This legislation would limit the use of scarce state and local law enforcement resources to do the federal government’s job of enforcing immigration laws. Specifically, Massachusetts law enforcement would only be able to hold someone under an ICE detainer when the individual is over 18, has been convicted of a certain felony, and has either been ordered removed or charged with being removable, and when ICE has agreed to reimburse the law enforcement agency for all associated costs. Recent ICE statistics show that an alarming percentage of individuals deported from Massachusetts as a result of federal partnerships with local law enforcement had no criminal convictions or had only been charged with minor offenses. According to the bill’s sponsor, it will limit “unjust, unnecessary, and unsafe federal deportation programs, therefore restoring the trust between immigrant communities and police, and increasing the public safety for all residents in Massachusetts.”  While the Maryland legislature had been considering similar legislation this session (HB 29/SB554), the Maryland Law Enforcement Trust Act failed to move out of the necessary House and Senate committees.


This document was prepared in March 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.


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Welcoming the Stranger through Immigrant Integration (Sept 2013)

Welcoming the Stranger through Immigrant Integration discusses five state-level legislative initiatives that promote the integration of immigrants into our states and communities.  The integration measures discussed include legislation that creates tuition equity for all; strengthens human trafficking laws; invests in English language instruction; uses the budget process to integrate immigrants; and enhances access to financial aid and protection against immigration consultant fraud. The document includes model language and talking points that advocates can use to educate legislators about the benefits of integration measures.




Welcoming the Stranger through Immigrant Integration (PDF)

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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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