Press Releases

Press, please contact us here.

Posted on May 23, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today should have been a day of relief and hope for so many men, women and children whose access to protection continues to be denied. However, on Friday, a federal district judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction in Arizona v. CDC, temporarily blocking the Biden administration from terminating the Title 42 expulsion policy.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, and its affiliates have been consistent and clear. The United States must be a place of welcome for those seeking asylum, not just because it is who we are as a people, but because it is the law.

“Title 42 was never about public health. Vulnerable men, women and children are paying the price for a policy based on racism, xenophobia and the politicization of human life,” said CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher. “Since March 2020, immigration officials have used Title 42 to unjustly and illegally expel nearly 1.8 million migrants and asylum seekers. We support the Biden administration’s efforts to appeal the decision. We urge the administration and lawmakers to take swift meaningful action to end this policy, respect our national and international obligations under the law and to finally welcome the men, women and children who seek protection at our borders.”

“The continuation of Title 42 will force already vulnerable people to continue living without water, in makeshift houses, overcrowded shelters, while also struggling to keep safe from organized crime and rogue government officials, without recourse,” said CLINIC Project Attorney Tania Guerrero. “Title 42 is not a matter of policy; it has real life or death consequences for the communities and the people that we serve.”

Posted on May 17, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Kicking off the four-day all-virtual conference for immigration legal advocates, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur M. Jaddou spoke yesterday about her vision for the agency and the work being done internally to rebuild and support USCIS to over 800 attendees at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc, or CLINIC, Convening 2022.

“USCIS is committed to upholding America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility,” said USCIS Director Jaddou. “I look forward to continuing this mission with our incredible workforce and building a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system that gives our communities and those seeking benefits and services from USCIS the opportunity to live and thrive.”

“It was an honor to have Director Jaddou open CLINIC Convening 2022. I have been impressed with the positive, impactful changes that she has already made at USCIS,” said CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher. “By reframing USCIS’ mission statement back to one of ‘welcome’ and ‘fairness,’ Director Jaddou is guiding this agency toward becoming the first-class institution and example of governmental excellence we know it can be.” 

Over the next few days, workshops will be led by industry experts from non-profit, legal and faith-based backgrounds. Representing asylum-seekers in a rapidly changing landscape, addressing anti-Black systemic racism in U.S. immigration law and policy, and strategies for resolving difficult immigration cases are among the real-world topics to be covered at CLINIC Convening 2022. 

CLINIC Convening is CLINIC’s flagship technical assistance, networking and strategy event held on an annual basis. 2022 marks the 23rd year of CLINIC Convening, and the second year of the all-virtual format. We hope to hold CLINIC Convening in person in 2023.

Posted on April 25, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, oral arguments will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court on the Biden v. Texas case to determine whether the Biden administration can officially terminate the illegal and harmful “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or MPP, policy. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, rejects MPP, a racist and xenophobic policy that forces people facing dangerous and dehumanizing conditions to navigate a complex legal system with little access to due process or respect for their full human rights.

“The legal rights, safety and humanity of thousands of men, women and children have been ignored as they have been forced to wait in life-threatening conditions in Mexico due to MPP,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of CLINIC. “Catholic Social Teaching and scripture remind us that human beings exercise their God-given dignity when they flee to save their lives. We pray that the Supreme Court will recognize that MPP is both illegal and immoral so that the Biden administration can put an end to the shameful program once and for all.”

Compelled by Catholic faith and the law, CLINIC filed an amicus brief on March 21 to urge the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court ruling brought by Texas and Missouri, which ordered the government to reinstate MPP.

All people seeking asylum are entitled to legal representation and justice and must be treated fairly, regardless of how much money they have or the color of their skin. CLINIC implores the Supreme Court to recognize MPP for what it is — racist, dangerous and meritless — and urges the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court ruling.

Posted on April 21, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, released a comprehensive toolkit to help state and local lawmakers and advocates put in place well-constructed laws and policies to protect immigrant survivors of violence, and in turn, build stronger communities.

The U visa was created by Congress in 2000 to provide protection to undocumented immigrant survivors of crimes — allowing them to work with local law enforcement without fear of deportation and having their families torn apart and destabilized. In addition to the vital humanitarian protection U visas provide, they are a key tool in building trust and communication in communities.

Viviana Westbrook, CLINIC’s State and Local Advocacy Attorney and author of the toolkit said: “State and local law and policy makers should prioritize putting in place effective U visa certification laws and policies to create stronger and safer communities for everyone. The U visa process should ensure that trust is built and maintained between undocumented communities and law enforcement, that there are clear guidelines for legal services providers assisting immigrant survivors of crimes on their cases, and that survivors can get relief as soon as possible. There must also be accountability measures for when law enforcement falls short — trust is fragile and it must be prioritized.”

The toolkit includes a map to provide a guide for lawmakers and advocates on where U visa work is urgently needed. CLINIC is available as a resource to lawmakers and advocates for questions and guidance needed on next steps at stateandlocaladvocacy@cliniclegal.org.

Posted on April 18, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC — the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services organizations — released this statement as Catholics across the world celebrate the season of renewal ushered in by Holy Week and Easter:

The United States can and must welcome people seeking asylum because it is the law, because it is right, and because we can.

CLINIC, which represents the largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services organizations in the United States, knows that the amount of resources available to care for and provide legal services to asylum seekers is a decision that belongs to the Biden administration. It is simply wrong to say that we cannot welcome because we are stretched too thin or because there is not enough to go around. The decision against providing adequate resources to welcome those in need of protection is a policy choice.

When God calls us to welcome the stranger, God calls us to action. Welcome means to offer food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and other services, which are all human rights. It is the responsibility of the U.S. government and the responsibility of all of us to act accordingly. In a nation with the wealth of the United States, the failure to do so is unconscionable.

For Catholics, Easter is a season of renewal, of light, of hope. It is a time when we reflect on all that is possible. CLINIC knows that what is possible is a United States that upholds the rights and dignity of asylum seekers and puts in place systems, laws, and policies that truly and actively welcome.

Title 42 was never about public health, it is about racism, xenophobia, and the politicization of human life, and there is no place for Title 42 in a moral and just nation.

As Texas Governor Greg Abbott, members of Congress and others attempt to stoke fear around the end of Title 42, CLINIC renews our call on the Biden administration to end this deadly and devastating policy immediately and to do everything in its power to ensure such a travesty of human rights and morality never happens again.

Let us emerge together from this Easter season recommitted and renewed to the values that led the United States to create the asylum system in the first place — a commitment to welcome.

Posted on April 15, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – We are grateful that the Biden administration has designated Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Cameroon, a decision warranted under both justice and the law. As part of the Temporary Protected Status – Deferred Enforced Departure Administrative Advocacy Coalition, or TPS-DED AAC, CLINIC has been calling for TPS for Cameroon since the Biden administration’s transition as well as during the previous administration. Moving forward, we call on the administration to act more quickly to change and save lives through TPS designations regardless of race. 

“Congress created TPS so that the Department of Homeland Security could quickly provide humanitarian protection to immigrants in the United States who are unable to safely return home because of war, environmental disaster, or other deadly conditions in their country,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director at CLINIC. “This administration used TPS as Congress intended in its response to war in Ukraine by designating TPS in a week. When it came to war and humanitarian disaster in Cameroon, they waited for more than a year.”

CLINIC and the TPS-DED AAC recently authored a policy brief discussing why TPS for Black majority countries is so crucial in the inherently racist U.S. immigration system: “As a blanket protection—as opposed to individualized determinations like under U.S. asylum and refugee law—TPS can act as a safety net, able to catch people who slip through other cracks of the system, including due to the systemic racism inherent in our nation’s immigration laws. TPS designations for Black majority countries are particularly impactful in providing life-saving protection especially given disproportionate criminalization, detention, and deportation of Black immigrants in the United States.” 

Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy said: “This life-saving victory was secured by countless hours of work and the extraordinary leadership of Black immigrants, including those at Haitian Bridge Alliance and Cameroon Advocacy Network. While we celebrate, we also pray for and think about the Cameroonians who were deported to danger when TPS should have been in place. Slow-walked TPS designations are deadly and fly in the face of Congressional intent and the values of safe haven that underpin the law. Equitable policy and practice requires that TPS be used broadly, boldly, and immediately to respond to humanitarian crisis for all countries in need.” 

CLINIC calls on the Biden administration to also immediately designate TPS for Ethiopia and Mauritania.

Posted on April 14, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The keynote speaker for CLINIC Convening 2022 will be Ur M. JaddouDirector, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jaddou was appointed as the Director of USCIS on Aug. 3, 2021, bringing years of administration experience and commitment to immigration law to the role.

The keynote session will NOT be recorded and will only be made available to those attending CLINIC Convening.

CLINIC Convening will take place in an all-virtual format May 16-19, 2022. Over four days, CLINIC affiliates, other nonprofit staff, government officials, lawyers and members of the media will learn how to navigate the United States’ complex and ever-changing immigration legal system, network with practitioners and advocates from across the United States and strategize in an engaging online conference.

Members of the media who wish to cover or learn more about CLINIC Convening should email jdickey@cliniclegal.org.

WHAT: CLINIC Convening 2022 — Power in Community
WHO: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. affiliates, partners, and colleagues in the government, nonprofit, and immigration legal sectors
WHEN: Afternoons on May 16-19, 2022 (see full schedule here)
WHERE: Online. Members of the media who wish to cover or learn more about the event should email jdickey@cliniclegal.org. More information about the event and sessions is available here.

About CLINIC Convening 2022

CLINIC Convening is CLINIC’s flagship technical assistance, networking, and strategy event, held on an annual basis. 2022 marks the 23rd year of CLINIC Convening.

Workshops will be led by industry experts from non-profit, legal and faith-based backgrounds. Representing asylum-seekers in a rapidly changing landscape, addressing anti-Black systemic racism in U.S. immigration law and policy, and strategies for resolving difficult immigration cases are among the real-world topics to be covered at CLINIC Convening 2022.

Participants can follow tracks on humanitarian legal options, skills-building for immigration law practitioners, family-based immigration, deportation, advocacy and other issues; or choose the sessions that interest them most from more than 30 offerings.

In addition to policy and legal sessions, there will also be time set aside for spiritual wellness with opening masses each day. Yoga, chat rooms and even virtual magic shows are also part of the multi-day agenda.

CLINIC Convening 2022 sponsors include LawLogixCatholic Charities USA,  Catholic Health Association of the United States, and Border Angels. Contributions to the Lily Gutierrez Memorial Fund provide scholarships to cover the cost of CLINIC Convening for CLINIC affiliates who cannot afford to pay. Please donate here and add "LG Fund" to the "Memo" field. Thank you for your support.

Continuing Legal Education credits are available for those who attend certain workshops. DOJ Accredited Representatives and other nonprofit professionals can receive a certificate of attendance.

Questions from the media can be directed to jdickey@cliniclegal.org. Other questions about the conference can be sent to convening@cliniclegal.org.

Posted on April 1, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today the Biden administration announced the termination of the Title 42 policy, which was misused for over two years at the U.S southern border to illegally expel approximately 1.7 million people under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Title 42 has been disproportionately harmful to Black migrants, particularly Haitians, and resulted in nearly 10,000 documented instances of torture, kidnapping, sexual assault and murder.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, has long called on the administration to end Title 42, joining public health experts, human rights and immigrant rights groups, faith leaders, members of congress and countless other advocates. Ending Title 42 is a crucial first step towards rebuilding an equitable and welcoming asylum system that protects the safety and dignity of all migrants.

While today’s decision is important and right, CLINIC recognizes that without proactive measures, the United States’ long legacy of racism and exclusion in immigration policymaking will continue to plague the process with which asylum seekers are received. As a nation with full capacity and resources to ensure a fair and humane asylum system, CLINIC calls on the Biden administration to provide a comprehensive and clear plan to build a fair, humane, dignifying and anti-racist asylum system.

“We know that our nation is at its best when we welcome refugees and asylum seekers with open arms,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of CLINIC. “We see this reflected in the quick steps the Biden administration has taken to respond to the refugee and humanitarian crises caused by war in Ukraine. As the administration takes this long-awaited first step towards removing barriers to asylum, we urge the administration to make a full and unequivocal commitment to rebuild an asylum system that welcomes all people with dignity. Heeding the callings of their faith, CLINIC’s affiliates and partners at the border are ready and eager to work with the administration to welcome families, children and adults to safety immediately.”

“Today’s decision was the result of steadfast advocacy by Black and brown immigrant leaders calling for a just and humane asylum system that upholds U.S. and international law and basic morality for everyone,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy. “We will not forget the lives lost and those harmed by this illegal and racist policy. Now, we call on the Biden administration to work quickly to ensure proper implementation of this decision and to go further and build an asylum system that welcomes all who are fleeing for their lives with dignity. CLINIC will continue to stand by asylum seekers and our partners to hold the Biden administration accountable to its promises and reject the politicization of human life.”

Posted on March 24, 2022

WASHINGTON — NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), today announced the launch of a new initiative and task force, Catholics Against Racism in Immigration, or CARI, which will “[take] action against systemic racism in the U.S. immigration system,” according to their mission statement.

Recognizing the need for a strong, unified Catholic voice against racism in the U.S. immigration system in the wake of the continued use of Title 42, the Remain in Mexico policy, and the treatment of Haitian refugees at our Southern border, CARI member organizations will create an active agenda that centers the work of Black, Asian, Indigenous, and other immigrant-led organizations. This will include supporting policy advocacy, amplifying grassroots efforts, and organizing Catholic actions against racism in immigration. In the months ahead, NETWORK Lobby and CLINIC will expand CARI membership to other Catholic-affiliated organizations committed to and active in anti-racist work in immigration.

Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby, said:

“As Catholics, we cannot be indifferent to the suffering of immigrants. It is a sacred obligation and central to our Catholic identity. We are also called to proclaim all life has value and dignity, thus we are painfully aware of the blatant discrimination experienced by our Black and Brown siblings as a result of the U.S. immigration system. Disparate treatment in our system is most apparent when the U.S. welcomes refugees from majority-white nations — such is the case with families from the Ukraine — while refusing to make those same policies and protections available to the people of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Haiti and other Black-majority nations facing similar turmoil.

“Violence, political oppression, and starvation as a result of climate change are drivers of migration. We must have an asylum system that functions for all people so that we are not deporting the most vulnerable back to violence or even death. As Pope Francis said in his message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, ‘God created us in his image … a communion in diversity.’ We are honored to work with CLINIC, a deeply knowledgeable and respected organization, to answer answer with the call to love one another by ending racial discrimination in our laws.”

Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of CLINIC, said:

“As the nation’s largest network of immigration legal services providers, CLINIC knows that systemic racism creates blockades for human beings seeking security, stability, and opportunities in every corner of the U.S. immigration system. It manifests in lack of language access and cultural competency, disproportionate detentions and deportations, failures to designate countries for Temporary Protected Status, and much more. Our Catholic faith calls us to action to ensure that the rights and dignity of all are upheld in U.S. immigration law and policy. Today, as we launch this initiative with our esteemed partners at NETWORK Lobby, we recommit to the anti-racist work demanded by our faith and to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with impacted communities and all working to eradicate racism in immigration.” 

###

CARI (Catholics Against Racism in Immigration) is a Task Force founded by NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) in 2022 to build Catholic voices against racism in immigration.

Posted on March 22, 2022

Settlement Follows a 2020 Lawsuit Brought by TPS Beneficiaries and Advocates Over Unlawful Trump-Era Policy

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Late yesterday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agreed to restore a path to permanent residency for many Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries blocked by then-acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — an illegally appointed Trump official. Because of this agreement, TPS beneficiaries impacted by this policy will be able to reopen and dismiss their removal orders and apply to adjust their status to become permanent residents — eliminating the threat of deportation if their TPS protections are revoked in the future.

The agreement is the result of a new settlement in CARECEN v. Cuccinelli, a lawsuit filed by Democracy Forwardthe Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)Montagut & Sobral, PC, and Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP in August 2020. Seven Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) sued the Trump administration for unlawfully denying tens of thousands of TPS beneficiaries the opportunity to take steps to adjust their immigration status and become permanent residents. In the lawsuit, the seven current TPS holders shared their stories. Now, each one has the opportunity to obtain permanent residence.

The December 2019 policy change, disguised as a mere clarification, was one of the Trump administration’s many efforts to eliminate TPS protections for tens of thousands of eligible men and women. The groups’ lawsuit alleged the change violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act; was motivated by the Trump administration’s racial and anti-immigrant bias; and was unlawfully authorized by Ken Cuccinelli, whose appointment was deemed illegal by a federal court in March 2020 in response to a separate lawsuit brought by Democracy Forward, CLINIC, RAICES, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

“Today’s agreement will allow TPS beneficiaries — many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades and built deep roots in their communities — to once again seek permanent residency and extinguish the threat of deportation if their TPS protections are revoked,” said Democracy Forward Senior Counsel John Lewis. “The Trump administration’s policy illegally sought to destabilize the lives of tens of thousands with TPS protections. We’re proud to have helped restore protections that ensure our neighbors have a path to pursue permanent residency.”

“This victory will change the lives of those individuals impacted,” stated Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of CARECEN. “As an organization, we are proud of our continued efforts to defend our community as they integrate into their new home in the U.S. CARECEN will work with those TPS members that qualify under the settlement and also keep fighting to ensure that all TPS beneficiaries who have been in the U.S. for over 20 years and have complied with everything that has been asked of them are able to apply for legal permanent residence.”

“As an organization grounded in Catholic social teaching, we celebrate today's settlement that will prevent family separation and provide pathways to citizenship for thousands of TPS beneficiaries,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “Our faith tradition teaches us that we are to stand for justice and against any barrier to human flourishing. This agreement eliminates the barrier of an unlawful policy created by an illegally appointed official. We are proud to have stood among those who fought against this policy, and we celebrate alongside our immigrant brothers and sisters whose lives will now be profoundly changed.”

Concepción de Montagut and Germaine Sobral from Montagut & Sobral P.C., who brought forward their client’s cases affected by the policy, said: “When we saw the negative impact the policy change had on the long-awaited permanent residence applications of our clients, we knew we had to fight the policy. We are proud to have been part of a team that has fought for this change that will now allow not only our six named clients, but also thousands of TPS beneficiaries to reopen and dismiss their deportation cases and proceed with their permanent residence applications so they can remain in the US with their families and turn their dreams into reality.”

Learn more about the lawsuit here

###

Democracy Forward Foundation (“Democracy Forward”) is a nonprofit legal organization founded in 2017 that litigates cases involving government action on behalf of organizations, individuals, and municipalities. The organization has taken 650 legal actions and achieved victories supporting democracy and improving the lives and wellbeing of people and communities. Democracy Forward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

CARECEN’s mission is to foster the comprehensive development of the Latino population in the Washington metropolitan region by providing direct legal services, housing counseling, citizenship education, and community economic development, while promoting grassroots empowerment, civic engagement, and civil rights advocacy.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

Montagut and Sobral P.C. is an Immigration law firm in Falls Church, VA, which has been in business since 1986. Their attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing immigration law, and currently the majority of their clients are from Central America.

Posted on March 21, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — On the second anniversary of the implementation of Title 42, CLINIC urges the Biden administration to fully revoke the inhumane policy that has denied asylum seekers the opportunity to seek life-saving protection and returned them to harm. Title 42, a public health code first invoked by the Trump administration and affirmatively continued by the Biden administration, has been misused under the guise of curbing the spread of coronavirus to expel asylum seekers, resulting in nearly 10,000 incidents of kidnapping, torture, rape and other violent attacks against men, women and children subjected to the policy under the Biden administration.

Today’s shameful anniversary comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control terminated Title 42 for unaccompanied minors. While grateful that asylum-seeking children have been shielded from being expelled under Title 42, CLINIC stands with medical professionals and the public health commuity to demand a complete rescission of the policy “that has no basis in public health best practice.” Since the beginning of his term, President Biden has been repeatedly called upon to end Title 42, which he initially considered but ultimately defended in court.

“It is shameful that we have reached this anniversary,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “The science has told us, over and over, that Title 42 is not justified. Now that the CDC announced it will no longer be blocking unaccompanied children under the order, the lack of justification is even more glaring. If migrant children are not a threat to public health, then neither are migrant families or adults. While we watch much of the nation remove their masks at the public health guidance of this administration, we simultaneously watch the same administration continue to expel vulnerable people back to harm for the supposed protection of public health. We will not stay silent in the face of such hypocrisy. Title 42, as it is being used, is harmful, racist, xenophobic, and outright sinful, and it must be terminated immediately.” 

Posted on March 16, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security announced Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Afghan nationals currently living in the United States. This designation will safeguard an estimated 77,000 people who arrived in the United States as of March 15, 2022, from return to the devolving and life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan.

As a member of the Temporary Protected Status – Deferred Enforced Departure Administrative Advocacy Coalition, CLINIC was one of over 100 organizations that called on the Biden administration to designate Afghanistan for TPS, following the leadership of the Afghan American Foundation, the Afghan American Community Organization and other Afghan-led organizations in securing this protection. While celebrating today’s announcement, CLINIC calls on the administration to use TPS more broadly and calls on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act immediately. CLINIC also urges the administration to implement this decision swiftly and effectively by immediately publishing a Federal Register Notice to open registration and putting in place a robust, culturally competent outreach plan.

“We commend the Biden administration for making this life-saving decision that will protect Afghan people in the United States,” stated Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “TPS for Afghanistan is a crucial part of the United States’ response, but it is just that: one part. A robust humanitarian response to the crisis in Afghanistan also includes the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees to access a pathway to legal permanent residency and gain the stability they need to build new lives. Our Catholic faith reminds us that we worship a shepherd God that is willing to leave most of his sheep to find the one that is missing (Matthew 18). While TPS for Afghanistan is the right decision, we must consider all Afghan people in our midst and ensure that we do not allow any one of them to fall through the cracks of our immigration system.”

Said Lisa Parisio, director of advocacy at CLINIC: “TPS is critically needed for Afghanistan. As we commend the Biden administration for this decision, we also urge a comprehensive response to the crisis in Afghanistan, including passing the Afghan Adjustment Act, and responding to other humanitarian and protection needs in line with the priorities of impacted people.

In addition to safeguarding Afghans in the U.S., TPS also sends an important message to the world that granting humanitarian protection to vulnerable people is the correct, moral, and humane response to conflict and disaster. The administration can and should use this readily-available tool more broadly, for all people in the U.S. in need of protection, including immediate TPS designations for Ethiopia, Cameroon and Mauritania.”

Posted on March 3, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, commends the Biden administration for making the right decision to designate Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Ukraine. The decision will protect approximately 28,000 people in the United States from return to the war and humanitarian disaster in Ukraine.

“Temporary Protected Status is a pillar of the U.S. humanitarian immigration system,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director. “Congress, in its wisdom, gave Homeland Security this authority for moments exactly like this, to ensure no man, woman or child is returned to conditions where their lives or freedom would be at risk. As Catholics, TPS designations put into action our faith values to welcome, share resources and recognize the dignity of all.”

CLINIC, a member of the Temporary Protected Status – Deferred Enforced Departure Administrative Advocacy Coalition, joined a letter endorsed by 177 organizations calling for TPS for Ukraine delivered to the administration last Friday.

“The urgent calls on the Biden administration to designate TPS for Ukraine are preceded by calls for TPS for Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mauritania, Afghanistan and other countries,” said Lisa Parisio, Director of Advocacy at CLINIC. “Designations for these countries are also warranted under the law. TPS for Black-majority countries can be particularly crucial in meeting the Congressional intent of TPS. As a protection for all nationals of a country, as opposed to a case-by-case determination, TPS can serve as a safety net, saving the lives of people who slip through cracks in our asylum system, including due to systemic racism.”

“TPS sends a message from the U.S. government to the world that humanitarian protection in war and disaster must be prioritized,” said Parisio. “The backlog of TPS designations for Black-majority countries here in the U.S. mirrors the anti-Blackness we’re seeing as African students and others in Ukraine are denied access to escape the conflict. As the Biden administration calls for Ukrainians to be protected through this TPS designation, it should designate TPS for Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mauritania and other countries whose nationals face grave danger if they are forced to return.”

Posted on March 2, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC commends the Department of Homeland Security’s announcements today that it is extending and redesignating Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for South Sudan and newly designating TPS for Sudan. These announcements provide life-saving protection from deportation for South Sudanese and Sudanese nationals already in the United States as well as access to work permits.

“We are grateful to the administration for these critically-needed TPS decisions,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “The last cut off dates for people to qualify for TPS for South Sudan were in 2016 and for Sudan, 2013. With conflict and humanitarian disaster deeply affecting both countries, these decisions are correct under the law and our values as Americans to offer safe haven, welcome and protection to those in greatest need.”

CLINIC commends the leadership of our Black immigrant-led partners African Communities Together, UndocuBlack Network, Haitian Bridge Alliance and others in securing these protections. CLINIC recently joined them and 150 other NGOs in a letter to the Biden administration calling for maximum TPS protection for South Sudan. 

Lisa Parisio, advocacy director at CLINIC said: “TPS for Black-majority countries can be particularly crucial in meeting the Congressional intent of TPS to save lives. As a protection for all nationals of a country, as opposed to a case-by-case determination, TPS can serve as a safety net, saving the lives of people who slip through cracks in our asylum system, including due to systemic racism.”

CLINIC particularly applauds DHS for announcing it will publish the decision on South Sudan in the Federal Register tomorrow, March 3, when the decision is due under law. “Delays in publishing official TPS decisions in the Federal Register under the previous and current administrations have had serious consequences for the people these announcements intend to benefit,” said Parisio. “Late Federal Register Notices, compounded by processing delays at USCIS, can leave people without access to the documents they need to work, obtain drivers' licenses, and other basic needs of daily life. We are glad to see this announcement for South Sudan in the Federal Register and hope to see more timely notices in the future.” 

While CLINIC celebrates the decisions announced today, we call on the administration to use TPS more broadly and boldly by granting immediate designations for Cameroon, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries in crisis.
 

Posted on February 24, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, as the world watches with deep sorrow and concern over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, CLINIC calls on the Biden-Harris administration to extend an immediate 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status, known as TPS, or Deferred Enforced Departure, known as DED, and Special Student Relief, known as SSR, for Ukraine. In response to this unprovoked attack, Ukrainians will be forced to flee their homes and Ukrainians in the United States must be kept safe from being returned to harm.

Said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director: “War is evil and incongruent with our faith values to honor and protect human life. As we watch in horror the attacks unfolding in the neighborhoods and homes of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, we urge President Biden to protect human life by extending TPS, DED and SSR to Ukrainians currently in the United States. CLINIC has long supported the expansive use of TPS and these other protections to safeguard human lives. There should be no hesitation to act now — the Catholic faith we share with President Biden compels us, and human lives depend upon it.”

Said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy: “TPS, DED and SSR are all readily available tools that the administration has at its fingertips to provide life-saving protection to Ukrainians here in the U.S. Extending TPS sends a direct and clear foreign policy message to the world that Ukrainian civilians must be protected everywhere. TPS, DED and SSR should always be a part of a U.S. response to war and conflict and we call on the Biden administration to use its clear authority now. There should be no debate and no delay.”

Posted on February 17, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, joins dozens of organizations today in the call for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Cameroon on the national Black Immigrant Advocacy Day of Action. As founder and steering committee member of the Temporary Protected Status Deferred Enforced Departure Administrative Advocacy Coalition, or TPS-DED AAC, CLINIC has been continuously calling for TPS for Cameroon as conflict and humanitarian crises make safe return to the country impossible.

The TPS-DED AAC and CLINIC’s advocacy on Cameroon TPS began under the previous administration, with repeated asks starting in the earliest days of the Biden administration, even before inauguration. CLINIC laid out the country conditions and case for Cameroon TPS in this backgrounder, delivered to the Biden administration more than a year ago. The Biden administration has failed to newly designate any African country for TPS.

Today, with Black History Month well under way and the crisis in Cameroon still raging, Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy, issued the following statement:

“During the transition and early days of the Biden administration, the TPS-DED AAC delivered policy recommendations supported by hundreds of organizations calling for an immediate designation of TPS for Cameroon. A year later, the situation remains dire, and the administration has yet to respond. TPS is a readily available tool the administration has at its disposal right now to provide life-saving protection to Cameroonians in the U.S. Conditions in Cameroon are life-threatening. Cameroonians in the U.S. are trapped in detention centers and at risk of deportation, and some have been deported back to Cameroon, subjected to the violence they first fled. TPS is clearly warranted under the law and by basic morality. The delay on TPS for Cameroon is deadly and it must end now.”

Posted on February 9, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC celebrates the rollout of an updated mission statement and core values for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The new mission statement makes a clear announcement that the agency is returning to its congressionally mandated purpose. The new mission statement delivers a vision of inclusion and reminds us that our nation’s strength comes from our diversity.

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director, issued the following statement:

“USCIS is more than a bureaucracy, it is the gateway for people to seek humanitarian protection, to contribute to our economy, to serve our communities, to unite with their families, to seek education at colleges and universities across our country, and a lasting way to call the United States ‘home.’ This new mission statement reflects the dignity and humanity of those seeking to pass through those gates. Consistent with the core tenets of our faith tradition, it calls us to welcome.

As USCIS enters this new chapter, CLINIC applauds the leadership and vision of Director Jaddou, the first woman and daughter of immigrants to lead the agency. Under difficult circumstances, Director Jaddou is working to correct the agency’s course, with a focus on accessibility and human dignity. For USCIS’ leadership and all the agency’s employees to continue in this vital work, CLINIC calls on the administration and Congress to ensure that USCIS has the funding and resources needed to efficiently process applications and fulfill this new, dignifying mission.”

Posted on February 2, 2022

Hearing livestream: youtube.com/channel/UCljsiF5QnMYgaAU6CCuXOjg

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Maryland House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing today on HB114, “Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Program,” a bill that would guarantee access to legal representation for immigrants in removal proceedings. Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, has submitted written testimony in support of the bill, and Viviana Westbrook, CLINIC’s State and Local Advocacy Attorney, will provide oral testimony at the hearing.

The bill hearing will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. ET on Zoom and the Maryland House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel. Ms. Westbrook’s remarks are available here.

What: CLINIC testimony in support of HB114, “Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Program,” in a Bill Hearing, Maryland House Judiciary Committee
Who: Viviana Westbrook, State and Local Advocacy Attorney, CLINIC
Where: YouTube
When: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at 1 p.m. ET

Background: As the nation’s largest charitable immigration legal services network, CLINIC embraces the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger and strives to promote the dignity and protect the rights of vulnerable immigrant populations. CLINIC supports Maryland HB 114 because its passage would ensure the fair and efficient operation of immigration deportation proceedings in the state of Maryland and in other states where Maryland residents appear. The bill would uphold due process and preserve the stability of families, neighborhoods, places of employment, and communities.

Posted on January 27, 2022

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, as Vice President Kamala Harris visits Honduras to attend the historic inauguration of President-elect Xiomara Castro, CLINIC calls on the Biden-Harris administration to newly designate Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Honduras.

“As a Catholic organization, CLINIC stands in solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable people, and we urge our lawmakers to do the same,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director. “It should be no surprise to Vice President Harris in her visit to Honduras that the nation is still reeling from the effects of hurricanes Eta and Iota. As President-elect Castro transitions to her new role, the U.S. government would do well to support her and the people of Honduras by newly designating TPS and providing some stability for both the Northern Triangle region and Hondurans currently in the United States.”

It is estimated that hurricanes Eta and Iota caused $10 billion in economic damage to Honduras, as well as devastating infrastructural damage that has left tens of thousands homeless and isolated from humanitarian assistance. As a staunch advocate for the expansive use of TPS, CLINIC believes the U.S. must newly designate TPS for Honduras immediately to protect vulnerable people and to ensure that deportations to the nation do not add further instability and volatility to an already devastated landscape.

“Historically, TPS has been underused as the vital, life-saving protection it is and this is certainly the case under the Biden administration,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy. “CLINIC continues to call on the Biden administration to put in place a policy to use TPS broadly and boldly. The expansive use of TPS is essential to protect human life, keep families together, rebuild our economy, and serve other vital domestic and foreign policy interests.”

In addition to extended protections for Honduras, CLINIC urges the Biden-Harris administration to issue new TPS designations for other Central American countries impacted by the hurricanes and other factors, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

Posted on December 16, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new policy brief from CLINIC outlines recommendations to ensure that essential religious workers are not taken out of service during the pandemic due to backlogs and other issues at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigrant religious workers provide vital services to American communities, including serving as Chaplains in hospitals, teaching in schools, giving Mass, and officiating weddings and funerals. Due to systemic issues at USCIS, many foreign-born religious workers have been forced to stop working or leave the country altogether.

Co-author Elnora N. Bassey, Policy Advocate and former Religious Immigration Attorney at CLINIC said: “U.S. religious organizations who employ foreign-born workers are seriously understaffed due to processing delays and faulty USCIS policies. Losing religious workers — who teach, visit the sick and shut in, officiate weddings and funerals, or provide support where needed — is simply damaging to American communities, especially during the pandemic.”

Co-author Megan S. Turngren, Federal Advocacy Liaison and former Religious Immigration Attorney at CLINIC, said: “Churches are having to cancel or alter their hours for services, confession and community activities. Hospitals are without chaplains. Schools are missing teachers. Short-staffed community centers are stretched thin as they try to serve the most vulnerable. These are some of the places where USCIS backlogs affect communities around the United States every day. These are essential jobs and essential workers, and USCIS should change course immediately to treat them as such.”

The recommendations in this policy brief are informed largely through the experiences of CLINIC’s Religious Immigration Services, or RIS, section, which is one of the United States’ largest stakeholders and leading experts in religious immigration law. RIS represents more than 800 foreign-born religious workers serving in more than 120 nonprofit religious organizations annually.

Read the policy brief here.

Posted on December 9, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A coalition of more than 80 Catholic groups that support, protect, and advocate for refugees is calling on U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, both themselves Catholics, to end the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” (MPP) a cruel and illegal Trump-era policy that was restarted this week, forcing people seeking safety to wait for their immigration hearings in Mexico.

In an open letter, the groups, which include Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, expressed deep concern at the continuation and expansion of the MPP program, writing, “It is shocking that the U.S has decided to move forward with reimplementation of MPP and expand it to countries such as Haiti. The consequences this policy has on the safety, dignity, and rights of asylum-seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are immense and devastating.”

The groups cited Pope Francis’ recent message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees before urging the United States, “to end this deadly policy as quickly as possible and to put forth a plan for accountability, including any and all steps necessary to ensure that MPP, or anything like it, never happens again.”

The groups also called on the Mexican government to join their efforts to persuade the Biden administration in pushing for an end to MPP, noting that the administration’s recent decision to lift travel restrictions calls the continuation of the deadly policy further into question.

“Instead of turning asylum-seekers away, and perhaps sending them to their death,” the letter argues, “the U.S. should offer COVID-19 vaccines for those who have been unable to access them in countries of origin and allow their asylum cases to proceed.”

The letter, which was sent to President Biden and President López Obrador today, is available in full with a complete list of signers here in English and here in Spanish.

Posted on December 2, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — In response to the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that it is prepared to restart the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, program “on or around Monday, Dec. 6” CLINIC issued the following statement:

“The so-called Migrant Protection Protocols are a lie on multiple levels that sadly is being carried over from the Trump administration to the Biden administration,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso, Texas, and CLINIC Board Vice President. “It is a glaring example of government doublespeak and an obfuscation of the truth.”

“First, the name itself is a lie. It has nothing to do with the protection of migrants, and it places families in dangerous situations among communities that are already suffering from a lack of resources. Second, MPP operates on the assumption that those coming to our border have no right to enter. To prevent those who seek asylum from entering is not only heartless, it is illegal.”

The restart of MPP is impossible without risking the lives of others, both asylum seekers and legal service providers who provide counsel and guidance to those seeking entry to the United States. There is no version of MPP that is acceptable. Access to counsel and due process is impossible under MPP, as CLINIC’s recent statement addressed to both U.S. and Mexican governments made clear.

“Reinstating MPP is a stain on our nation,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “It is a dangerous and deadly policy. As happened during its prior implementation, vulnerable men, women and children will suffer denigration, disrespect, assaults, rapes and murders. It is inhumane, unjust, and violates our obligations under our own legal system and international refugee law.”

“Mr. President, we implore you to follow the Catholic values that form the foundation of your life-long public leadership of our country. It is time to draw on those values and prioritize the lives of the suffering men, women and children waiting at our border over politics. It is time that you do what is humane and stop MPP.”

Border advocates cannot participate in a program that harms those seeking shelter from a place they once called home. The U.S. government has not been able to and cannot ensure the safety of asylum seekers while they remain in Mexico. The administration must end this program. We must move closer to a system of dignity and respect for the law as we welcome our brothers and sisters seeking to protect their lives and the lives of their children in our country. 

Posted on November 18, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — In response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it expects to restart the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, in the coming weeks, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, issued the following statement:

As the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services providers and having had staff serve on the ground in Mexico under the first iteration of MPP, CLINIC wishes to make clear to the governments of the United States and Mexico, our affiliates, partners, and the American people at large, that meaningful access to counsel, justice, and due process under MPP is categorically impossible. For this reason, CLINIC refuses to collaborate with the U.S. government on any initiatives that attempt to connect individuals to services in the most impossible of circumstances. To do so would indicate that we believe that due process for asylum seekers under MPP is possible, which it absolutely is not.

CLINIC’s work revolves around our belief and value that all immigrants must have access to representation and justice, no matter how much money they have in their pockets and no matter the color of their skin. We believe in the dignity and rights of asylum seekers. We reject a system where people facing life and death consequences are forced to navigate a complex legal system  in a language they may not speak and in a culture which they may not be accustomed to  alone. Access to counsel means better outcomes. In the case of asylum seekers, it means saving their lives.

Meaningful representation must include the ability to access and communicate with your legal representative. It must include your representative being able to answer your questions and share information at any time and provide preparation for legal proceedings. It must include being in a safe and secure situation to receive that information and make informed decisions.

Under MPP, asylum seekers, people who have arrived at the U.S. border fleeing for their lives, are forced to stay in Mexico in deplorable and inhumane conditions. They have no access to the resources needed to meaningfully engage with legal representation in the United States. Tania Guerrero, a Project Attorney with CLINIC’s Estamos Unidos Asylum Project, who provided direct service in Mexico shared an experience: “I witnessed firsthand how Migrant Protection Protocols forced a woman to live on the streets, be kidnapped, be offered shelter by someone who was kidnapped himself, and then be kidnapped again and tortured and raped. When she was able to escape and sought protection at the bridge from U.S. CBP officers, they told her to wait for her asylum hearing date as she bled before them.”

Imagine, under these conditions, trying to find and access legal representation in the United States.

CLINIC stands with asylum seekers and our partners at the U.S.-Mexico border, and we will not participate in or be complicit in any messaging that access to justice is possible under MPP. We call on the Biden administration to cease in the restart of MPP and focus all energy and resources on restoring a welcoming border for all who come here looking for safety and security.

Posted on October 29, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Biden administration issued a memorandum today terminating the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, a deadly program that forces vulnerable asylum seekers to live in unsafe conditions in Mexico while they wait for their cases to proceed in the United States.

The termination memo follows repeated and urgent calls from immigrant rights advocates and legal experts for the administration to use their authority to end the program. The program had first been put in place by the previous administration, resulting in rape, assault, extortion, kidnapping and murder of asylum seekers, forcing thousands of men, women and children to wait in Mexico, unable to access their legal rights to asylum. A court had previously ruled the Biden administration improperly ended the program finding the first memo terminating the program to be legally inadequate. While working on a new memo addressing the court’s concerns, the administration announced its plans to restart the program leading to escalated objections by immigrant and human rights groups and a powerful statement from Bishop Seitz of El Paso.

“As an organization grounded in Catholic social teaching, our message to the administration has been clear: people fleeing to protect their lives and the lives of their families have a right to seek asylum in the United States. It is our legal and moral duty to welcome them and offer hospitality,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. "We are grateful that the administration is taking further steps to reverse this degrading and life-threatening policy. We look forward to working closely with the administration and our partners to ensure that our immigrant brothers and sisters are received with dignity."

Under the first iteration of the program, CLINIC served asylum seekers in Mexico as they were forced to wait for their cases to move forward. Tania Guerrero, a Project Attorney with CLINIC’s Estamos Unidos Asylum Project who provided direct service in Mexico said: “I have witnessed how Migrant Protection Protocols forced a woman to live on the streets, be kidnapped, be offered shelter by someone who was kidnapped himself, and then be kidnapped again and tortured and raped. When she was able to escape and sought protection at the bridge from U.S. CPB officers, they told her to wait for her asylum hearing date as she bled before them. This woman’s story is a reality for so many.”

“While we welcome today’s announcement, the administration must follow it with swift and deliberate action so that MPP is fully and completely ended as soon as possible,” said Luis Guerra, Strategic Capacity Officer at CLINIC. “We must remember that ending MPP does not bring back the lives that were lost under this policy or eliminate the scars and trauma that may never fully go away. Accountability is needed, and steps must be taken to help those who were harmed to heal. And the Biden administration must ensure MPP, or anything like it, never happens again.”

Guerra continued: “Additionally, we must remember the other deadly policy the Biden administration has affirmatively kept in place at the U.S.-Mexico border: Title 42. Like MPP, the administration has the authority to end Title 42 today. Under Title 42, the Biden administration has sent thousands of Haitians and other asylum seekers back to the life-threatening conditions from which they fled. While the termination of MPP is extremely welcome, it is not enough by a long shot. This administration must restore asylum and welcome in line with its promises, human rights, human dignity, and U.S. and international law.”

Posted on October 25, 2021

EL PASO, Texas — In an Oct. 14 court filing, the Biden administration announced its decision to restart the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forces certain asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to wait in Mexico for their cases to move forward. The policy is deadly. First put in place under the previous administration, it has resulted in asylum seekers being extorted, raped, and murdered, and made it impossible for them to access legal assistance and other resources.

On Oct. 16, in response to the administration’s announcement to restart the program, organizations who work on the border and have direct knowledge of the impact of Remain in Mexico delivered a statement to the Biden administration during a White House meeting and then walked out. Their message is clear: Remain in Mexico is inhumane and you cannot make the inhumane, humane.

While the administration has taken the stance that the restart of Remain in Mexico is compelled by the courts, legal experts have made clear to the administration that a termination memo can be issued immediately. Bishop Seitz of El Paso — the port of entry where the most asylum seekers were subjected to Remain in Mexico — released the following statement on the Biden administration’s decision to restart Remain in Mexico, despite available options:

“God’s word on how we should treat people forced to migrate is clear: we must welcome and protect. As the Bishop of El Paso, I have seen first-hand the impact of disastrous policies of deterrence at the border such as Remain in Mexico.

“President Biden, as a person who values your Catholic faith and the leader of our country, I implore you to act immediately to end Remain in Mexico and put in place at the border humane policies which uphold the value and dignity of every human being. Remain in Mexico, like Title 42, causes needless suffering for those forced to flee who have come to our doorstep in need of protection. It is time to heal, to restore our commitment to asylum, and in the words of the Holy Father, move ‘towards an ever wider we.'”

Posted on September 30, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new report  from CLINIC finds that the Recognition and Accreditation, or R&A, program within the Department of Justice is virtually stalled due to a severe shortage of staff and resources, leading to a lack of legal representation for low-income immigrants seeking asylum or other immigration statuses.

Applications to become an “accredited representative” can now take seventeen months to be processed, while those same applications took three to four months just a few years ago.

For low-income immigrants, a DOJ-accredited representative, trained in immigration law, may be the only hope they have for representation in court. Immigration cases can have life or death outcomes and determine whether a family is separated or not. Yet, unlike the criminal system where representation is guaranteed for such high stakes, immigrants, including children, may find themselves in court with no legal advocate.

The Department of Justice’s R&A program is a unique system in which people who are not attorneys, but receive training and education in immigration law, can provide legal assistance in immigration matters to low-income and indigent people, through non-profit organizations. Since access to justice should not be based on income, the DOJ R&A program is a vital lifeline for many who qualify for relief under U.S. immigration law, but cannot afford to pay a private attorney to help them obtain it.

Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, stated, “Decisions in immigration cases can have devastating consequences, including deportation into deadly situations and permanent separation of families. Considering these high stakes, ensuring access to affordable legal representation reflects our values as Catholics and as Americans, as every person deserves a fair opportunity to fully understand and present their case, no matter their immigration or socioeconomic status.”

As detailed in the report, immigrants with legal representation are far more likely to succeed in their cases than those without legal assistance. Low-income and indigent people must have access to quality legal representation in order to have access to justice and to ensure due process. “To meet current need for low-cost, trained legal representation and prepare for potential legalization through Congress, the Biden administration must invest now in ramping up the R&A program. CLINIC and our affiliates are ready to do our part," said Karen Sullivan, CLINIC’s Advocacy Manager and Policy Advocate.

“We urge DOJ to provide the R&A program with sufficient resources and staff to process applications for new representatives within a three to four month timeline,” said Sullivan. In a May 2021 memorandum, the Biden administration stressed the importance of expanding legal representation, noting that, “[l]egal services are crucial to the fair and effective administration of our laws and public programs, and the stability of our society.” Sullivan continued, “DOJ has the R&A program available at their fingertips; they need only remove self-imposed barriers to leverage this powerful program to help meet their access to counsel and access to justice goals.”

Posted on September 24, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC applauds the nomination of David Neal for Director of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR, announced today.

“Each case that comes before our immigration courts is a human being, a story, a family, and the outcomes of cases can have life or death consequences,” stated Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “Despite the stakes, the issues that plague the immigration court system today — including lack of access to quality legal representation, insufficient resources, and a lack of diverse, culturally competent immigration judges — can ultimately deny people in vulnerable positions access to justice. As CLINIC welcomes David Neal, with his extensive immigration experience, depth of knowledge of EOIR, and prior leadership roles, we call on him and Department of Justice at large to invest in EOIR and transform it into an institution that upholds due process and fairness for all.”

A key program that will fall under Director Neal’s leadership is the Recognition and Accreditation Program, or R&A. The R&A program was first established in 1958 to build access to quality legal representation for low-income and indigent immigrants. It allows non-attorneys who have sufficient training and experience in immigration law to receive credentials from the Department of Justice as Accredited Representatives. The program contributes to racial equity in immigration legal services. It provides opportunities for individuals who may not have had the opportunity to attend law school due to socioeconomic and systemic racial barriers to practice immigration law, dramatically benefiting the whole system.

“The R&A program is currently severely underfunded and under-resourced, bringing the credentialing of new legal representatives to a virtual standstill,” said Karen Sullivan, CLINIC’s Advocacy Manager and Policy Advocate. “We urge the incoming Director to pay particular and immediate attention to this program. It is a key resource in ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to justice.”

Gallagher added: “CLINIC looks forward to opportunities to work with the incoming director in building an EOIR that reflects the fairness, due process, equal treatment, and justice that must be guaranteed to everyone, regardless of immigration status — a system that reflects the inherent dignity of every human being and our values.”

Posted on September 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — 164 Catholic organizations joined together to send a letter to President Biden ahead of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees demanding he end the misuse of Title 42. Title 42, first invoked by the Trump administration and affirmatively continued by the Biden administration, has been used to expel an unknown number of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting them in harm's way and denying them the opportunity to seek life-saving protection.

After a federal district court ordered the Biden administration to stop using Title 42 to expel migrant families with children on Sept. 16, giving the administration two weeks to comply, the Biden administration doubled down on its support for this unjust policy by immediately appealing the decision. President Biden can and must take action to stop the misuse of the policy once and for all.

The letter calls on the President to listen to and act on Pope Francis’ message to the world for this Sunday’s 107th World Day for Migrants and Refugees, to make, “no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”

The letter was co-lead by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. Notable signatories include: Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, National Black Sisters' Conference, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Pax Christi USA, Kino Border Initiative, Hope Border Institute, the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Catholic Charities Atlanta, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana, and many more. See the letter and full list of 164 signers here

Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC said:

“The administration’s continued misuse of Title 42 to deny asylum seekers their right to seek asylum completely contradicts his stated mission to restore the soul of America. Politicizing human life will never be the solution to a just and humane immigration system or society. 

President Biden has the opportunity to end this unconscionable practice today — we pray he will find wisdom and the courage to follow the Holy Father’s teaching in Fratelli Tutti that ‘if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbor was born in my country or elsewhere. My own country also shares responsibility for his or her development.’”

Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, said:

“As Catholics, we are called to uphold the dignity of each person as an equally valuable member of human society. The Biden administration’s continued misuse of Title 42 is not only a violation of international human rights laws, but also a violation of the human dignity of immigrants and asylum seekers. We cannot allow the continuation of this xenophobic order, which puts asylum seekers in harm’s way. We call President Biden to honor the call to love our neighbor and end the misuse of Title 42 completely.”

Posted on September 17, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, as the United States marks Citizenship Day, the 234th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, top immigration and education policy experts delivered a set of recommendations to the Biden administration aimed at turning the values celebrated on this day into action by making naturalization more accessible. The recommendations focus on the English language requirement of the Citizenship test and addressing long-standing obstacles to naturalization. Read the letter here.

Laura Burdick, Field Support Coordinator at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network stated: “Citizenship, with all its rights and responsibilities, must be accessible to all people, in a truly free and democratic society. CLINIC calls on the Biden administration to mark this Citizenship Day with a commitment to remove the barriers and obstacles in our naturalization process that often close the door on all but the wealthy and those who have had opportunities for higher education. Only by building a system at USCIS that promotes access to naturalization can we build a society rooted in recognizing and honoring the inherent dignity and contributions of all people — the type of society that will allow us all to thrive.”   

Rosalind Gold, Chief Public Policy Officer at NALEO Educational Fund stated: “Citizenship Day provides an important opportunity to recognize the significant contributions that naturalized citizens make to our nation’s economic, cultural, and civic life. We are grateful that the administration has commenced removing unnecessary barriers in the naturalization process, and we urge USCIS to build on this foundation by ensuring that its naturalization examination procedures and practices comply with the law and only require that applicants have basic English-language fluency. We believe USCIS shares our commitment to a fair and accessible naturalization process, and we look forward to continuing to work with the agency to achieve this important goal.”

Amber Mull, Deputy Director of Immigration at the International Rescue Committee said: “Citizenship symbolizes the close of the arc of crisis for the many resettled refugees, asylees, and other at-risk populations we serve. Current economic and demographic barriers restrict access to all but the highly educated and wealthy, effectively denying eligible immigrants the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. On Citizenship Day, we call on the Biden Administration to recognize the contributions that new Americans make to strengthen our communities by committing to remove these barriers and make the naturalization process more fair and equitable.”

Posted on September 13, 2021

CLINIC, MPI and Georgetown University Law Center virtual event Sept. 27-28, 2-5 p.m. ET

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — It’s September, and that means it’s time for the annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference hosted by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Migration Policy Institute and Georgetown University Law Center.

For nearly two decades, the ILPC has been the must-attend event for government officials, lawyers, activists, and members of the media who want the latest in U.S. immigration law and policy, directly from the top decision shapers and makers and other experts.
 
WHAT:

  • Opening Keynote Speaker (9/27), Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

This year, the Conference features panels on:

  • The State of Play on Federal Immigration Policy (9/27), with Doris Meissner, Migration Policy Institute; Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal; Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Research Center; Kevin Madden, Arnold Ventures; and Anthony Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Rebuilding the U.S. Asylum System (9/27) with Andrew I. Schoenholtz, Georgetown Law, Human Rights Institute and Center for Applied Legal Studies; Alvaro Botero, Organization of American States; Jennifer B. Higgins, Refugee, Asylum and International Operations; and Laura Peña, Texas Civil Rights Project
  • The State of Play in Immigration Courts and Local Communities (9/28) with Anna Gallagher, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Jojo Annobil, Immigrant Justice Corps; Sheriff Garry L. McFadden, Sheriff, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office; and Mimi Tsankov, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges
  • The Future of Immigration Law in Congress (9/28) with Muzaffar Chishti, Migration Policy Institute; Charles Kamasaki, UnidosUS; Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Bob Worsley, Former Arizona Republican State Senator

WHEN: Sept. 27 and 28, 2021, 2-5 p.m. ET

HOW:  The cost to attend both days is just $30, and free to media. Registration includes a virtual platform for attendees to engage, ask questions of panelists and access related materials. For general admission, create a CLINIC training account by following the ILPC registration prompts hereThe deadline for paid registration is Sept. 23, 2021.

Members of the media should email Lynn Tramonte at ltramonte@cliniclegal.org for complimentary registration and registration information. There is no deadline for media registration.

Check CLINIC’s conference landing page for announcements about the keynote speaker and other ILPC news. Follow #ImmConf and @cliniclegal on Twitter to engage during the conference.

Posted on August 25, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Supreme Court’s Aug. 24 decision to deny a stay that would have temporarily halted the reinstatement of the “Remain in Mexico” policy will “deepen human suffering and continue to erode U.S. law and values at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director.

In a February 2021 study, Human Rights First documented more than 1,500 cases of asylum seekers and migrants murdered, raped, tortured, violently assaulted, or kidnapped due to forcible return to Mexico under this policy. This included nearly 350 cases of children kidnapped or nearly kidnapped. As the report notes, the full picture of the human devastation caused by this inhumane policy is unknown, as the overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of people affected have not been interviewed or been able to share their story.

“‘Remain in Mexico’ is an assault on human rights and U.S. asylum law,” continued Gallagher, “and both are already under attack due to the Biden administration’s decision to keep Title 42 in place. CLINIC and our affiliates, like so many across this country, stand ready to welcome. Our message to the Biden administration at this critical moment is clear: we will hold you to your promise to restore the soul of America. To do so, you must take immediate action to end Remain in Mexico.”

Posted on August 24, 2021

The following is a statement from CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher:

"The United States has a moral obligation to protect and welcome the Afghan men, women and their families who worked with, supported and cared for our military service personnel during the last two decades. They have risked their lives for us, and we must now make every effort to protect theirs.

All politics must remain out of this decision. These are our brothers and sisters, and we must receive them with great dignity and respect given all their sacrifices on our behalf and the grave danger that they and their children face. No one can be left behind. Otherwise, we have failed in our mission."

Posted on August 24, 2021

WASHINGTON — Today immigration groups and former immigration judges urged the U.S. Supreme Court in an amicus brief to stay a Texas court ruling that would force the Biden administration to revive the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — an illegal Trump-era policy that forced people seeking asylum to await their U.S. court dates in perilous conditions in Mexico.

The lower court decision in Texas v. Biden, brought by Texas and Missouri, ordered the government to reinstate MPP, which the Biden administration had formally terminated in June. After the Fifth Circuit denied its request to stay the ruling, the administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Friday Justice Alito granted an emergency stay temporarily blocking the district court order, which would have forced the government to resume MPP over the weekend. Now the administration, with support from amicus parties, is requesting a longer stay while the case plays out in the courts.

The amicus brief highlights fatal flaws in the lower court decisions, which fault Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas for failing to consider MPP’s “benefits,” purportedly its success at deterring migration and fraudulent asylum claims. The evidence in this case reveals the opposite to be true. No matter what cruel policy the Trump administration devised, violence and insecurity in their home countries continued to force people to seek refuge at our border. MPP merely denied them access to the U.S. immigration system, trapping desperate families and adults in precarious conditions that exposed them to further violence.

Far from bringing greater integrity to the asylum process, the program’s procedural deficiencies, compounded by the inherent dangers in northern Mexico, prevented many asylum seekers from even making it to immigration court. As the sobering evidence in this case shows, many placed in MPP were kidnapped at the time of their hearings and denied protection through no fault of their own. Secretary Mayorkas rightly acknowledged the horrific consequences of MPP and the program’s intractable flaws when he terminated it.

This amicus brief was authored by the American Immigration Council, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and the Southern Poverty Law Center and joined by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Justice Action Center, National Immigration Law Center, and Round Table of Former Immigration Judges. Collectively, these organizations have decades of experience in asylum law practice and research, including close familiarity with MPP in particular.

“MPP was a human rights and due process catastrophe, and it was blatantly illegal,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The lower court rulings in this case rest on baseless, nativist claims that MPP deterred people from seeking safety at our border. This is objectively false and disregards ample evidence of the myriad harms caused by MPP. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will see through the falsehoods and allow this case to proceed without forcing the administration to reinstate the policy in the interim. Lives hang in the balance.”

“We cannot let MPP go back into effect. Thousands of people have suffered the horrible consequences of this unlawful program. We’ve now asked the Supreme Court to stop the Texas court's decision and keep MPP a stain in the history books,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, Legal Director of Litigation at the American Immigration Council. “Forcing vulnerable families and children to wait in provisional camps in Mexico puts their lives at risk, while also making it nearly impossible for them to access the asylum process. Rather than turning away people fleeing harm, we should ensure providing people with a fair day in court.”

“MPP was a violation of domestic law and of the treaty obligations of the United States to protect refugees. It deliberately subjected asylum seekers to grotesque levels of violence and suffering in Mexico,” said Anwen Hughes, Director of Legal Strategy, Refugee Programs at Human Rights First. “We have been able to document over 1,500 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, kidnapping, and other violent assaults against asylum seekers returned to Mexico under MPP.  Many of these people were targeted for attack because they were migrants. The Department of Homeland Security had this information before it when it correctly decided to terminate this shameful policy. Quite aside from the other legal flaws in the district court’s and the Fifth Circuit’s decisions, pointed out in the Solicitor General’s stay application, a denial of a stay at this level would expose to terrible harm more asylum seekers who simply seek safety in the United States and a fair adjudication of their claims.”

“The Supreme Court has the opportunity to halt implementation of the injunction, which relied on erroneous reasoning that is not supported by the evidentiary record in this case,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The Court must see through that rhetoric and acknowledge the reality that MPP forced people seeking protection into situations where they were vulnerable to sexual violence, kidnapping, hunger, disease, and death. This program, which is both illegal and immoral, cannot be permitted to continue.”

“Trump’s notorious ‘Remain in Mexico’ program was a legal and human rights disaster. It should be a shameful chapter in our history books, not resurrected,” said Esther Sung of Justice Action Center. “We joined this amicus brief to remind the Court and the country that Biden’s moves to unwind the program weren’t just lawful, they were warranted, just, and in line with our nation’s values.”

“CLINIC staff and volunteers have accompanied and provided legal counsel to thousands of men, women, and children who sought safety at our doors, only to be stranded in Mexico in inhumane conditions through MPP,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “They desperately waited for protection and admission to one of the richest countries in the world, in increasing danger, by design of the U.S. government. MPP is a national shame, and we hope the Supreme Court will see through the anti-immigrant rhetoric and allow the government to wind down this harmful program.”

Posted on August 14, 2021

The following is a statement from CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher:

“CLINIC staff and volunteers have accompanied and provided legal counsel to thousands of men, women and children who sought safety at our doors, only to be stranded in Mexico in inhumane conditions through MPP. They desperately waited for protection and admission to one of the richest countries in the world, in increasing danger, by design of the U.S. government.

MPP is a national shame.

Jesus said, 'whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision is contrary to man’s law and God’s law and must be overturned. We now call on President Biden to act on his faith and once again, end this policy that is so contrary to our values and who we aspire to be.”

Posted on August 11, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a budget resolution that advanced many economic and other urgent needs. Included in the package was a commitment to creating a path to citizenship for certain immigrants in the United States.

People of faith from Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia — and all across the country — applaud this first step toward finally creating the path to citizenship for immigrants who have given so much to their adopted home. 

"This is a major step forward to deliver a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people with TPS, farm workers, and essential workers,” said Elissa Diaz, Policy and Advocacy Manager, Church World Service and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC). “We celebrate the Senate's passage of this historic budget resolution and now urge the House to swiftly pass the resolution. It is long past time for Congress to right many wrongs and provide relief for millions of immigrants who call the U.S. home. As faith communities, we remain committed to working with immigrants’ rights partners to make this a reality this year. All people deserve to live a life of freedom and dignity."

“As communities of faith, we celebrate every opportunity that offers dignity for all, family unity, security against dangers, protections from inequities, and the chance for each person to contribute their God-given gifts in their neighborhoods and congregations without fear. The pathways to citizenship included through reconciliation would provide all that — and would honor the decades-long wait immigrants have endured even while investing every day to feed, build, and strengthen the nation we share. Now is the moment for us to heed the scripture’s call to ‘speak up for…the rights of the poor and needy’ (Proverbs 31:8-9) and urge Congress to take action for justice,” said Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada.

“With this Senate action, we are closer to making right a long perpetuated wrong,” stated Katie Adams, Domestic Policy Advocate, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. “It is the advocacy and organizing of immigrant communities that brings us to this point. Over the years the safety and security of our immigrant siblings has been used like a political trading card, and that must end now. We urge members of Congress to show up for immigrant justice in the final reconciliation package, so each person can find welcome and home.”

“Our federal budget must address both longstanding injustices and recent harm. Today’s vote is a pivotal first step in making transformational investments into the people and communities marginalized by our systems and structures. This is the kind of federal budget we need in order to build anew, said Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “We call on Congress to pass an equitable budget that requires the wealthiest people and corporations to pay their fair share, raises adequate funding for critical human needs programs, and reduces economic inequality through the tax code. Building and passing such a budget is an example of the ‘better kind of politics’ with ‘human dignity at the center, as described by Pope Francis in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti.”

“While we celebrate this historic move on immigration — one that has the potential to provide long-awaited and long-overdue protections for our immigrant sisters and brothers — we acknowledge that achieving a path to citizenship remains complex. We may have to continue our advocacy for a time. The process is far from over. But we've been faithful in the fight thus far and we will keep showing up, empowered by our faith convictions, until justice for immigrants is realized and a path to citizenship is created for all,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, added: “Today, we celebrate. We hold our CLINIC staff, affiliates, their staff and clients and immigrants across the United States in a virtual embrace. Our country is one step closer to making it official: a path to citizenship is a path to respecting immigrants’ human dignity and a permanent place in their permanent home. We pray that Congress continues to show leadership and enact a path to citizenship this year. Today we celebrate, but tomorrow we and our affiliate network of more than 400 organizations in 49 states, and the Ready to Stay coalition, continue the work of preparing for implementation.”

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. 

Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm
 

 

Posted on August 9, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign expressed solidarity with its member organization, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), as it holds a ‘chain of protection’ to welcome people seeking asylum in McAllen, Texas. This action comes in response to Governor Greg Abbott’s racist attacks on people seeking asylum and those who seek to welcome them. LUPE and the countless other organizations welcoming people seeking protection are bravely resisting Gov. Abbott’s executive order and campaign of misinformation. Our member organizations, both those based in Texas and across the nation, honor LUPE’s perseverance in the light of these attacks, and will continue to fight to live up to our ideals everywhere people are helping those seeking asylum.

"Gov. Greg Abbott and other state and national politicians are working overtime to divide Americans by spreading xenophobia and fear to deflect blame and change the subject from their own failures on COVID. The only known remedy for this is common sense and the truth, both of which are in short supply among politicians. We can protect communities from COVID, protect migrants who are seeking safety and protect American values all at once. This is America and we can accomplish anything if people come together to make it happen and if we resist political strategies designed to drive us apart." - Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America's Voice.

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC: “It is deeply disturbing to watch Governors Abbott and DeSantis play politics with the plight of vulnerable men, women and children who need safety — and the individuals and organizations who help them with food, shelter, clothing and legal aid. Both the sojourners and the helpers are human beings, with inherent dignity, made in the image of God. I pray for the people in Texas, Florida and around the world who have contracted COVID or are in danger of contracting it in the future. I pray for leaders to be honest with their constituents and confront COVID instead of scapegoating those in need of our solidarity and support. And I pray for the asylum seekers, and the helpers, as they continue to follow the Lord’s path in Jesus’ name. May God open the hearts of the people sowing fear and division, and ensure respect for the dignity of all human beings.”

“Using public health to fuel this anti-immigrant narrative is dangerous, especially given that it will primarily impact Black and Indigenous asylum seekers, who are often ignored in the immigration discourse.” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch’orti/Binnizá) Climate Justice Policy Strategist at International Mayan League. “August 9th is International World Indigenous People’s Day and as an Indigenous women-led organization we stand in solidarity with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and oppose the harmful rhetoric of Gov. Abbott and others against asylum seekers and refugees, especially against transnational Black and Indigenous people escaping persecution, violence, and death.”

“Attacks against immigrant communities for political reasons fly in the face of a true commitment to human rights,” said Efrén C. Olivares, Deputy Legal Director for Immigrant Justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "From Florida to Texas, and beyond, we are seeing xenophobic rhetoric blaming immigrants for the COVID-19 pandemic from the same officials who oppose mask mandates, vaccination, and other common-sense, science-backed measures to curb the pandemic’s impact. Rather than hateful scapegoating, these local, state and federal officials should focus on the actual needs of their constituents and the public health measures that will protect them. We stand with LUPE and their demands.”

“The objective data is clear that the surge in coronavirus cases in the U.S. is not because of migrants crossing the southern border, but because of a lack of vaccinations among United States residents,” said Esther Sung, Legal Director for Justice Action Center. “Nevertheless, Gov. Abbott insists on continuing to play politics with the lives of vulnerable asylum-seekers, turning to fear-mongering and race-baiting to deflect attention from his own political failings in addressing the coronavirus pandemic and other real, pressing concerns, such as the ability of our electric grid to withstand further inevitable extreme weather events. Texans deserve better than this.”

“Texas Governor Abbott has repulsively continued the long tradition of perpetuating the abhorrent racist trope of the ‘infected migrant’ that has been alive for many, many decades,” said Thomas Cartwright, Leadership Table of Witness at the Border. “His language and actions will lead to more hatred and potential violence against our brothers and sisters who flee to us for safety and a better life. We know Texans are caring people, and that they are far better than this. They deserve better than this. We stand in solidarity with those Texans against the hate and racism spewed by Governor Abbott and embraced, either through words or through silence, by other elected officials.”

“Scapegoating migrants — as Governor Abbott and other Texan officials have done — demonstrates their own failure as leaders,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. “They have adopted policies that go against the recommendations of public health experts, and then seek to blame the rise in COVID-19 in their state on asylum seekers and the communities that welcome and support them. Organizations like LUPE who respond to the needs of people seeking refuge, are the true leaders, setting an example of compassion and generosity. They should be applauded, not demonized.”

#WelcomeWithDignity’s response to Governor Abbott’s illegal and racist executive order is available on our website.

###

Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity here.

The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 85 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org
 

Posted on July 30, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Texas Governor Abbott issued an executive order directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to stop any vehicle “upon reasonable suspicion” of transporting “migrants who have been detained by CBP for crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion under Title 42.”

The following is a statement from State and Local Advocacy Attorney Viviana Westbrook:

“This order is an affront to human dignity and morality. It promotes racial profiling and punishes organizations, including CLINIC affiliates, for providing vital, life-saving services to immigrants. Villainizing people fleeing violence, extreme poverty and environmental disasters makes our communities less safe and our country less strong. This order, its origins and its goals are a direct attack on all of us, undermining the core value shared by Catholics and other people of faith across this country — we can and must welcome.” 

Posted on July 27, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Seventy years ago, the United States joined other nations ratifying the “United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,” and formally committed to providing a safe home for persecuted people across the globe.

“Jesus was a refugee. Welcoming and assisting the world’s persecuted people is at the very core of our Catholic identity. The Biden administration has made some strides forward on humanitarian immigration policies, but there is so much more to be done,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director. “Expelling people and families under expedited removal and Title 42 go against our commitments to God and humanity. We must eliminate past and present anti-refugee policies, use Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure to the maximum and fix all that is broken within the U.S. asylum and immigration court system. We cannot keep sending people back to the danger they fled.”

Said Luis Guerra, Strategic Capacity Officer with CLINIC: “Seeking asylum is a right under the laws of the United States, and our central commitment in the 1951 Convention. The Biden administration should not implement policies, like this new expansion of expedited removal, which will result in returning people to danger. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people and families in the world. If the Biden administration wants people to seek asylum at ports of entry, it must transform those spaces — which have been full of confrontation, violence and fear — into ones that are accessible, functional and welcoming. CLINIC urges the Biden administration to immediately reverse the expansion of expedited removal, stop expelling people under Title 42 and create policies that uphold our obligations under the law and to each other, as human beings.”

Added Lisa Parisio, CLINIC director of advocacy: “The Biden administration has pledged to address systemic racism in the United States. Access to humanitarian immigration protections must be included in that commitment. Despite clear dangers to life and liberty in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mauritania and other African nations, there have been no new TPS designations for the continent since 2014. As a ‘blanket’ protection for all nationals of a country, TPS is a life-saving tool. It becomes all the more important when people slip through the cracks of the U.S. asylum system, as they often do due to systemic racism. CLINIC calls on the Biden administration to use TPS broadly and boldly to protect the lives of Black and other immigrants in the U.S.”

Posted on July 19, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security announced today the maximum Temporary Protected Status protection for Somalia, with an 18-month extension and redesignation. This decision will provide life-saving protection from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia to 550 people.

“The redesignation of TPS for Somalia is crucial,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “Somalia TPS has not been redesignated since 2012 meaning that Somali people who entered the U.S. in the last decade were excluded from TPS protection, despite violence against civilians, gross human rights abuses, and other grave circumstances which has left nearly six million people in Somalia in need of humanitarian assistance. This decision was correct under the law and our values as Americans to offer safe haven, welcome, and protection to those in greatest need.”

The leadership of organizations including African Communities Together was crucial in securing this humanitarian victory for Black immigrants. CLINIC joined more than 100 organizations in calling on DHS Secretary Mayorkas to make this decision to provide maximum protection for Somalia.

“TPS is a key piece of U.S. humanitarian immigration law and policy because it uniquely provides blanket protection to all nationals of a country, as opposed to individualized protection,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s advocacy director. “In that, TPS can safeguard people who may slip through the cracks of our asylum system, including due to systemic racism, but are still in need of lifesaving protection.”

In 2020, CLINIC and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration published a stories collection illustrating how easy it is for Black asylum-seekers to be unfairly denied this protection and, in turn, how TPS becomes even more vital to keep them safe.

“The Biden administration has pledged to address anti-Black systemic racism in our country,” added Parisio. “Not only must immigration be part of that work, but as a blanket protection, the bold and broad use of TPS should be a pillar. We call on the administration to follow this life-saving TPS decision for Somalia with immediate designations for Cameroon, Mauritania and Ethiopia.”

Posted on July 19, 2021

The following is a statement from CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher:

“Judge Hanen’s July 16 decision to block new DACA applications — including the tens of thousands of initial cases mired in limbo due to crisis-level processing delays at USCIS — is mean-spirited and plain wrong. The decision underscores yet again the urgency for Congress and the Biden administration to prioritize, protect and respect the human rights and dignity of undocumented immigrants in this country. Those directly impacted, their loved ones, and the country have spoken again and again that DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status holders and other undocumented immigrants need permanent stability, security and a pathway to citizenship. Their lives, dreams and contributions to our collective society are not temporary — our laws and policy must reflect that, now.

Last week, CLINIC and partners launched a new campaign, Ready to Stay, with a mission to build capacity and coordination for effective implementation of a large-scale immigration legalization program. To those in power, we’re calling on you to make this a watershed moment, to do what must be done for the good of individuals, families, and the country as a whole. We are all ready and we are all home.”

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC Executive Director  

Posted on July 13, 2021

National immigrant advocacy coalition kicks off campaign to help immigrants navigate naturalization and other large-scale processes.


Recording available here

 

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — On July 13, a group of 18 national organizations with reach across all 50 states launched the Ready To Stay campaign, a national effort to help immigrants navigate and access legal services. 

For the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, there are already various forms of temporary protections and very limited paths to citizenship, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for certain countries, and the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) program.

With Congress and the White House working towards large-scale citizenship and legalization measures, this campaign is creating the infrastructure to help millions gain protection and enroll in programs that will lead to eventual citizenship.

The launch kicks off a series of events to inform impacted community members on how to navigate immigration programs and increase the legal capacities of immigrant-serving organizations across the country. 

"The Ready to stay coalition has high expectations that Congress and the Biden Administration will finally deliver a pathway to citizenship for the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants that have lived and worked in this country, their home. With these high expectations and the hopes and dreams of our grassroots leaders in mind, we embark in an unprecedented effort to be ready and build the community education and legal services infrastructure needed to deliver on any mass scale legalization effort," said Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and Ready to Stay co-chair.

"As Catholics, we believe protecting the dignity of the human person is fundamental in a moral society. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and our network of more than 400 affiliates in 49 states embrace the future legalization program that Congress will enact, and stand ready to help immigrants obtain their dream of full legal residency, U.S. citizenship, and a permanent place in their permanent home, the United States of America," added Anna Gallagher, executive director of The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

"We need permanent protections for our communities and our families. I have DACA, a temporary protection status. But it is not enough! I cannot stay quiet knowing that my parents are always under threat of deportation. We must push for legislation that protects the people that call this country their home! And most importantly, we need a system of implementation that will allow people to apply!" said Cirenio Cervantes, Faith in Action, congregation organizer with Faith In Florida.

"I am proud that the Center for Migration Studies is part of the Ready to Stay Coalition and will support professional, trusted, and effective legal support to immigrant communities through the use of its data and its expertise as a think tank. As a DACA recipient and the Center for Migration Studies' Director of Programs, I can attest to the importance of the much-needed work that non-profit legal service providers offer." said Daniela Alulema, director of programs, Center for Migration Studies.

"In the age of mass disinformation, it's important for vulnerable immigrant communities to have access to a trusted resource for the latest on immigrant reform and how to best prepare for potential changes to immigration law. The Immigration Advocates Network is proud to have helped create ReadytoStay.org to provide immigrants and their advocates with reliable information from a coalition of national non-profit legal service providers as well as access to our national legal services directory with information on local accredited immigration legal service providers," said Rodrigo Camarena, director of the Immigration Advocates Network.

Ready to Stay is a national campaign working to build field capacities and coordination for the effective implementation of a large-scale immigration reform, citizenship and legalization programs. Built by organizations who bring legal, field and organizing expertise, Ready to Stay aims to serve as a national resource by centralizing the creation and curation of legal resources, community education tools, capacity building training opportunities, and administrative advocacy that will increase coordination and resources for implementation efforts. Unless the infrastructure is there to link immigrants with programs to protect them and facilitate enrollment, whatever programs are adopted by the President or Congress will not achieve full impact without trusted partners across the country to implement policy change. 

Ready to Stay Events:

Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) and FOIA Practitioner Training
UnidosUS Annual Conference - Tuesday, July 27, 1 p.m. ET
National Immigrant Integration Conference - Oct. 3 - 6 - Las Vegas, Nev.

###

Ready to Stay is a national coalition of organizations working to build coordination for the effective implementation of programs that welcome immigrants and promote citizenship. The coalition aims to centralize the creation of legal resources, community education tools, capacity-building training opportunities, and advocacy research in order to support and streamline immigration advocacy efforts.

Posted on July 6, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security announced maximum Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, protection for Yemenis in the United States on July 6, 2021. The 18-month extension and redesignation will safeguard approximately 2,200 people from what the United Nations has called “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” with approximately 24.1 million people, or 80 percent of Yemen’s population, in need of humanitarian aid and protection.

“Protecting Yemenis in the U.S. from the devastating conditions in Yemen is a legal and moral duty and we applaud Secretary Mayorkas for this decision to grant maximum TPS protection,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “As a blanket protection for nationals of an entire country, TPS plays a unique and important role in our humanitarian immigration system. We call on the Biden administration to use it broadly and boldly to save lives and keep families together and stabilized.”

CLINIC commends the leadership and work of the Yemeni community in the United States in securing the 18-month extension and redesignation of TPS for Yemen. CLINIC joined more than one hundred organizations in a letter to the administration, calling for this decision.

“Now that we have the decision, we call on the administration to implement it in a way that ensures access and protection for all eligible Yemenis,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s director of advocacy. “This includes immediately opening the registration process through publication in the Federal Register and launching a robust, culturally-competent government outreach plan to get information to the community. Without a strategic and well-resourced implementation, a life-saving decision like this one can turn into an empty promise.”

CLINIC continues to call on the administration to use its TPS authority broadly and boldly, including granting an 18-month extension and redesignation of TPS for Somalia, a decision due by July 19, as well as new TPS designations for Mauritania and Cameroon.

Posted on June 24, 2021

The following is a statement from CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher:

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The work done by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is vitally important. From asylum to Temporary Protected Status, to green cards and citizenship, USCIS is the gateway to hope and life-changing opportunities for immigrants and their families.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services needs a leader who believes in its mission, understands its structure, supports its staff, and respects the law. With her experience, background, and commitment to immigration law and administration, Ms. Jaddou is clearly an excellent choice.

As the nation’s largest network of non-profit immigration legal services providers, CLINIC and our nearly 400 affiliates across the country help immigrants, citizens, and religious organizations navigate U.S. immigration laws. We do this because our love for others is how we express our faith and because we believe all people have a right to human dignity and family unity.

CLINIC applauds Ms. Jaddou’s nomination and looks forward to her swift confirmation. She will bring a renewed commitment to our shared goal of being a fair, equitable and welcoming United States.

Posted on June 22, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — People move, but sometimes borders do too. Countries disappear, new countries emerge. Tyrannical governments strip some people of their citizenship. Others deny babies access to citizenship at birth. People without a country that claims them are “stateless,” and with statelessness comes a host of constraints that make it nearly impossible for them to travel, prosper, and live free lives.

The U.S. legal system fails to provide a direct pathway for stateless people to secure permanent immigration status and citizenship. United Stateless and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. are teaming up to change that. In a new, UNHCR-funded project, United Stateless and CLINIC are assessing the scope of the problem, raising awareness, and educating U.S.-based lawyers about how to recognize statelessness and advocate for greater protections for stateless people.

"To address statelessness in the United States, we need to close the vast knowledge gap in the legal community and work together to raise awareness about statelessness," said Karina Ambartsoumian-Clough, founding member and executive director of United Stateless.

Over 200,000 people in the United States are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless, according to the Center for Migration Studies. Because U.S. law and policy has failed to protect stateless people, they are often trapped in one place, unable to travel or work legally. Without access to official identity documents, they are also cut off from the basic tools needed to function in society, like driver’s licenses, bank accounts, lines of credit and mortgages, etc.

“There is a lack of awareness, including among people in the United States who may not even know that they are stateless, because attorneys and the U.S. government do not screen for lack of nationality during immigration proceedings or other administrative processes. Through this partnership, CLINIC seeks to increase screening for statelessness,” said Vickie Neilson, Defending Vulnerable Populations Managing Attorney at CLINIC.

CLINIC and United Stateless are gathering information about the stateless population in the United States, developing legal strategies to obtain permanent solutions for stateless people, and working with legal representatives around the country to implement these strategies.

The partnership is both groundbreaking and long overdue. A stateless person from the former Soviet Union described their situation like this: “I question my very existence, my very essence of being human. We don’t want to live or die as ghosts.”

“No one should have to live without the protections of citizenship. This partnership places us one step closer to achieving that goal,” said Michelle Mendez, Defending Vulnerable Populations Program Director at CLINIC.

###

United Stateless is a nonprofit organization founded by stateless people to advocate for “a world in which everyone's human right to nationality is respected and upheld.”

Founded on principles of Catholic Social Teaching, CLINIC is the largest network of nonprofit immigration programs in the country. CLINIC staff provide legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

Posted on June 19, 2021

The following is a statement from CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher:

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Juneteenth is a day of celebration for Black joy. We celebrate Black culture’s presence in every space, and the ways in which Black joy has prevailed against systemic oppression.

Today is a celebration, and it is also an affirmation to continue our work for racial justice within our organization and network and among the immigrant communities we serve.

Posted on June 16, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has taken another critical step towards restoring access to asylum and welcoming refugees with dignity. This afternoon Merrick Garland vacated three Trump-era Attorney General rulings that gutted asylum protections for people escaping gender-based violence, gang brutality, and persecution against families. Advocates and asylum seekers celebrate this news, which marks enormous progress in the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild our asylum system.

Between 2018 and 2021 the Trump administration’s Justice Department issued several restrictive rulings that stacked the deck against people seeking asylum. These decisions played a key role in the administration’s broader assault on immigrant communities and women’s rights. In the decision known as Matter of A-B-, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that people escaping domestic violence and gang brutality “generally” should not receive asylum. In the waning days of the Trump administration Acting Attorney General Rosen doubled down on this restrictive approach in another opinion in A-B- and sought to further close the door. Attorney General Barr’s ruling in Matter of L-E-A- made matters worse, undermining protections for people persecuted because of their family relationships.

These decisions were legally flawed and injected unnecessary confusion into the decision-making process, leading judges to wrongly deny protection by prejudging cases, rather than providing each case fair consideration on its own facts. As a result, asylum approval rates plummeted for people escaping persecution perpetrated by members of their families and communities, with a disproportionate impact on women, children, and LGBTQ+ people. Many were ordered deported to their home countries to face the very violence they had fled.

In his decisions today Garland acknowledged that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are currently writing regulations to clarify how these cases should be decided in the future. We urge the agencies to take this opportunity to bring our asylum system into alignment with international human rights standards and the guidance of the UN Refugee Agency, which recognize the right of people escaping gender-based violence and other persecution to seek asylum, and which was Congress’ intent in enacting our asylum laws.

“This was the right move. We are thrilled for our client and for the many deserving individuals fleeing persecution who will have a fair chance to seek refuge in the United States,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, or CGRS, and co-counsel in Matter of A-B-. “Now it’s time to build on this progress. We’re ready to work with the administration to create an asylum system that provides every person a fair opportunity to apply for protection, in line with our human rights obligations.”

“Catholic social teaching, international human rights law, and common sense all tell us that the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society,” said Bradley Jenkins, federal litigation attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, and one of the lawyers representing the asylum seeker in Matter of L-E-A-. “Families facing persecution qualify for asylum under any reasonable interpretation of the law, and it is encouraging to see Attorney General Garland take this step toward restoring the asylum system. We hope that the rulemaking process will result in further progress toward a fair and humane asylum policy.”

“Today’s announcement will help undo some of the damage caused by the Trump administration’s attacks on asylum, and we join with our colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to accelerate and deepen their efforts in this regard,” said Cody Wofsy, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We are proud to have partnered with CGRS in litigating Grace v. Sessions, which blunted the effect of Matter of A-B- in expedited removal cases. Despite that success, A-B- and the other Trump-era ruling reversed today have continued to deprive many people of the protection from persecution that our laws promise. Eliminating those cases is an important step in the right direction.”
 

Posted on May 28, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Welcome With Dignity Campaign responded to reports that the Biden administration will begin fast-tracking the cases of certain families seeking asylum protection in the United States. Among the representatives for the campaign speaking on this issue was Luis Guerra, CLINIC’s strategic capacity officer and interim campaign manager of the Welcome With Dignity campaign:

"People seeking immigration protection in the United States are not looking for expeditious processing at the expense of a safe, humane and just process. Until we stop Title 42 expulsions that prevent people from making their asylum claims, we will not have a safe and just process. Until we roll back all of the previous administration’s anti-asylum precedents and make community-based support available, we will not have a safe and just process.  

The goals of our asylum system should not be fast tracking cases, but ensuring access to counsel and due process and treating people with dignity.

The consequence of getting this wrong is a literal death sentence for people fleeing violence, persecution and other horrors."

Read the full Welcome With Dignity press release here.

Posted on May 22, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — After many months of advocacy from Black immigrant leaders and allies, the Department of Homeland Security announced today it will redesignate Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haiti.

“CLINIC commends the administration’s decision to redesignate TPS for Haiti,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director. “Haiti is currently facing increasingly dismal country conditions, including widespread violence, displacement, human rights violations and kidnappings. Protecting people from being returned to these conditions is exactly why Congress created TPS. The decision is not only correct under the law, but also under morality and our duty to each other as human beings.”

CLINIC stands in solidarity with the Black-led immigrant rights organizations, including Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack Network, who worked tirelessly to secure this life-saving protection for Haitians in the United States.

CLINIC is a staunch advocate for the expansive use of TPS, a unique tool in the U.S. immigration system, which provides blanket humanitarian protection to nationals of an entire country. Within the DHS Secretary’s TPS authority is the power of redesignation. For countries currently designated for TPS, like Haiti, redesignation allows the Secretary to move forward in time the date by which a person needed to be in the United States to apply.

“Historically, both TPS as a whole and the power to redesignate have been underused by the U.S. government,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy. “CLINIC calls on the Biden administration to put in place a policy to use TPS broadly and boldly. The expansive use of TPS is essential to protect human life, keep families together, rebuild our economy, and serve other vital domestic and foreign policy interests.”

In addition to today’s announcement, CLINIC urges the Biden administration to immediately halt the use of Title 42 and put in place a comprehensive policy of protection for Haitians currently fleeing for their lives, including those currently on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. CLINIC also calls for the 18-month extension and redesignation of Somalia and Yemen at the upcoming TPS decision dates, and the immediate designation of TPS for Cameroon and Mauritania. 

Posted on May 20, 2021

Backlog for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status green cards leaves thousands of children in legal limbo for years

NEW YORK, New York — Today a group of over 400 professionals with expertise working with immigrant children who have survived abuse and neglect sent an open letter to top immigration officials calling on them to immediately address the harms caused by the years-long Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) wait to apply for lawful permanent residence. This backlog has left tens of thousands of vulnerable children and youth stuck in legal limbo and facing potential deportation — despite being eligible to apply for green cards.

The effort is led by the End SIJS Backlog Coalition (“the Coalition”), a national group of directly impacted immigrant youth and over 55 allied organizations working to educate Congress, immigration agencies, and the public about the harmful impacts of visa caps on immigrant children, and to advocate for an end to the SIJS backlog. In addition to the Coalition’s partner organizations, hundreds of lawyers, doctors, social workers, and activists have signed on to the letter. Among the letter’s organizational signatories are: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Kids in Need of Defense, Mid-South Immigration Advocates, World Relief, Immigrant and Refugee Services of Catholic Charities New York, Doctors for Camp Closure and the Alliance for Children’s Rights.

SIJS is an immigration status that allows children who have survived parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment to apply for permanent residency in the United States. It combines special protections of both state child welfare law and humanitarian immigration law to help survivors of trauma attain protection with as little delay as possible. Congress created SIJS — with its direct pathway to a green card — to provide young people with tools to achieve stability: eligibility for federal financial aid for college, work authorization, and protection from deportation. A SIJS petition must be adjudicated within 180 days, and but for the backlog, a young person granted SIJS is eligible to immediately apply for a green card. However, the wait for SIJS-based green cards now prevents many young people from accessing those tools in a timely and meaningful way.

Tens of thousands of SIJS beneficiaries from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras now face waits of multiple years before they can apply for lawful permanent residence due to annual employment-based visa limits and per-country caps on green cards, exposing them to exploitation and deportation, the exact perils SIJS was enacted to prevent. “It took me around four years to get my green card. During that time, I was not able to access financial aid for college or a work permit — I was prevented from pursuing my dreams,” states Ivonne S., a Coalition youth leader.

In the letter, the Coalition outlines the harms young people experience as a result of the backlog and calls on the administration to implement stop-gap measures, like granting SIJS applicants work permits and preventing their deportation, until legislation to eliminate the backlog is passed.

“Because of the visa backlog," states Rachel Davidson, Coalition steering committee member and attorney at The Door, "children and youth — who have already been approved by the government for protection and a pathway to lawful permanent residence — live in constant fear of being detained and deported. This is a moral and bureaucratic failure. We urge the Biden administration to create policies guided by Congress’ desire to provide permanent protections for SIJS youth.”

The full letter, including the complete list of proposed government actions, is available online here. More information about the SIJS backlog and the End SIJS Backlog Coalition can be found here.

Media Contact: For media inquiries, please contact the Coalition’s media team at info@sijsbacklog.com.

Posted on May 14, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC Convening is back in an all-virtual format, after a one-year, pandemic-enforced break. Over four days — May 17-20, 2021 — CLINIC affiliates, other non-profit staff, government officials, lawyers and members of the media will learn how to navigate the United States’ complex and ever-changing immigration legal system, network with practitioners and advocates from across the U.S. and strategize in an engaging online conference.

Highlights include a fireside chat with Felicia Escobar Carrillo, Chief of Staff for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a panel on immigration changes with leaders at Haitian Bridge Alliance, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CARECEN and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (May 17); local policing issues with former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden (May 18); and representing clients at the Board of Immigration Appeals (May 19), among other technical topics.

May 20 will feature a panel about addressing anti-Black systemic racism in immigration law and policy, with leaders from African Communities Together, UndocuBlack Network, Voice For Refuge and American Friends Service Committee.

Each full day starts with a virtual mass, celebrated by Archbishop Hartmayer (Atlanta) on May 18; Bishop Soto (Sacramento, Calif., and CLINIC’s board chair) on May 19; and Bishop Dorsonville (Washington, D.C.) on May 20.

WHAT: CLINIC Convening 2021 — Charting a New Course

WHO: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. affiliates, partners, and colleagues in the government, non-profit, and immigration legal sectors

WHEN: Afternoons on May 17-20, 2021 (see full schedule here)

WHERE: Online. Members of the media who wish to cover or learn more about the event should email ltramonte@cliniclegal.org. More information about the event and sessions is available here.

About CLINIC Convening 2021

CLINIC Convening is CLINIC’s flagship technical assistance, networking, and strategy event, held on an annual basis. 2021 marks the 22nd year of CLINIC Convening.

Workshops will be led by industry experts from non-profit, legal and faith-based backgrounds. Representing asylum-seekers in a rapidly changing landscape, addressing anti-Black systemic racism in U.S. immigration law and policy, and strategies for resolving difficult immigration cases are among the real-world topics to be covered at CLINIC Convening 2021.

Participants can follow tracks on humanitarian legal options, skills-building for immigration law practitioners, family-based immigration, deportation, advocacy and other issues; or choose the sessions that interest them most from more than two dozen offerings.

In addition to policy and legal sessions, there will also be time set aside for spiritual and emotional wellness. Archbishop Hartmayer (Atlanta); Bishop Soto (Sacramento, Calif.); and Bishop Dorsonville (Washington, D.C.) lead opening masses on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Laughter yoga, meditation, chat rooms and even virtual magic shows are also part of the multi-day agenda.

CLINIC Convening 2021 sponsors include Catholic Charities USALawLogixCatholic Health Association of the United StatesFelician Sisters of North America and Sisters of St. Joseph. Contributions to the Lily Gutierrez Memorial Fund provide scholarships to cover the cost of convening for CLINIC affiliates who cannot afford to pay. Please donate here and add "LG Fund" to the "Memo" field. Thank you for your support.

Continuing Legal Education credits are available for those who attend the workshops. DOJ Accredited Representatives and other nonprofit professionals can receive a certificate of attendance.

Questions from the media can be directed to ltramonte@cliniclegal.org. Other questions about the conference can be sent to convening@cliniclegal.org.

Posted on May 7, 2021

Cuccinelli’s Illegal Appointment Voids Trump Admin’s Extraordinary Agreement Requiring New Admin to Consult with AZ

AZ’s Lawsuit Part of Broader Effort to Defend Unlawful Trump-Era Policies

PHOENIX, Arizona — Late Thursday, on behalf of five immigration groups, Democracy Forward filed an amicus brief opposing Arizona and Montana’s challenge to the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement priorities guidance. The brief details why Ken Cuccinelli’s illegal appointment as Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security invalidates an extraordinary agreement he signed with Arizona purporting to give Arizona advance consultation rights on immigration policy changes.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), filed the brief with representation from Democracy Forward.

The lawsuit — filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on February 3 and joined by Montana on March 8 — claims that the Biden administration’s revised approach to enforcing immigration law violates an agreement between Arizona and DHS that was signed in the final weeks of the Trump administration. The extraordinary and unlawful agreement was signed by Ken Cuccinelli and requires DHS to provide Arizona “180 days’ written notice ... and an opportunity to consult and comment” on the agency’s changes to immigration policy. Cuccinelli signed similar agreements with other jurisdictions, including Texas.

Upon filing the brief, the groups issued the following statement:

“As seven federal courts and the Government Accountability Office have determined, Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment at DHS was illegal. He therefore lacked the authority to execute the extraordinary agreement that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security inked with Arizona in an attempt to tie the incoming administration’s hands. We urge the court to reject Arizona’s reliance on this unlawful agreement.”

As the brief states: “That Cuccinelli purported to execute a contract on behalf of the federal government, which he had no power to bind, would be bad enough. But Cuccinelli certainly did not have the authority to contract away the government’s sovereign powers over immigration law in a brazen effort to tie the hands of an incoming administration.”

The agreement that Arizona’s lawsuit relies on is invalid because Cuccinelli’s appointment was illegal — one of many illegal appointments at Trump’s DHS. In short:

  • When Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019, Kevin McAleenan unlawfully assumed the role of Acting Secretary. 
  • McAleenan, therefore, lacked the authority to amend the succession order to install Chad Wolf as Acting Secretary months later, and Wolf, in turn, lacked the authority to name Cuccinelli to his position.

Seven courts and the Government Accountability Office have concluded that the officials who installed Cuccinelli in his roles at DHS themselves lacked the lawful authority to do so. A lawsuit brought by Democracy Forward, CLINIC, and Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP on behalf of RAICES and seven asylum seekers prompted a federal court to rule in March 2020 that Cuccinelli was illegally appointed to his previous post as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The ruling was the first to hold that a Trump administration official was unlawfully appointed.

Arizona’s lawsuit was filed on Feb. 3 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The groups’ amicus brief was filed on May 6. Read it in full here.

###

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that represents organizations, individuals, and municipalities in impact litigation to keep corruption out of policymaking.

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), founded in 1946, is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gender/gender identity, immigration status, or economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential.

RAICES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. With legal services, social programs, bond assistance, and an advocacy team focused on changing the narrative around immigration in this country, RAICES is operating on the national frontlines of the fight for immigration rights.

Press Contacts

Megan Uzzell
Democracy Forward
(202) 701-1784
muzzell@democracyforward.org

George Tzamaras
AILA
(202) 507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

Lynn Tramonte
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
(202) 255-0551
ltramonte@cliniclegal.org

Tara Tidwell Cullen
NIJC
(312) 833-2967
ttidwellcullen@heartlandalliance.org

Juan Gastelum
National Immigration Law Center
(213)375-3149
gastelum@nilc.org

Jessica Ortiz
RAICES
(832) 299-8958
media@raicestexas.org

Posted on April 27, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Earlier today immigration advocates, domestic violence experts, and asylees gathered on a press call to discuss Trump’s shameful legacy on asylum and urge Attorney General Merrick Garland to restore protections for women and families fleeing persecution and torture. While President Biden has pledged to build our asylum system back better, some of the previous administration’s cruelest policies remain in effect even as the president’s 100th day in office approaches. These include restrictive Justice Department opinions that continue to undermine access to asylum for people escaping domestic violence and other human rights violations.

Attorney General Garland has the authority to immediately vacate these backwards Trump-era rulings and ensure that women and families are not wrongly denied protection on the administration’s watch. With the stroke of a pen, Garland can restore some fairness to the asylum process and protect countless lives.

Blaine Bookey, Legal Director, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) (moderator) said,

“The result of the Trump Justice Department’s decisions has been devastating. Asylum grant rates have plummeted and the U.S. government has ordered refugees deported to the very dangers they narrowly escaped, placing them in harm’s way and tearing families apart. Fixing our asylum system, which was obliterated by the Trump administration, will take time. We’re ready to hold the Biden administration accountable to its promise to build back better. But in the meantime, with these Trump-created barriers still intact, lives are at risk. We call on Attorney General Garland to take immediate action to restore a fairer process, keep families together, and save lives.” 

Karen Musalo, CGRS Director and Professor of Law at UC Hastings, said,

“Attorney General Garland has a moral imperative to take action, and there is clear precedent for him to do so. The Justice Department rulings we have requested him to vacate are wrong on the law, and counter to our international human rights obligations. They attempt to roll back decades of hard-won progress for desperate refugees seeking protection. The stakes could not be higher. Vacating Matter of A-B-Matter of L-E-A-, and Matter of A-C-A-A- will mean the difference between life and death for courageous individuals who look to the United States for protection.”

“The Biden administration has pledged to restore asylum for people fleeing domestic violence and other human rights violations, and to issue regulations to align the U.S. with international norms. In the meantime, Attorney General Garland should not permit unlawful Trump-era decisions to control the fate of those fleeing persecution.”

Sarahi*, Asylee and Advocate, Pangea Legal Services, said,

“I left my country after being mistreated for being a woman for decades. I had to make the difficult decision to leave my life behind to come to the United States, because I could not find protection there, as our government offers no help whatsoever to women. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to me if I had been sent back like the Trump administration would have wanted. I honestly do not think I would be alive to tell the tale.”

“I hope that the Biden administration will keep its promise to protect women like me. Attorney General Garland please listen to our voices. The actions you take or decide not to take are a matter of life or death. All I want is for other women and families like me to be able to live in peace.”

Jehan Laner Romero, Co-Director and Immigration Attorney, Pangea Legal Services, added, 

“Sarahi’s story of fleeing violent abusers without protection in her home country represents the reality facing many of Pangea’s other clients, who fled gender-based violence only to have their asylum cases caught in Trump-era policies putting them at risk of being deported back to their persecutors. As Sarahi explained, the Attorney General’s actions over asylum cases are a matter of life or death. It is imperative that the Attorney General rescind these dangerous rulings and restore fairness to our asylum system.”

Bradley Jenkins, Federal Litigation Attorney, CLINIC, said,

“Former Attorney General Barr issued a legal opinion declaring that a family is only deserving of asylum if the family is important and that ordinary families are unlikely to be important enough to deserve protection. As people of faith, we cannot stand by while our government attempts to codify the idea that families aren’t important to society into the law.”

“By returning to pre-Trump asylum policies that were followed by administrations of both parties for 35 years, Attorney General Garland has the opportunity to do no harm while the Biden administration articulates a fairer, more humane refugee policy of its own.”

Nancy Lemon, Lecturer in Domestic Violence Law, Berkeley Law and Legal Director, Family Violence Appellate Project, said,

“Trump’s attack on survivors was an affront not only to our asylum system, but to women’s rights more broadly. Domestic violence is an epidemic rooted in gender conditioning and patriarchal norms. The Trump administration’s views were antiquated and dangerous, and they absolved governments of their responsibility to protect survivors. Amidst a global surge in domestic violence exacerbated by conditions created by COVID-19, it is more important than ever that the United States extend protection to those whose own governments have failed them. We implore Attorney General Garland to immediately vacate the Matter of A-B- and Matter of A-C-A-A- opinions.”

Blanca*, Asylee and Member Leader, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, said,

“All human beings have the right to live free from violence. Domestic violence is not a private matter, as Jeff Sessions said in 2018. To suggest that is an expression of patriarchal power justifying violence against us, just like my abuser and the government in my home country did. That is why it is urgent that Merrick Garland fulfill the promise of the Biden administration to protect women and children fleeing domestic violence.”

“I fled my home in Guatemala to save my life and my children’s. Thankfully we won our asylum case years ago. Now that I am safe and secure in my status, I have become a leader and advocate myself. I am here in this fight so that women like me receive the protection they deserve.”

*Name changed or truncated to protect anonymity

Posted on April 21, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Yesterday, twelve jurors did the right thing and convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. 

This decision does not and cannot erase the pain that Mr. Floyd’s family and friends will feel for their entire lives. It does not heal the hearts of those who love and have lost Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Jonathan Price, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbrey, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and so many others whose names we now know by heart. 

Chauvin’s guilty verdict is a step forward for the United States. But while the jury deliberated in Minneapolis, Ma'Khia Bryant was killed by police in Columbus. She was fifteen. 

Christ calls us to love one another as He loves us. We are all brothers and sisters, and must and will fight racism and hatred in every form for our communities, our families and those who will come after us. As Catholics, our faith demands that we stand together to create whole communities of welcome, love and opportunity for all of God’s children. 

Gianna Floyd said, “Daddy changed the world,” and that is true. But white people must do their part and change.  

May God bless the family of George Floyd and every one of the people killed by racism. May God guide our nation toward real and lasting change.

Posted on April 12, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A coalition of 31 U.S. Catholic organizations is marking World Health Day by announcing unified support to encourage constituents and faith communities to accept vaccination as an act of charity and solidarity with others that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and build immunity against the virus.

The coalition is promoting vaccine equity in the U.S. and around the world, drawing on Catholic social teaching, for people who are underserved or marginalized. This includes communities of color, rural areas, and others with limited vaccine availability in the U.S., as well as access for developing countries and among refugees and other displaced people who may not be citizens in their current home.

Recognizing there has been differing information and understanding about the vaccines, the Catholic organizations are joining together to promote the common good and amplify the teachings of Pope Francis and U.S. Catholic Bishops on accepting the vaccine as they become available and promoting equitable distribution.

The coalition is also encouraging Catholics to recognize there are moral reasons for taking personal responsibility in an effort to end the pandemic so that society, particularly the most vulnerable, can attain physical, mental, and economic wellness.

Each organization in the coalition has committed to three major goals.

  1. Leverage their communication channels and resources to share consistent information about the importance and moral responsibility of individuals to accept a COVID-19 vaccine when available.
  2. Provide human, spiritual, and pastoral support for those struggling to understand, affirm, and act on Catholic social teaching, including the teachings of Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic Bishops.
  3. Advocate for the equitable distribution of the vaccine in the U.S. and globally.

The coalition is providing information and resources on issues related to COVID-19 vaccines at catholiccares.com.

"As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available we encourage everyone to seek the facts about how the vaccine works and understand that other measures, such as wearing a mask in public, will still be necessary.  Our health care workers have been heroically caring for COVID-19 patients and urgently need everyone to do their part to ensure we can finally overcome the virus," said Sr. Mary Haddad, president and CEO, Catholic Health Association of the United States.

“The pandemic and its shadow pandemics of hunger and poverty are ravishing many countries around the world. All those who live there, especially the most vulnerable, deserve the same access to life saving vaccines that we have. The common good too requires that we make vaccine access equitable globally since we can only defeat this virus here if we defeat it everywhere,” said Sean Callahan, president and CEO, Catholic Relief Services.

“In this Easter season we remember that the immediate effects of Jesus' resurrection on the first Christians included a profound sense of community and concern for those in need,” said Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO, Catholic Charities USA. “These are the very traits that continue to animate our encounters with each other and those in the wider community, especially during this challenging moment as we seek to emerge from the pandemic. Each of us plays a part by getting vaccinated and practicing safety measures for the good of all, and by doing everything we can to ensure that those who are most in need have access to the vaccine and protective equipment.”

"Many will get vaccinated for their families' or the public's good health. Catholics are the same; they just have the encouragement of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, who cared for someone he didn't even know,” said Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

"Compassion compels us to encourage everyone to get the vaccine. Justice calls us to promote global vaccine equity. Charity moves us to give time and money to ensure the vaccine reaches vulnerable and marginalized communities," said Dr. Donald McCrabb, executive director, United States Catholic Mission Association.

The coalition will utilize their respective social media platforms to share facts and information about the vaccines. The campaign will also highlight the moral responsibility of doing good works for one another and encourage adoption of the Vatican’s COVID-19 resource kit for Church leaders, which provides content for the preparation of homilies, and tailored messages that be used for parish websites, bulletins and other media.

As Pope Francis recently expressed "At a time when everything seems to disintegrate and lose consistency, it is good for us to appeal to the solidity born of the consciousness that we are responsible for the fragility of others as we strive to build a common future. Solidarity finds concrete expression in service, which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service in great part means caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people."

Catholic Organizations Participating

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
Catholic Charites USA
Catholic Climate Covenant
Catholic Health Association of the United States
Catholic Legal Immigration Network
Catholic Medical Mission Board
Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Rural Life
Christian Brothers Conference
Conference for Mercy Higher Education
Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions
Franciscan Mission Service
In Word and Witness
Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Leadership Roundtable
Maryknoll Affiliates
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns
Maryknoll Sisters
Medical Mission Sisters
Missionhurst-CICM
National Association of Catholic Chaplains
National Association of Church Personnel Administrators
National Catholic Educational Association
Support Our Aging Religious
United States Catholic Mission Association

Posted on April 6, 2021

WASHINGTON — On Sunday, in response to a lawsuit brought by five immigrant justice groups, a federal court stayed an unlawful Trump-era rule that severely restricts immigrants’ access to justice in immigration court. 

The rule, issued by Trump’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — the Department of Justice (DOJ) office that runs the nation’s immigration courts — upends existing procedures within EOIR’s immigration court system, especially those governing EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). It unlawfully deprives immigrants of access to a full and fair hearing, limits their right to present evidence and to select legal counsel of their choosing, and eliminates essential means of securing immigration relief. 

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), HIAS (founded as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) challenged the unlawful rule in federal court on January 11 and filed a motion to stay the rule on February 1. NIJC and Democracy Forward represent the plaintiffs.

In staying the rule, the federal court “agree[d]” that the 30-day comment period on the rule “is likely insufficient to provide a meaningful opportunity to comment on a highly technical and complex regulation.” The court affirmed that the groups “have shown likely irreparable harm absent a stay” and stated that a return to the status quo “will best balance the equities at stake and serve the public interest.”

In response, the groups issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration’s sweeping rule unlawfully denies immigrants a fair hearing in court and impedes immigrant advocates’ ability to represent and advocate for them. We sued to prevent the devastating changes to immigration court procedure from taking effect. We’re grateful that our lawsuit has prompted the court to stay the rule as we continue our legal fight to permanently set it aside.”

Learn more about the unlawful rule and its harms here. The rule was likewise enjoined nationwide as a result of a similar lawsuit on March 10, 2021. 

###

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that represents organizations, individuals, and municipalities in impact litigation to keep corruption out of policymaking.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels. 

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is the largest organization in Arizona providing free legal and social services to detained adults and children facing removal proceedings, through direct service, partnerships within the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts. 

HIAS is a Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 16 countries. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives. Together, we can create a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom. 

The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.
 

Posted on March 31, 2021

WASHINGTON — Immigrant advocates introduced a report today, Pulling Back the Curtain: Analysis of New Government Data on Temporary Protected Status, containing brand new, state-by-state data on people living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  Nearly a year after advocates from the Temporary Protected Status Advocacy Working Group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, followed by litigation from the National Immigration Project at the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), Alianza Americas, the Catholic Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and members of the National TPS Alliance, the government finally released records about to the Trump administration’s termination of TPS for hundreds of thousands of individuals.

The report may be found HERE and the underlying data received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may be found HERE.

The report unveils novel, never before seen data, including:

  • Age and gender demographics
  • Proportion of individuals with work permits
  • States where individuals reside, broken down by country
  • Receipts, approvals, and denials of applications
  • Class of admission for TPS holders (e.g. previous immigration status)
  • Individuals who obtained green cards and U.S. citizenship

Lisa Parisio, Advocacy Attorney for Policy with CLINIC, stated: “This rare look into the lives of people with temporary status in the United States allows us to examine how TPS functions in a new way. The data confirms that over 90 percent of TPS holders are from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, and over half of all TPS holders reside in just four states: California, Florida, Texas, and New York. Nearly 82,000 people who had TPS now have green cards, and nearly 10,000 former TPS holders have become U.S. citizens. The report shows just how integrated current and former TPS holders are into every part of our nation. Consequently, the Temporary Protected Status Advocacy Working Group strongly urges the Biden administration to utilize TPS as boldly as possible and protect over two million immigrants.”

Yanira Arias, TPS holder from El Salvador and National Campaigns Manager at Alianza Americas, added: “As a TPS beneficiary, this report is very important tool because it provides a demographic, social and community profile of the deep roots that I and more than three hundred thousand people with TPS have in the United States. Having TPS for all these years allowed me to socially and economically integrate in the United States, giving me a more secure condition that allowed me to help my family back in El Salvador. As vital as having TPS has been for me, it is time for me and many other TPS recipients to be recognized as active contributors to the progress of this nation. I urge the U.S. Congress to amend the law to allow me to apply for a permanent residency visa now!”

Khaled Alrabe, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, added: “This report provides not only never before seen data on TPS beneficiaries over the past two years, it also represents one more step in building a vital historical record of the prior administration’s TPS dismal practices. The Biden administration has a duty to correct past injustice in the administration of the TPS program and expand it as widely as possible to immigrants in need.”

Posted on March 12, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, the Biden administration announced a new designation of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Burma, in light of a military coup and the deepening humanitarian crisis there. This is the administration’s second new TPS designation, following the TPS for Venezuela announcement on March 8, 2021. Together, they mark the first new TPS designations in six years.

“We commend the Biden administration’s action to protect Burmese nationals in the United States from deportation to life-threatening danger and devastation in Burma,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “Congress created TPS to protect people from real and present risks to their lives and freedoms, exactly the type of situation that is unfolding today.”

NPR reports that 1,600 people could benefit from the Burma TPS designation, per a senior Biden administration official. CLINIC and partners have called for the administration to use TPS broadly and boldly to protect nationals from at least 18 countries, including Haiti, Cameroon and Mauritania.

Since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup, already dangerous conditions in Burma deteriorated, as armed security forces cracked down on protestors and disrupted humanitarian and medical flights. U.S. Ambassador to Burma, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated, “The United States will continue to work with a broad coalition of international partners to promote accountability for the coup and those responsible for violence, and will work to restore the democratically-elected government.”

“With this new designation of TPS for Burma, we see the Biden administration recognize the role that TPS can and should play in broader foreign policy. This designation makes clear that protecting nationals in the U.S. is an essential piece of a response to a humanitarian crisis,” said Lisa Parisio, advocacy attorney for policy at CLINIC. “As we applaud this decision, we call on the administration to continue to use new TPS designations, as well as redesignations, for people from Haiti, Cameroon, Mauritania and other nations in need. No one should be deported to harm.”

Posted on March 9, 2021

WASHINGTON — On Friday, a coalition of 314 state, local, and national immigrant, labor, faith, civil rights, and legal organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas to request that they designate or redesignate 18 countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The countries include: the Bahamas, Cameroon, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Venezuela, and Yemen. Designating countries for TPS could offer protection from deportation as well as employment authorization for upwards of 2.3 million immigrants. TPS is a valuable and underused executive tool that would protect millions of people from being returned to dangerous country conditions — in accordance with congressional intent — while simultaneously providing immigration relief to people in our country who have lived for decades without legal status or protection.

Read the letter here.

Nearly halfway into the administration’s first 100 days, the Biden administration has failed to issue new designations for any country or even restore designations for countries whose TPS was terminated by the Trump administration. It will take years to undo the Trump administration’s wholesale decimation of our nation’s immigration system; and TPS is a critical tool to immediately provide work permits and protection from deportation for millions of people who cannot be safely returned to their home countries. A bold use of TPS remains in line with both the letter and spirit of the program.

Posted on March 8, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Biden administration announced a new designation of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Venezuela on March 8. This is the first new country to receive this life-saving protection in six years. According to the Department of Homeland Security, approximately 323,000 Venezuelans in the United States will be able to apply for protection from deportation and work authorization.

“Venezuela is experiencing one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with a collapsed economy and severe shortages of food, medicine, medical supplies and fuel, all compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “We are grateful that TPS, a vital humanitarian protection, will be used to safeguard Venezuelans in the United States.”

CLINIC acknowledges and celebrates the steadfast work of Venezuelans in the United States in securing this key protection. TPS has been especially critical for Venezuela, given the low asylum grants for the population under the Trump administration, as CLINIC described in a 2020 report. As a blanket protection, TPS fills in the gaps, protecting people who slip through the asylum system and providing much needed relief.

“By designating TPS for Venezuela, the Biden administration is using its executive authority as it should, protecting vulnerable populations in need right now,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s advocacy attorney for policy. “It is a major moment to have a new TPS designation. TPS is a critical but underused authority that should be applied boldly and broadly, as a pillar of humanitarian immigration policy.”

Posted on February 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the USA, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)  and 160 other civil and human rights groups today urged President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to immediately grant an 18-month Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Mauritania, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and significant human rights violations in the country.

“While Mauritania criminalized slavery in 2007 — the last country in the world to do so — the practice continues widely, with at least 90,000 people in Mauritania currently enslaved,” the groups wrote. “The United Nations estimates that the number of people enslaved in Mauritania is much higher, with up to 680,000 out of a total population of 3.4 million.”

The groups also noted that Mauritanians who are forcibly removed from the United States face discrimination and inhumane treatment from the government upon their return: “Mauritanians deported from the U.S. are targeted and often face additional unique abuses due to their affiliation with the United States. In recent years, those deported to Mauritania from the United States are confirmed to be systematically jailed upon arrival without charge or due process. They are interrogated in coercive and harsh conditions, without access to counsel, about their time in America, and some are released only after they pay a bribe to be released.”

By protecting Mauritanians in the United States, the administration will send a clear message that  the nation condemns the ongoing human trafficking crisis in Mauritania, and will protect the lives and dignity of Black immigrants, per the Biden administration’s stated goal of championing American values and respect for human rights through foreign policy. 

The letter and signatories can be found here.

###

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit civilrights.org

Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in The US is a nonprofit 501(3) organization gathering Mauritanian immigrants living in the US. It is fighting for human rights, civil rights and better opportunities for Mauritanians, both in the US and in Mauritania. Also known as MHNRUS, the Network works diligently to empower Mauritanians immigrants to integrate socially, advance economically, engage civically and fight for a better Mauritania, free of racial discrimination, slavery and injustice. MNHRUS assists Mauritanians by connecting them to important resources in the communities they live in and by assisting them in facing and tackling the issues that matter to them.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) is the largest charitable legal immigration network in the nation, and provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels. We train nearly 10,000 people each year on immigration-related topics. CLINIC also has a team of immigration attorneys who specialize in religious worker immigration law, assisting Catholic archdioceses, dioceses and religious communities to navigate this complex area of law.

Posted on February 4, 2021

WASHINGTON — On Monday, five immigrant justice groups filed a motion to stay an unlawful Trump administration rule that went into effect on January 15 and severely restricts immigrants’ access to justice in immigration court.

The rule, issued by Trump’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — the Department of Justice (DOJ) office that runs the nation’s immigration courts — upends existing procedures within EOIR’s immigration court system, especially those governing EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). It unlawfully deprives immigrants of access to a full and fair hearing, limits their right to present evidence and to select legal counsel of their choosing, and eliminates essential means of securing immigration relief.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), HIAS (founded as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed the lawsuit on January 12. NIJC and Democracy Forward represent the plaintiffs.

In the filings, the groups — which collectively serve tens of thousands of noncitizens in immigration proceedings each year — detail the irreparable harm the eleventh-hour Trump-era rule is causing and highlight the urgency of their motion to stay the rule. The groups issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration’s malicious — and unlawful — immigration policies continue to harm hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the U.S. The prior administration’s sweeping restriction of noncitizens’ access to a fair hearing in court is an urgent problem. Each day the unlawful rule remains on the books, irreparable harm is done to countless immigrants navigating the nation’s immigration courts. We’re moving to put an immediate halt to the Trump-era rule to protect immigrants’ access to justice and to ensure federal agencies uphold the law.”

In court declarations, the immigrant justice groups leading this case shed light on the irreparable harm caused by the Trump administration’s unlawful rule:

  • Michelle N. Mendez, Director of the Defending Vulnerable Populations program at CLINIC, explains EOIR’s rule “will create the need for more appeals to the BIA and more motions to reopen.” The rule, Mendez says, “will also immediately impair the core missions of CLINIC’s affiliates to provide competent removal defense to low-income and vulnerable populations.”
  • Andrea Sáenz, Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project team at Brooklyn Defender Services, says the rule “will cause widespread injustices and significant inefficiencies in removal cases, and will eliminate crucial tools that BDS staff use to demonstrate eligibility for relief.” It will, Sáenz states, “cause more people we represent to be ordered removed without a viable option to challenge that removal order.”
  • Laura St. John, legal director of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, notes that the result of the unlawful rule “will be the wrongful removal of individuals who otherwise would be eligible for relief or protection.”
  • Smita Rao Dazzo, Senior Director of Legal and Asylum at HIAS, explains EOIR’s rule “will essentially eradicate avenues of relief for many current or potential HIAS clients in immigration removal proceedings” and will therefore “limit the type and number of new clients HIAS will be able to accept, and prevent us from implementing legal strategy developed for current clients.”
  • Lisa Koop, an associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, states that “[t]he human toll of these changes is hard to overstate. Curtailing due process in this manner and further politicizing EOIR guarantees that NIJC will be less able to help our clients to sufficiently present their defenses to removal, and for many the result will be summary removal.”

Learn more about the unlawful rule and its harms here. The plaintiffs’ motion for a stay and/or a preliminary injunction and the supporting declarations were filed on February 1. Their lawsuit was filed on January 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read it in full here.

###

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is the largest organization in Arizona providing free legal and social services to detained adults and children facing removal proceedings, through direct service, partnerships within the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.

Founded in 1881, HIAS is a Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 16 countries. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives. Together, we can create a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom.

The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.
 

Posted on February 3, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — With expertise in immigration law, policy and implementation, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. is available to explain and analyze the Biden administration’s slate of executive actions. See below for key topic areas, quotes, and backgrounders.

On Family Separation and Reunification

Ann Garcia, staff attorney with CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations Program, said: “We look forward to assisting the newly formed Task Force in identifying and locating those families that remain separated and informing the government’s efforts on reunification. While we celebrate this initial step, we urge the new members of the Task Force to move with urgency, as if the unity of their own families was at stake. We also expect that family reunification will be the Task Force’s first mission, but not its last. Without additional interventions, many of the reunited families could be separated once more.”

See CLINIC’s recommendations on ending and resolving the family separation crisis, and other policies needed to protect immigrant children and youth.

On Reinstating the Central American Minors Program

Jill Bussey, director of Advocacy, said: "We commend the President for directing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to re-open and improve programs that allow people to apply for admission from abroad. This is to include the reinstatement and improvement of the Central American Minors, or CAM, Program - a vital tool to protect vulnerable children and reunify families. It was proven to be a safe alternative to the treacherous journey that too many have had to endure.”

For more, see CLINIC’s policy recommendations on protecting immigrant children and youth.

On Recommitting to Asylum and Other Forms of Humanitarian Protection

Anna Gallagher, executive director, said “The United States must return to observing international conventions and treaties, and being an example for human rights protection in the world. No human being should be sent back to harm. When our government shirked that responsibility for four years, people died. We can reclaim our reputation as a defender of human rights by ensuring that no person is deported, expelled or turned back to danger and death. That action must start today.”

Victoria Neilson, managing attorney of the Defending Vulnerable Populations Program, said, “CLINIC is relieved that the Biden administration recognizes that our asylum system has been ‘badly damaged’ and recognizes that the inhuman treatment of the most vulnerable ‘contravene[s] our values.’ We look forward to the new administration taking concrete steps over the coming months to restore a functioning asylum system that treats the most vulnerable with dignity and fairness.”

Read CLINIC’s paper outlining concrete steps the Biden administration must take to restore the right to seek asylum.

On Public Charge

Karen Sullivan, federal advocacy and liaison attorney, said: “We are pleased to see the Biden administration taking its first step toward reversing the harmful Public Charge policies instituted under the Trump administration, which separated families and instilled fear in communities, making people afraid to seek essential medical and food assistance. There is far more to be done after this executive order. We look forward to working with the administration to create and implement a just and fair policy that supports the unity and health of immigrant families.”

See CLINIC’s additional recommendations for assisting immigrant integration.

On Naturalization

Laura Burdick, field support coordinator, said: “We applaud President Biden’s Executive Order on promoting naturalization and eliminating barriers in the process. We urge the new administration to act with haste to suspend the prior Administration’s burdensome new citizenship test until it can be properly vetted and evaluated. The new test is already in effect and creating considerable challenges for students and educators. The new administration must take immediate steps to ensure that the citizenship test is fair and reflects our values as a nation of immigrants.”

CLINIC has also written about changes needed to restore fairness to the naturalization process.

In addition to the topics above, CLINIC published transition papers on DOJ Recognition and AccreditationForeign-Born Religious Workers and Enforcement at Sensitive Locations. The organization also co-authored recommendations for implementing the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act and using Temporary Protected Status to save lives.

See our entire library of policy recommendations here: cliniclegal.org/transition.

Posted on February 2, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Following the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security today, the Biden administration began to announce another round of executive actions that respect immigrants’ inherent humanity and begin the process of creating a functional asylum and immigration system. At the same time, expulsions and deportations of asylum-seekers who were not afforded due process under the prior administration continue.

Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., reacts to this incongruence:

CLINIC welcomes the Biden administration’s policy changes that recognize the inherent dignity of all people. They stand in stark contrast to the small-minded, xenophobic policies of the recent past.

The United States must return to observing international conventions and treaties, and being an example for human rights protection in the world. No human being should be sent back to harm. When our government shirked that responsibility for four years, people died. We can reclaim our reputation as a defender of human rights by ensuring that no person is deported, expelled or turned back to danger and death. That action must start today.

CLINIC is grateful for the leadership of our partners at Black immigrant-led and border-based organizations, and decries the expulsion of Haitian asylum-seekers, potential deportation of families detained in Dilley and the removal of dozens of people who fled atrocities in Cameroon, Angola, and other countries, scheduled for tomorrow.

We applaud the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security. President Biden already laid out his vision for immigration enforcement on Day One. This vision must be turned into action starting today, and the deportations of these asylum seekers must be stopped.

CLINIC experts and our nationwide network of affiliates look forward to analyzing the policies President Biden will announce today, including developments on public charge, family separation, asylum and other issues.

Read our transition papers and recommendations for the new administration here: cliniclegal.org/transition.

Posted on January 29, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — “CLINIC commends the Biden administration for extending and redesignating TPS for Syria, a decision warranted both under the law and by morality,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “Despite ongoing and deteriorating conditions in many TPS-designated countries, no country has received a redesignation of TPS since 2016. Today's decision is significant, not only for the people from Syria who will directly benefit, but because of the message it sends. The United States is restoring its commitment to providing humanitarian protection.”

letter to the Biden administration signed by more than 100 organizations describes the conflict and humanitarian disaster that demanded both an extension and redesignation of TPS for Syria. At least 11 million people inside Syria are in need of humanitarian aid and the indiscriminate attacks from the Syrian and Russian governments on hospitals, schools, markets and roads continue in the Northwest, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have been forced to relocate.

“By redesignating TPS for Syria, people who arrived in the U.S. since 2016 will finally be able register and obtain a measure of safety. Redesignation, in addition to the extension, also sends a powerful message that the U.S. is returning to its core value of humanitarianism,” said Jill Marie Bussey, director of Advocacy at CLINIC. "Like U.S. asylum and refugee law, TPS stems from our commitment after WWII that we will not return people to countries where their lives are at risk. We applaud this decision and urge the new administration to use its administrative authority to grant TPS as broadly as possible to safeguard human life, as Congress intended.“

For more, see this letter to the Biden administration from 113 organizations, and these TPS policy recommendations for the first 100 days from the TPS Advocacy Working Group.

Posted on January 26, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Anna Gallagher, executive director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. said:

“As an immigrant with serious management and policy-making experience, Alejandro Mayorkas is an excellent choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Having directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and served as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, Mayorkas understands the complexities of U.S. immigration law. His respect for the dignity and rights of immigrants is real. The job here is not only to undo the destruction of the previous administration, but to lead us forward in building a humane, just, and dignified immigration system. CLINIC looks forward to working with Mayorkas and his team to make this a reality.”

Read about CLINIC’s priorities for the Biden-Harris administration here: cliniclegal.org/transition

Posted on January 22, 2021

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — On Jan. 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden took a series of actions that will begin to heal the nation — responding effectively to the pandemic, beginning the long work of ensuring racial justice and repealing policies that denied immigrants’ basic human dignity and denigrated the religion of Islam.

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. said:

As Reverend Leo J. O’Donovan, SJ noted in his invocation, it is our duty to care for and stand by others. To give of ourselves in service. Our Catholic Social Teaching and our adherence to the gospel of Matthew is what animates everything we do at CLINIC. After four difficult years, during which time our affiliates and staff worked night and day to protect immigrants’ legal and human rights, words cannot describe the joy we feel at the start of this new chapter in history.

In his executive actions and commitment to immigration legal reform, President Biden is recommitting our government to protecting the human dignity of immigrants. We look forward to working with the Biden administration in a climate of shared purpose and values, and renewed respect.

Repealing the Muslim and African Bans, phasing out the Migration Protection Protocols that put so many peoples’ lives in danger, extending Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians, protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and pausing deportations while new enforcement policies are crafted are bold and necessary moves.

Read more about CLINIC’s priorities for the Biden-Harris administration here: cliniclegal.org/transition

Posted on January 19, 2021

WASHINGTON — A federal court Monday blocked nearly all of a Trump administration rule that would have drastically increased fees in immigration proceedings in which the government seeks to deport immigrants, many of whom are long-term residents of this country.

The fee increase rule, scheduled to take effect today, would have increased the filing fees for applications, appeals, and motions in removal proceedings by as much as nearly 800%. The substantial increases would have immediately denied access to justice for economically disadvantaged individuals seeking a fair day in court.  

The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher challenged the rule. The lawsuit, CLINIC v. EOIR, was filed on behalf of immigrant rights organizations and legal services providers Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), and The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

The following reaction is from: 

Lisa Graybill, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center: “We are glad the court has intervened to halt the outgoing Trump administration’s unlawful last-ditch effort to price immigrants facing deportation out of due process. We urge the incoming administration to take all necessary steps to reverse these ill-conceived measures and give everyone facing deportation a fair day in court.”

Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director, litigation at the American Immigration Council: “Yet again, the court rejected the administration’s shoddy rule-making, this time halting a pernicious rule that would have imposed a ‘wealth test’ on immigrants seeking a fair day in court. Without today’s ruling, the new fees would have meant increased deportations for many low-income immigrants for no other reason than their inability to afford access to the courts.”

Michelle Mendez, director, Defending Vulnerable Populations program, at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc: “CLINIC, our affiliates, and our clients welcome this preliminary injunction as a much-needed moment of pause. It is not easy for low-income people to navigate the legal system, let alone as immigrants confronted by the incredibly complex immigration system, where the stakes are so high. The outcomes of their removal cases determine whether they can remain in this country, contributing to their families and communities, or be forced to leave their homes and loved ones forever. Sometimes, the outcomes literally mean the difference between life and death. Raising the price of access to immigration court would deny justice to many human beings, and we are grateful that this unjust act has been stopped, for now. The court recognized that the proposed fee increases would prejudice immigrants’ access to counsel, and delay or deny them justice."

Richard Mark of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP: “The court’s decision recognizes that Congress intended for pro bono and low-cost legal services to be available to assist people facing removal proceedings. As a consequence, when EOIR sought to increase fees, it was obligated to respond to concerns about the impact of fee increases on these providers ‘in a meaningful way, not blithely dismiss them as outside the limited scope of this rulemaking.’”  Added Joseph Evall, also at Gibson Dunn, “The court concluded that EOIR’s failure to consider these important concerns violated the Administrative Procedure Act. And because the increased fees would cause harm throughout the country, the court entered a nationwide injunction, rejecting defendants’ efforts to cabin the relief just to plaintiffs.”  

The court’s ruling is available here.

Plaintiffs’ litigation team includes: Katherine Melloy Goettel and Emma Winger of the American Immigration Council; Robin Goldfaden, Michelle Lapointe, and Meredith Cabell of the National Immigration Law Center; and Richard Mark, Joseph Evall, Katherine Marquart, Anthony Moreno, Laura Mumm, Julianne Duran, Vladimir Semendyai, Alexandra Perloff-Giles, Ramona Lin, Josh Obear, Nanding Chen, Jialin Yang, and Kevin Reilly of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

###
For more information, contact:
Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, mfrausto@immcouncil.org, 202-507-7526; or Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center at 213-375-3149, media@nilc.org.

The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. Follow the latest Council news and information on ImmigrationImpact.com and Twitter @immcouncil.

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gender/gender identity, immigration, and economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential. NILC is committed to advancing its mission — which intersects race, immigration status, and class — through a racial, economic, and gender justice and equity orientation. NILC seeks to achieve just laws and policies that address systemic inequities, create narrative and culture change for an inclusive and equitable society, and build a healthier and more powerful movement.

Posted on January 13, 2021

WASHINGTON — Late Monday, five immigrant justice groups filed suit against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — which operates the nation’s immigration courts — for issuing an unlawful rule that severely restricts immigrants’ access to justice. The rule deprives immigrants of access to a full and fair hearing, limits their right to present evidence and to select legal counsel of their choosing, and eliminates essential means of securing immigration relief. EOIR’s sweeping rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Constitution’s guarantee of due process, among other things.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), HIAS (founded as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) brought the suit. NIJC and Democracy Forward represent the plaintiff group.

“In its final weeks, the Trump administration has unlawfully moved to deny immigrants their right to a fair hearing in court,” said Democracy Forward Counsel and Legal Analyst Ben Seel. “Under the guise of ‘efficiency,’ the outgoing administration has made sweeping changes to immigration court procedures that will deny immigrants due process, cause wrongful deportations, and will actually result in less efficient proceedings.”

"With just days left before the end of an historically anti-immigrant presidency, the Trump administration once again jammed through regulations that would change the rules in immigration court to further take away immigrants’ rights and their ability to pursue defenses that by law they are eligible for,” said Andrea Sáenz, Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project at Brooklyn Defender Services. “Not only has the administration failed to follow the proper procedure to change the standards, but worse, this regulation will result in more people being unjustly deported and separated from their families.”

“The rule is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to rush devastating changes to EOIR, at the expense of noncitizens’ due process rights and access to the immigration courts,” said NIJC Senior Litigation Attorney Mary Harper. “As surely intended, the rule will drastically undermine Plaintiffs’ ability to represent and serve noncitizens, resulting in the removal of individuals who may otherwise be eligible for protection.”

"This Rule strips important due process rights from noncitizens and will particularly harm the detained pro se litigants that the Florence Project serves,” said FIRRP Legal Director Laura St. John. “For many, a fair day in court can mean the difference between living in safety in the U.S. or being returned to harm or even death. These Rules, like so many others, prize efficiency over fairness, and they are actually counterproductive because undermining the fundamental fairness of the appellate process in the name of efficiency will ultimately increase delays and litigation."

“HIAS joined this court challenge because the Trump administration failed to respect the rulemaking process as it stripped away due process for asylum seekers,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the international Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers. “Rushed through by the Trump administration on its way out of power, the challenged regulation would hollow out the right of asylum seekers to appeal denials of their claims, putting the lives of HIAS clients at risk.”

EOIR’s unlawful rule, published on Dec. 16, upends existing procedures within EOIR’s immigration court system, especially those governing EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

The rule’s sweeping changes strip immigrants of due process and other statutory protections and create possibly insurmountable barriers to seeking relief that Congress designed, like asylum, protection for victims of trafficking or crime, and special juvenile status for unaccompanied children. The rule imposes excessive hardships on the advocates who serve immigrants in court. It does so in the following ways: 

  • Slashes the time allowed to file briefs, making it much harder for immigrants to find counsel to represent them in appeals before the BIA and for their counsel to represent them in proceedings;
  • Effectively prohibits the BIA from considering evidence that immigrants are newly eligible for protection, such as asylum, based on a change in fact or law;
  • Upends procedures for determining voluntary departure, a form of relief that avoids the devastating consequences of a removal order, such as prolonged family separation;
  • Allows the BIA to make findings of fact despite its status as an appellate body — and without an adequate opportunity for parties to challenge those facts;
  • Eliminates immigration judges’ and the BIA’s authority to administratively close proceedings or reopen them under their “sua sponte” authority  to correct manifest injustices, which will prevent individuals from obtaining relief and deprive judges of essential case management tools;
  • Politicizes decision-making in immigration proceedings by allowing EOIR’s director — an unconfirmed non-judicial official — to intervene in cases with new adjudicatory powers while imposing timeframes that prioritize speed over fairness.

In issuing the rule, EOIR contradicted protections enshrined in the law, failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision, and failed to provide a sufficient notice and comment period in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The rule also violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and was unlawfully issued by the EOIR director, who lacks the necessary authority to issue these drastic changes. The plaintiffs have asked the court to vacate the rule in its entirety and prohibit it from taking effect. 

The plaintiffs’ complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief was filed on Jan. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read it in full here.

###

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels. 

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is the largest organization in Arizona providing free legal and social services to detained adults and children facing removal proceedings, through direct service, partnerships within the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts. 

Founded in 1881, HIAS is a Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 16 countries. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives. Together, we can create a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom. 

The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

Posted on January 11, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Today the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking a sweeping Trump administration rule that would gut protections for people fleeing persecution and torture. The injunction halts the new rule’s implementation nationwide ahead of its scheduled effective date of Monday, Jan. 11, while the court considers a lawsuit brought by several immigrant rights groups.

The case, Pangea Legal Services II v. Barr, was filed by organizational plaintiffs Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Inc., Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition following the rule’s publication in December. The groups are represented by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and Sidley Austin LLP.

The rule at issue was signed by Chad Wolf, who has been filling the role of Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security since November 2019. Today’s ruling from U.S. District Judge James Donato builds on multiple court decisions finding that Wolf lacks the legal authority to head his agency and promulgate regulations, and that this requires nullification of the rule.

“This monstrosity of a rule would erect nearly insurmountable obstacles to protection for people fleeing life-threatening violence,” said Jamie Crook, Director of Litigation at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, who argued the case on Thursday. “We are grateful that the court has taken swift action to stop this dangerous rule from taking effect – and placing courageous refugees in harm’s way.”

“This is the most far-reaching of the midnight asylum regulations unveiled in the Trump administration’s final days,” said Sabrineh Ardalan, Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. “But try as it may, this administration cannot destroy our asylum system and rewrite our laws by executive fiat. We are confident that this rule will ultimately be struck down for good.”

Today’s ruling also applies to the related case Immigration Equality et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, argued by Omar Gonzalez-Pagan on Thursday.

Posted on January 4, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Four immigrant rights organizations — Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Inc., Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition — have requested a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit challenging a sweeping new rule that will eviscerate access to protection for people seeking refuge in the United States. Set to take effect on Jan. 11, 2021, the rule completely transforms the asylum process, severely limiting the availability of asylum and related protections to individuals fleeing persecution or torture. The plaintiff organizations are represented by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP.

“Published in the waning hours of the Trump administration, this rule marks its most far-reaching attempt to end asylum yet, and a death knell to our country’s longstanding commitment to offer safe haven for the persecuted,” said Jamie Crook, Director of Litigation at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. “The rule violates our laws, flouts our treaty obligations, and upends decades of legal precedent. If the mammoth rule is permitted to take effect, it will result in people being deported to face persecution, torture, and even death in their home countries.”

The rule deprives asylum seekers of any semblance of due process, imposing many barriers to relief before they even have the opportunity to present their case in immigration court. Among its numerous harmful provisions, the rule allows judges to deny an asylum application without holding a hearing. The rule also establishes 12 new “discretionary” factors that will bar many asylum seekers from life-saving protection. These include a de facto bar to asylum for applicants who pass through another country en route to the United States, effectively codifying and expanding the Trump administration’s third country transit bar, which the courts have already struck down as unlawful.

For those who are able to get their case before a judge, the new rule radically redefines who qualifies as a “refugee,” distorting the law so thoroughly that adjudicators can deny relief to virtually all applicants. The rule explicitly excludes from protection survivors of gender-based violence, children and families targeted by gangs, and people fleeing other abhorrent abuses. It also redefines “persecution” in such a way that judges will be directed to deny asylum even to individuals who have been detained and threatened with death due to their beliefs.

“Despite its enormous scope, the administration rushed this rule through the regulatory process without regard for its life-or-death implications for asylum seekers,” said Sabrineh Ardalan, Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. “The administration chose to brush aside nearly 90,000 public comments raising serious concerns with the proposed rule.”

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are nonprofit organizations that provide immigration legal services and have previously come together to stop other Trump administration attempts to erect unlawful barriers to asylum. They contend that the new rule will make it far more difficult to assist asylum-seeking clients and cause serious harm to the immigrant communities they serve.

The plaintiffs have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to issue a permanent nationwide injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect, arguing that the rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the United States’ duty under international law not to return people to persecution or torture. On Wednesday the plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order to immediately halt implementation of the rule while the court considers the case.

The plaintiffs also argue that the rule is procedurally invalid, as it was co-issued by Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, whom multiple courts have declared was unlawfully appointed to his position and lacks the authority to promulgate such a rule.

Posted on December 22, 2020

WASHINGTON — Seven Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries — who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Miami, Florida — and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) advanced their lawsuit against the Trump administration for unlawfully denying many TPS beneficiaries the ability to secure a more permanent immigration status in the United States. The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Democracy Forward, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Montagut & Sobral, PC, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The change in policy was unlawfully authorized by then-purported acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli in a “Policy Alert.” A federal judge first ruled that Cuccinelli was illegally appointed in response to a separate lawsuit brought by Democracy Forward, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), RAICES, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

Protections for many TPS beneficiaries could end as soon as April 2021, heightening the urgency of this litigation. Without TPS protections, TPS beneficiaries who have pre-existing removal orders — including the seven individual plaintiffs in this litigation — will be vulnerable to the threat of deportation.

In this latest filing, the groups push back on the Trump administration’s claims and explain how the policy change unlawfully denies TPS beneficiaries an opportunity to seek permanent residence in the United States.

The policy:

  • Runs counter to the unambiguous text of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • Is arbitrary and capricious and was issued without notice and comment in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act
  • Was issued by an unlawfully serving acting official in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the Appointments Clause of the Constitution
  • Violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee because it discriminates on the basis of race, national origin, and nationality, and was motivated by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant animus

If left in place, USCIS’s unlawful policy would mean that the plaintiffs’ significant and costly efforts to become eligible to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. were all for naught. Read more about their stories in declarations they previously submitted to the court here.

The plaintiffs’ opposition to the motion to dismiss was filed on December 18. Read it here. The court’s order requiring prior notice before the administration alters the plantiffs’ immigration status is available here. The lawsuit was filed on August 26 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Learn more about the suit here, and read the original complaint in full here.

###

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

CARECEN’s mission is to foster the comprehensive development of the Latino population in the Washington metropolitan region by providing direct legal services, housing counseling, citizenship education, and community economic development, while promoting grassroots empowerment, civic engagement, and civil rights advocacy.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — almost 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal, trial skills, and program management training and resources, legal challenges to anti-immigrant policies and regulations, advocacy support at state, local and national levels, and remote-based crisis response models to immigration enforcement.

Montagut and Sobral P.C. is an Immigration law firm in Falls Church, VA which has been in business since 1986. Their attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing immigration law, and currently the majority of their clients are from Central America.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.

Posted on December 17, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. welcomes President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris’ renewed leadership of the United States.  

Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC, said: “The President-elect’s words on human dignity are reassuring. Recognizing the inherent value of every person is at the heart of CLINIC’s mission. U.S. immigration policy and law must reflect that. We look forward to working with the incoming administration to turn those shared values into action and reality.”   

As the work begins to dismantle immigration policies created by the outgoing administration and remake our system into one that recognizes the dignity of all people, CLINIC offers the following policy papers and recommendations. Bookmark cliniclegal.org/transition for additions and updates. 

CLINIC’s 2021 Transition Policy Papers 

CLINIC experts and partners represent our aspirations for immigration policy change during the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, and beyond.  

More to come! Check back at cliniclegal.org/transition for papers on reuniting families and protecting the rights of immigrant children and youth. 

CLINIC’s 2021 Administrative Advocacy Priorities 

Click here to read CLINIC’s immigration policy vision for 2021. CLINIC’s advocacy efforts are guided by our Catholic identity, counseled by our team of in-house experts and informed by our network of approximately 380 affiliate immigration legal services providers. 

Other Priorities 

The following papers were written by CLINIC and partners or endorsed by CLINIC: 

Check CLINIC’s transition web page, cliniclegal.org/transition, for additions and updates. 

Gallagher continued: “CLINIC envisions a just and humane immigration system that is grounded in human dignity. To build that system, immigration must be prioritized and the Biden administration must take a hard and honest look at the grave harm our system has done to people in the past, including under the Obama Administration. While the Trump Administration’s attacks on immigrants and our laws have done grievous, and in some cases irreparable harm, the work must not stop at just status quo ante. We don’t want to just ‘build back,’ we want to build a new system.” 

Posted on November 23, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Today, President-elect Biden made history, nominating the first immigrant to head the Department of Homeland Security. Alejandro Mayorkas has deep experience in immigration policy and administration, having led U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and served as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration.

Following is a quote from Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.:

"CLINIC applauds the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security. There is much work to be done to remake U.S. immigration policy to support inclusion and welcoming. From our years working with Mayorkas at USCIS and DHS, we know that he shares CLINIC’s vision of the United States as an inclusive democracy that recognizes the God-given humanity of all people."

Posted on November 20, 2020

NEW YORK / WASHINGTON / SAN FRANCISCO — On Thursday, a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued a nationwide injunction against the Trump Administration's new rule that would have dramatically restricted asylum eligibility for asylum seekers convicted of low-level offenses and even people who are not convicted of a crime. The changes were scheduled to go into effect on Friday.

The injunction comes after four immigrant rights organizations — Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (“CLINIC”), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition — filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice earlier this month, challenging the rule. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (“NIPNLG”), the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP.

The court’s ruling protects the right to seek asylum in the United States. It halts the Trump Administration’s excessively harsh rule, which would have created broad bars to asylum based on low-level offenses and, in some cases, mere allegations. This new regulation was the latest attempt by the Trump Administration to dismantle asylum protections as part of its anti-immigrant agenda.

As the court recognized in its decision, the new rule would have deprived “valid asylees of ever obtaining asylum, regardless of whether they have rehabilitated themselves, regardless of whether their criminal conduct occurred many years earlier, or regardless of whether they have committed acts that Congress has said should not render one ineligible for asylum.” The temporary restraining order (TRO) will remain in effect through Dec. 9 when the Court will hold a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

Click here to read the Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order.

Click here to read the original Complaint filed by Plaintiffs.

 

###


Pangea Legal Services is a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit whose mission is to stand with immigrant communities and to provide services through direct legal representation, especially in the area of deportation defense. In addition to direct legal services, we are committed to advocating on behalf of our community through policy advocacy, education, and legal empowerment efforts. Visit pangealegal.org and follow us on Twitter @PangeaLegal.

Dolores Street Community Services is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that serves low-income and unstably housed individuals in and around San Francisco, California. DSCS’s legal team strives to advance the rights of immigrants through direct legal representation, primarily through deportation defense, as well as advocacy, policy, and litigation. Visit sfdeportdefense.org and follow us on Twitter @sfdeportdefense.

The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition strives to ensure equal justice for all immigrant adults and children at risk of detention and deportation in the Capital region area and beyond through direct legal representation, know your rights presentations, impact litigation, advocacy, and the enlistment and training of attorneys to defend immigrants. More information can be found at caircoalition.org.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — almost 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal, trial skills, and program management training and resources, legal challenges to anti-immigrant policies and regulations, advocacy support at state, local and national levels, and remote-based crisis response models to immigration enforcement.

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit membership organization of lawyers, law students, legal workers, advocates, and jailhouse lawyers working to defend and extend the rights of all noncitizens in the United States, regardless of immigration status. We pursue all forms of legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants and provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, community-based immigrant organizations, and advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter.

The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) is a New York-based nonprofit that works to secure fairness and justice for immigrants in the racially-biased U.S. criminal and immigration systems. IDP fights to end the current era of unprecedented mass criminalization, detention, and deportation through a multi-pronged strategy including advocacy, litigation, legal support, community partnerships, and strategic communications. Visit immigrantdefenseproject.org and follow @ImmDefense.

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program is one of the oldest immigrants’ rights programs in the country. Established nearly forty years ago at Harvard Law School, the Program represents immigrants seeking immigration protection in administrative tribunals, pursues impact litigation seeking to advance immigrants’ rights, and engages with community-based organizations on policy advocacy strategies. Follow the Program on Facebook and Twitter @HLS_Immigration.

Posted on November 3, 2020

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO — Four immigrant rights organizations — Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (“CLINIC”), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition — filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, challenging a new rule dramatically restricting asylum eligibility. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (“NIPNLG”), the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP.

The lawsuit challenges proposed rule changes to the U.S. asylum process which are slated to go into effect on Nov. 20. These rules are the latest step in the Trump Administration’s effort to drastically cut down the number of applicants and recipients of asylum protections in the U.S. 

The U.S. has obligations under international law to make asylum broadly available, and to make any exceptions narrow and reserved only for the most serious offenses. The new rules drastically expand the current, narrow set of bars related to criminal convictions. The rules further restrict asylum eligibility by creating bars based on broad categories of low-level offenses, including using a false ID, that would bar asylum seekers from even getting a hearing on their application irrespective of the threat of persecution they face. Under the newly published regulations, an asylum officer or immigration judge can also categorically deny relief based on mere allegations of domestic violence even without a conviction, or based on convictions that are vacated or expunged. 

The complaint filed today asserts that the new rule conflicts with the asylum statute, which incorporates international law obligations, and unlawfully “threatens to send bona fide asylum-seekers to countries where they will likely face violence, torture, and even death.” Plaintiffs also assert that the rule is invalid because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act and U.S. Constitution in multiple respects, and ask the court to hold the rule unlawful, set it aside, and enjoin its enforcement. 

The rules build on the systemic racism of U.S. immigration and asylum policies that have become increasingly harsh and narrow over the past several decades. These laws rely increasingly on fear-mongering and criminalization of immigrants. As the plaintiffs assert in their complaint, the rule will disproportionately impact individuals who are subject to racist policing and surveillance.

“This Administration’s relentless onslaught of attacks on asylum seekers continues to chip away at the limited due process available in immigration courts," says Etan Newman, Co-Director and Immigration Attorney at Pangea Legal Services. “The rule prohibits immigration judges from acknowledging the totality of a person's humanity and ability to rehabilitate. Because of our sanctuary policies that prioritize the health and safety of our communities, the San Francisco Bay Area has been a primary target of this Administration, and our communities would suffer particular harm under this rule."

“The new rule is another transparent attempt to demonize and deny protection to the most vulnerable individuals seeking protection in the U.S.,” said Katherine Mahoney, Litigation Director at Dolores Street Community Services. “It is a vast departure from decades of legal precedent, policy, and international norms, and an insult to what little due process still remains in our immigration system.”

“These rules take the administration’s tactic of demonizing asylum seekers to a new extreme,” said CLINIC Managing Attorney Victoria Neilson. “They are unlawful and immoral.”

“The United States is a country where the rule of law and access to asylum protection for those fleeing for safety cannot be tossed aside for political whims. This new rule seeks to erect yet another unjust barrier to protection for many of the individual asylum seekers we fight alongside with at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (“CAIR”) Coalition and further entrench false narratives about immigrants who are Black, indigenous, and/or people of color,” said Claudia Cubas, Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition.

“This drastic and unprecedented expansion of categorical bars to asylum eligibility is part of the Trump Administration’s vicious targeting of immigrants of color. It is illegal and inhumane, designed only to further the Administration’s agenda to end asylum as we know it,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

“The new asylum rule is the most recent attempt by the Trump Administration to place insurmountable barriers on the asylum process to push its xenophobic agenda. It will place countless lives at risk. Together with our partners, we will continue to fight against the push to criminalize and deport our community members,” said Leila Kang, IDP’s Supervising Litigation Attorney.

“The new asylum rule is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s obsession with criminalizing immigrants and shutting down our country’s asylum system. Not only does the new rule violate a litany of federal laws, but it also stands in stark contrast to our nation’s long history of protecting refugees,” said Philip Torrey, Managing Attorney of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and Director of the Harvard Law School Crimmigration Clinic.

Visit the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild's case page here.


###


Pangea Legal Services is a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit whose mission is to stand with immigrant communities and to provide services through direct legal representation, especially in the area of deportation defense. In addition to direct legal services, we are committed to advocating on behalf of our community through policy advocacy, education, and legal empowerment efforts. Visit pangealegal.org and follow us on Twitter @PangeaLegal.

Dolores Street Community Services is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that serves low-income and unstably housed individuals in and around San Francisco, California. DSCS’s legal team strives to advance the rights of immigrants through direct legal representation, primarily through deportation defense, as well as advocacy, policy, and litigation. Visit sfdeportdefense.org and follow us on Twitter @sfdeportdefense.

The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition strives to ensure equal justice for all immigrant adults and children at risk of detention and deportation in the Capital region area and beyond through direct legal representation, know your rights presentations, impact litigation, advocacy, and the enlistment and training of attorneys to defend immigrants. More information can be found at caircoalition.org.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — almost 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal, trial skills, and program management training and resources, legal challenges to anti-immigrant policies and regulations, advocacy support at state, local and national levels, and remote-based crisis response models to immigration enforcement.

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit membership organization of lawyers, law students, legal workers, advocates, and jailhouse lawyers working to defend and extend the rights of all noncitizens in the United States, regardless of immigration status. We pursue all forms of legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants and provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, community-based immigrant organizations, and advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter.

The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) is a New York-based nonprofit that works to secure fairness and justice for immigrants in the racially-biased U.S. criminal and immigration systems. IDP fights to end the current era of unprecedented mass criminalization, detention, and deportation through a multi-pronged strategy including advocacy, litigation, legal support, community partnerships, and strategic communications. Visit immigrantdefenseproject.org and follow @ImmDefense.

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program is one of the oldest immigrants’ rights programs in the country. Established nearly forty years ago at Harvard Law School, the Program represents immigrants seeking immigration protection in administrative tribunals, pursues impact litigation seeking to advance immigrants’ rights, and engages with community-based organizations on policy advocacy strategies. Follow the Program on Facebook and Twitter @HLS_Immigration.

Posted on October 22, 2020

WASHINGTON — Seven Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries — who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Miami, Florida — and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in their suit against the Trump administration for unlawfully blocking TPS beneficiaries’ path to permanent U.S. residence. The motion is supported by declarations from the seven individual plaintiffs, who, like so many TPS beneficiaries, have established strong ties to their communities. The declarations outline the harm caused by the unlawful policy. The policy was authorized by then-acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, whose appointment was first ruled illegal in response to a separate lawsuit brought by Democracy Forward, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), RAICES, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Democracy Forward, CLINIC, Montagut & Sobral, PC, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

A recent Ninth Circuit decision lifting an injunction clears the way for the Trump administration to move forward with its plans to eliminate protections for many TPS beneficiaries. TPS protection could end, for some beneficiaries, as soon as March 2021, leaving beneficiaries with pre-existing removal orders, like the individual plaintiffs in this case, vulnerable to the threat of imminent deportation. This looming risk heightens the urgency of the groups’ legal effort.

Prior to USCIS’s unlawful change, each of the plaintiffs took significant, costly steps in order to become eligible to apply for permanent residence. Several plaintiffs had already applied before the change was announced. All took action in a good faith attempt to keep the lives they have built for themselves and their U.S. citizen families in the U.S. intact. But USCIS’s unlawful policy, if left in place, would mean their efforts were all for naught — and that the plaintiffs might soon face deportation to countries that they hardly know or that they long ago fled for fear of their own safety.

In written declarations, the plaintiffs describe the impossible bind that USCIS’s unlawful change has put them in:

Heroldine Bazile was just eight months old when her mother fled Haiti out of fear for their safety and brought her to the U.S. to live a better life.

  • Bazile graduated high school in 2016 with an Advanced Placement program diploma.
  • She is a pharmaceutical technician in Miami, Florida, is currently completing her bachelor of science in mortuary science, and hopes to someday own a funeral home.
  • “If the U.S. government ends the TPS program for Haiti,” Bazile states, “the U.S. government could remove me from the United States and send me back to Haiti where I have not lived since I was a baby.”

Maria Floriselda Alvarez Gomez fled El Salvador fearing physical abuse and extortion, has since had status under TPS for nearly two decades, and is raising four children, including a child with special needs, in northern Virginia. 

  • Alvarez took costly steps to become eligible to apply for permanent residence, but USCIS’s unlawful change now prevents her from applying. 
  • Alvarez fears the prospect of deportation, as her four U.S. citizen children depend on her for support. “My children, especially my 10-year-old daughter Kayly, need me here in the United States,” she tells the court.

Blanca Mirna Romero del Cid fled El Salvador as a teenager. Since coming to the U.S. nearly three decades ago, she has raised four U.S. citizen children in Virginia with her husband. 

  • Because of USCIS’s unlawful change, Romero del Cid has no practical means of securing permanent residence and could soon face deportation — a consequence that she says “would be devastating for my children, especially 2-year-old Moises and 4- year-old Ruben, for whom I am the primary caretaker.”

Yolanda Maritza Ramirez Martinez fled El Salvador out of fear for her life and has, over the last 20+ years since coming to the U.S., raised a family and made a home with her U.S. citizen husband.

  • “We are,” Ramirez tells the court, “a close and loving family that supports one another very much. If the TPS program is ended, the U.S. government could remove me from the United States — my home for more than 20 years — and send me back to El Salvador, away from my U.S. citizen family.”

USCIS’s unlawful policy change — disguised by the agency as a mere “clarification” in a December 2019 “Policy Alert” — was enacted by Ken Cuccinelli, an unlawfully appointed Trump official; directly contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act; is arbitrary and capricious; and was issued without giving the public any notice or opportunity to comment before altering the legal rights of TPS beneficiaries.

The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed on Oct. 21. The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Learn more about the suit here, and read the motionsupporting declarations, and complaint in full.
 

###


Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

CARECEN’s mission is to foster the comprehensive development of the Latino population in the Washington metropolitan region by providing direct legal services, housing counseling, citizenship education, and community economic development, while promoting grassroots empowerment, civic engagement, and civil rights advocacy.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — almost 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal, trial skills, and program management training and resources, legal challenges to anti-immigrant policies and regulations, advocacy support at state, local and national levels, and remote-based crisis response models to immigration enforcement.

Montagut and Sobral P.C. is an immigration law firm in Falls Church, VA, which has been in business since 1986. Their attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing immigration law, and currently the majority of their clients are from Central America.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients' most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.

Posted on September 30, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. applauds U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White’s preliminary injunction blocking the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from increasing fees for people applying for family and employment-based visas, asylum and U.S. citizenship, in a case filed on behalf of CLINIC and seven other plaintiffs.

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director, said, “The fee increase was a blatant attempt to implement a wealth test and put immigration out of reach based on how much money a person has in her pockets. This is an affront to our Catholic value of helping the poor, for when we serve them, we serve our Lord.”

Continued Gallagher: “I am proud of CLINIC staff and affiliates who worked so hard to expose the problems with this rule through the public comment process; filed as many applications as possible before the increase; and went to court to keep the administration from proceeding in this illegal act. They put our Catholic values into action, and for now we have stopped the administration from taking this additional step to reduce immigration and harm low-income immigrants and their families.”

Jeff Chenoweth, director of Capacity Building at CLINIC, filed a declaration on behalf CLINIC and its network in this case. He explained: “Religious workers, asylum-seekers and children applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status are just some of the individuals who could have lost their chance at safety and security because of cost. For now, the court maintained the status quo. We urge the administration to withdraw this rule and stop its attacks on low-income immigrants and families.”

In his order, Judge White wrote that plaintiffs met their burden to show they are “likely to succeed on their claim that Mr. McAleenan and Mr. Wolf were not lawfully serving under the HSA [Homeland Security Act],” and that the rule violates aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. He pointed out that DHS ignored congressional intent with regard to fee waivers for low-income naturalization applicants, and failed to explain why they concluded that asylum seekers, fleeing for their lives, could afford to pay a filing fee.

The Judge also questioned the government’s attempt to hide the full scope of its attacks on immigration by promulgating different regulations that impact each other. “By failing to consider the combined impact of these rules, DHS either failed to consider an important aspect of the problem and disregarded ‘inconvenient facts’ ... or DHS reached a conclusion that defies common sense,” he wrote. As advocates continue to confront a flurry of proposed regulatory changes from this administration, they should continue to highlight the impact of these proposed rules taken together.

CLINIC submitted a comment in opposition to the fee increase in 2019 in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services and Catholic Charities USA. The comment highlighted the disparate impact of the proposed rule on low-income immigrants and requested that USCIS withdraw all provisions that make immigration benefits less accessible to them.

The fee increase was set to take place on Oct. 2, 2020, but will not go forward for now, pending further action in court. Check CLINIC’s fee schedule changes page for information and updates.

Posted on September 23, 2020

EL PASO, Texas — Over the past 106 years, the Roman Catholic Church has recognized a world day of migrants and refugees. Pope Francis’ theme for this year’s commemoration, “Forced Like Jesus Christ to Flee,” reminds us of the millions of migrants and refugees on the move around the globe. Three Catholic organizations working in the borderland community of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, offer the following statement for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees taking place on Sunday, Sept. 27.

 

Statement on World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020 

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis asks us to reflect on the compassion of the Good Samaritan and to take risks in order to be close to those whose wounds need binding up in our day.

Following the Holy Father’s example, as faith leaders, advocates and agencies providing legal and humanitarian relief to refugees at the US-Mexico border, we have traveled to Ciudad Juárez today simply to listen and share with the many migrant families who, like Jesus, have been forced to flee.

In this time of pandemic, we are more conscious than ever before of our interconnectedness as one human family. And never before has the US government in our name taken so many actions which directly endanger the lives of migrant families and children, layering crisis upon crisis. Today we call on our political leaders to restore the right to asylum at the border, end the inhumane practice of immigrant detention, and stop the forced returns of migrants, including unaccompanied children, to situations of insecurity and danger.

Like Pope Francis, we know that "none of us is saved alone." As our one human family works towards building a more just world after the pandemic, may we remember to create new spaces of "hospitality, fraternity and solidarity" to bind up the wounds of the excluded, displaced and marginalized everywhere.

Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso
Hope Border Institute
CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.)

 


About Bishop Mark J. Seitz
The Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, D.D. serves as Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso. After hosting a migrant shelter at the diocesan pastoral center continuously for nine months, Bishop Seitz, continues to serve migrants refugees through the Borderland Refugee Assistance Fund, or BRAF. Learn more about Bishop Seitz and the Borderland Refugee Assistance Fund.

About the Hope Border Institute
The Hope Border Institute, or HOPE, brings the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on the realities unique to our US-Mexico border region. Through a robust program of research and policy work, leadership development and action, we work to build justice and deepen solidarity across the borderlands. Learn more at hopeborder.org.

About CLINIC
As the largest charitable legal immigration network in the nation, CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support, at state, local and national levels. The Estamos Unidos project responds to the urgent needs of forced migrants, thousands of whom wait in Mexico while their asylum requests are processed in the United States. Learn more at cliniclegal.org.

Posted on September 21, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Nearly 150 state, local and national organizations sent a letter to the Trump administration calling for an immediate 18-month designation of Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED, or Temporary Protected Status, known as TPS, for Lebanon. The recent Beirut explosions, compounded by already-existing civil and political unrest, an economic and humanitarian crisis and COVID-19 have created a “perfect storm” that would make the deportation of Lebanese nationals from the U.S. both dangerous and wrong.

Cases of COVID-19 were quickly rising before the August explosion killed hundreds and injured thousands in Beirut. Already, the economic crisis left hospitals and health care facilities unable to purchase basic supplies. The virus is now surging in the aftermath of the explosions, while hospitals and other facilities have been destroyed.

The country is heading into a lockdown, sure to deepen the economic and food deprivation. Prior to the explosions and COVID-19, 3.2 million people — more than half of Lebanon’s population — were already in need of humanitarian aid. As one Lebanese national in the U.S. in need of protection recently messaged CLINIC: “We are the unlucky part of the world starving for hope.” 

Abed Ayoub, Legal and Policy Director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said: “These are exactly the conditions Congress envisioned when it created TPS in 1990. The disaster that struck Lebanon in early August is compounded and made worse with the on-going economic crisis facing the nation. In addition, a looming humanitarian crisis caused by a number of factors make it even more prudent that the Administration act now to protect Lebanese nationals currently in the United States. We urge Acting Secretary Wolf and President Trump to take immediate action and offer shelter and safe haven to the people of Lebanon.” 

Added Jill Marie Bussey, director of Advocacy at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.: “Designating TPS or DED is clearly warranted under the law and vital to the United States’ overall response to the crisis in Lebanon. We continue to call on the administration to use these life-saving protections as they were intended and not politicize human life. TPS or DED would safeguard extremely vulnerable people and send a message to the world that we stand with the people of Lebanon at this catastrophic time.”

To date, the Trump administration has not articulated a stance on designating TPS or DED for Lebanon. Read the letter, signed by 148 organizations, here.

Posted on September 17, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — With immigration policy changes and developments continuing at a rapid pace, this year’s Immigration Law and Policy Conference offers a venue for cutting-edge, expert analysis of the major changes to asylum and legal immigration policy, immigration enforcement, humanitarian admissions and more.

Reporters are invited to cover any and all sessions of the 17th annual conference, organized by the Migration Policy Institute, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Georgetown Law. For complimentary media registration, contact MPI Communications Director Michelle Mittelstadt at mmittelstadt@migrationpolicy.org. The conference will not be livestreamed.

Going virtual for the first time due to the pandemic, the Immigration Law and Policy Conference will take place on two days, Sept. 21 and Sept. 22, from 2 – 5 p.m. ET.

Hear from panelists including Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic; Eduardo Porter, The New York Times; Marielena Hincapie, National Immigration Law Center; Amaha Kassa, African Communities Together; Haeyoung Yoon, National Domestic Workers Alliance; and Douglas Stevens, a former asylum officer, about the state of policy, politics and organizing on immigration; updates on the latest administration abuses; and what an improved immigration system could look like. See the full agenda and speaker list here.

The event will not be livestreamed, so you must register to get press access. Follow #ImmConf and @cliniclegal on Twitter to engage during the conference.

For complimentary media registration, contact MPI Communications Director Michelle Mittelstadt at mmittelstadt@migrationpolicy.org.

Posted on September 14, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The 9th Circuit decision in Ramos v. Nielsen, linked to another TPS case Bhattarai v. Nielsen, brings the administration one step closer to ending Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for almost all people with TPS in the United States. In addition to dramatically upending hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, the Sept. 14 decision could potentially unleash the next major family separation crisis unless Congress takes immediate action. More than 270,000 U.S. citizens have parents with TPS.  

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director, said: “Congress created Temporary Protected Status more than thirty years ago, rightly, because it would be unconscionable to deport people back to crisis and conflict. No family should be faced with the choice of either splitting up or moving their entire family, including U.S. citizen children, to a country where they face danger.“   

CLINIC advocated for the extension of TPS for all ten countries that were enrolled in the program when the Trump administration took office. Despite overwhelming evidence that people could not safely return, the administration moved to end TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and Nepal.  

“The administration’s ongoing and deliberate attacks against TPS holders are an affront to human dignity,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC director of Advocacy. “They illustrate a xenophobic agenda as the driver of policy, not facts on the ground. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are living in fear of being deported to countries that are not safe. At this difficult moment resulting from the court’s ruling, CLINIC reaffirms our solidarity with this beloved, indispensable community.”  

CLINIC will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the TPS holders and their families leading this movement for justice, which is far from over. Only Congress, not the courts, has the power to provide permanent protection. CLINIC calls in the strongest possible terms for a pathway to citizenship now for those whose lives hang in the balance. 
 

Posted on September 11, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule on Sept. 11, 2020, that would dramatically expand the types of biometric data the Department collects on immigrants and U.S. citizens. The public is being given just 30 days to analyze and comment on a massive proposed rule — 328 standard pages — that would impact many types of U.S. immigration petitions and applications, including asylum, family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, religious worker visas and programs Congress created to support survivors of domestic violence and trafficking. 

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, said: “This proposed rule is Orwellian, and goes against our fundamental belief in the dignity of the person and the sanctity of family. It is a detailed instruction manual for overbroad government data collection and an affront to our democracy. Both immigrants and U.S. citizens will have their DNA, irises, voices, faces and other personal characteristics captured and stored in government databases, potentially forever. Even survivors of trafficking and domestic violence, including children, would have to comply or be ineligible for protection. Reading through this proposed rule is truly chilling.”  

Religious workers from all over the world are called to the United States every year to fulfill their faith's mission, and require a “petitioner” in the United States to support their entry. Under this proposed rule, religious institutions will be required to submit biometric data to be stored indefinitely by the U.S. government, serving no real purpose. Said Miguel Naranjo, director of Religious Immigration Services at CLINIC: "With this rule, the federal government would be using our resources to keep people from joining parishes, families and communities to minister to their spiritual needs. This is an unacceptable intrusion on our fundamental right to practice our faith.”  

Jill Bussey, director of Advocacy for CLINIC, added: “Essentially, this rule would require the collection and warehousing of private data for millions of new applicants each year. The administration has failed to provide any valid justification for the indefinite surveillance of immigrants and citizens in this way. The 2014 data breach at DHS affected hundreds of thousands of its own employees. We question how the government will use this new data and we cannot trust that they will keep it safe.” 

Clearly, the public needs far more than 30 days to digest this proposed rule and submit comments. Proposed federal rule changes typically come with a 60-day comment window. This rule will impact the entire U.S. immigration system and the people whose lives and livelihoods depend upon it: employers, U.S. citizens and potential immigrants. That is millions and potentially billions of people over time. Rushing this proposed rule through, without taking the time to fully consider the privacy, data management and policy ramifications, would be a grave mistake—the implications of which we can only begin to imagine.  

Posted on September 3, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ”The administration’s refusal to redesignate TPS for South Sudan is reprehensible. It potentially leaves more than 2,500 people in the United States vulnerable to being sent to a country where their lives are at risk,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “The decision goes against our Catholic belief in the dignity of the person.” 

South Sudan is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. This conflict is notorious for murders of civilians, and sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. Just this May, hundreds of people were killed in remote villages, and more than 400,000 people have died from war since 2013. 

Added Gallagher: “Today, 84 people with TPS from South Sudan can reapply for protection in the United States, but 2,500 are left out. That is a tragedy. A man-made tragedy.”

CLINIC delivered a formal request to the administration calling for extension and redesignation, given the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis there. CLINIC also led an interfaith letter signed by more than 200 diverse faith leaders and faith-based organizations.

Civilian casualties, human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity continue in South Sudan today, with more than 4.8 million people in need of protection. The country also faces mass hunger and lacks clean water and basic public infrastructure. In addition to the armed conflict and humanitarian crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has further taxed the nation’s weak health care system.

Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s director of advocacy, said: “South Sudanese who currently have TPS and more recently arrived people from South Sudan are in equal need of protection and safety. This is why TPS exists. The administration’s refusal to recognize this danger and provide humanitarian protection, as Congress intended, is a stain on our conscience.”

CLINIC acknowledges that the Government Accountability Office recently deemed Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf’s appointment invalid and the question of his authority is currently being litigated. Also, CLINIC has called for accountability for and oversight of the administration’s refusal to redesignate any country for protection, despite active humanitarian crises across the world.

Bussey said: “This administration was the first to fail to redesignate TPS for South Sudan, Yemen and Syria, all of which had received the maximum protection under previous administrations. They are dismantling TPS like they are dismantling asylum and U.S. refugee resettlement — and destroying lives in the process.”

Posted on August 26, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Representing the Central American Resource Center and seven people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, CLINIC, Democracy Forward, Montagut & Sobral PC and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP sued the Trump administration to block a policy issued by an unauthorized federal executive, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 26, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to stop the Trump administration from denying access to lawful permanent residency to people with TPS who legally qualify for green cards. Cuccinelli’s action, couched as a mere “update” to the agency’s policy manual, eliminates TPS holders' ability to adjust status, with profound and devastating impacts on their lives.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

“This major change affects the futures of TPS holders who have lived in the United States for years,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director. “TPS was created by Congress thirty years ago to stabilize the lives of people who fled war, conflict and natural disasters. CLINIC will continue to advocate for the hundreds of thousands of people with TPS, and challenge the administration in court when it breaks the law.”

The USCIS policy is unlawful in part because it was issued by Cuccinelli, whose appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. In March, a federal judge sided with CLINIC and partners in another case, ruling that he lacked authority to perform such functions. On Aug. 13, the government withdrew its appeal in that case and the next day, the Government Accountability Office announced that the appointment of both Cuccinelli and Acting Secretary of Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf were deemed invalid.

Michelle Mendez, director of CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations Program, added: “USCIS broke the law to avoid public scrutiny, circumventing notice and comment requirements in the Administrative Procedure Act. The agency issued this policy in late December 2019, a time when many people would be away from work and spending time with family. They wanted to push this major change forward as surreptitiously as possible. People with TPS have contributed much to the United States and do not deserve this treatment from the country they call home. This policy issued by Cuccinelli, an unauthorized executive, must be found invalid too.”

In addition to litigating to protect the rights of people with TPS in the United States, CLINIC advocates for the extension, redesignation and initial designation of TPS for nationals of countries experiencing conflict and instability, in line with Catholic Social Teaching and values.

Posted on August 21, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, joined a coalition of 8 of the nation’s leading immigrants’ rights organizations in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Kenneth Cuccinelli over DHS’s new rule increasing application fees for immigration benefits, citizenship and asylum. The coalition is seeking a nationwide injunction of the rule to prevent it from going into effect on Oct. 2, 2020. 

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director, had this additional statement:

“It's outrageous that that our government intends to charge asylum-seekers to submit their claims for protection. Only three countries in the world currently impose such a fee. While $50 may not seem like a lot to some people, it is a fortune to men, women and children fleeing grave danger and arriving at our borders with next to nothing. Catholic social teaching mandates we welcome and protect. To do otherwise goes against our values. But let’s be very clear: this is all part of the administration's master plan. First they broke the asylum system, and now they want to break USCIS. But legal immigration rules are outlined by Congress, not the administration. Increasing fees is about denying access to visas and citizenship--processes created by Congress, not the Executive Branch. This is political and illegal. When the administration violates the law, we will see them in court."

Posted on August 14, 2020

WASHINGTON — Late last night, the Trump administration dismissed its appeal of a federal court’s March ruling that Ken Cuccinelli was illegally appointed as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In response to the news:
 
Anne Harkavy, Democracy Forward Executive Director, said: “It’s been clear from the start: Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to lead USCIS. The Trump administration retreated from its legal fight because it knows the law is not on its side. This is a victory for the rule of law and for the asylum seekers and immigrants hurt by the administration's harmful policies.”
 
Manoj Govindaiah, RAICES Litigation Director, said: “Ken Cuccinelli never actually had authority over USCIS and all of the policies he enacted as acting director — including harsher screening standards at the border and punishment for immigrants who used government health, housing, and food programs — must be struck down immediately. The decision not to pursue this appeal is a significant victory, both for our community suffering from Cuccinelli’s policies and for other advocates hoping to hold the administration in check. The Trump administration has time and again appointed “acting” officials to go around the Senate’s critical confirmation process, an attempt to circumvent its constitutional role. Our suit showed that the administration can be held accountable for such evasions — with real results.”
 
Anna Gallagher, CLINIC Executive Director, said: “The appointment of Ken Cuccinelli as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which should, on its own, render the cruel policies he has enacted in his tenure void. This dismissal is a victory, not only for those men, women, and children affected by Cuccinelli’s policies, but for everyone fighting to hold the Trump administration accountable for its actions.”
 
Today, the Government Accountability Office separately concluded that both Ken Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf, who are serving as the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, respectively, were appointed illegally and are therefore ineligible to serve in their current roles.
 
 

Background
 
On March 1st, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration illegally appointed Ken Cuccinelli to serve as Acting Director of USCIS. The court concluded Cuccinelli “lacked authority” to perform the functions of the director and voided as “invalid and without legal force or effect” two immigration directives he issued that eviscerated important legal protections for asylum seekers.
 
On behalf of seven asylum seekers and RAICES, Democracy Forward, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, brought suit against Ken Cuccinelli and the Trump administration on September 6, 2019. The successful suit alleged that his appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Posted on July 31, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced July 31 that it is charging ahead with unprecedented fee increases, expected to price people out of vital immigration benefits, including naturalization and asylum. The rule is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 2, 2020. 

“This administration’s fee schedule is yet another targeted attack on low income immigrants,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “This rule — a wealth test — determines who has access to security and citizenship based on how much money they have in their pocket instead of their God-given dignity and value to our communities.”  

USCIS’ initial proposal to raise fees across the board was met with deep opposition from CLINIC and other Catholic institutions, legal services organizations, state and local governments, businesses, faith-based groups and others. The final rule maintains provisions to raise the naturalization fee by 83 percent, to a total of $1,170, and eliminates fee waivers for most cases. It also includes, for the first time in U.S. history, an initial fee to seek asylum, a heartless move contrary to our character as a nation.  

USCIS is increasing its fees in the midst of a pandemic, record unemployment and recession. “In general, we know that when costs go up, application rates go down,” said CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy Jill Marie Bussey. “It defies logic that when people are struggling to meet basic needs they will be able to afford these massive increases. This is one of the reasons we question how the fee hikes would actually improve USCIS’ operations. In light of COVID-19, CLINIC and others have recently called for new analysis of USCIS’ conclusions.” 

CLINIC will continue its advocacy to protect low income immigrants. “The federal courts have rebuffed the administration time and again in its campaign to limit immigration,” said Bradley Jenkins, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney. “Now, USCIS has decided that if it can’t limit the number of people who qualify to immigrate, it will just price them out. Once again, it falls to the judiciary to act as a check against the arbitrary actions of USCIS leadership.”

Posted on July 29, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration announced on July 28 that it is considering rescinding DACA, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that the previous attempt violated the law. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and that DACA recipients are well-rooted members of society, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf stated that there may be “important policy reasons” to end DACA.

In response to the DHS announcement, Bishop Soto, Chair of the Board at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, said: “The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement to consider moving forward with ending DACA in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible and recalcitrant. DHS is returning to the same callous posture, against which the Court has already decided. The actions taken by DHS will aggravate the afflictions of many DACA recipients and aspirants, a significant portion of whom are essential workers. Their labor and sacrifices keep many vital parts of the economy running during the pandemic. The new DHS directives make no moral or practical sense. They will only further cripple the recovery, especially for the vulnerable. DACA recipients are vital to their families and to our country, which has become their home. They are our neighbors. DHS should treat them as such. The administration should not end DACA. It should work with Congress to create a pathway to citizenship. ”

DHS’ memorandum indicated that it will reject all initial DACA applications, including  those filed prior to the date of the memo. It also states that DHS will limit DACA renewals and associated work authorization to one year. The policy, as originally implemented in 2012, provided DACA grants and work authorization in two-year increments. 

“The DHS memo adds even more uncertainty and chaos to the lives of DACA recipients,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “CLINIC questions whether this announcement — which does not restore DACA to where it was prior to the attempted termination — is even in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling.” 

CLINIC continues to stand with DACA recipients as they lead this movement for justice and family unity. CLINIC calls on Congress to act immediately and create a pathway to citizenship and for the administration to keep DACA in place until there is a legislative solution.

Posted on July 16, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration's efforts to effectively end asylum have been met with a massive outpouring of opposition from the public, particularly the interfaith community. The public comment period closed on July 15, with over 79,000 comments recorded. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, gathered nearly 10,000 public comments from faith voices.

“The administration’s attempt to end asylum in the middle of a pandemic shows their infinite cruelty,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “At a time when our shared humanity and need to help one another is undeniable, our country’s leaders are spending resources on a proposal to condemn even more people to suffering and death. Thousands of members of the interfaith community showed up in force to oppose the proposed rule. They made clear they will not accept a society that locks the door on the world’s most vulnerable. ”

The administration only provided 30 days for the public to respond to its 161-page proposal to end asylum, despite requests from more than 500 organizations for at least a 60-day period — the typical amount of time. “The short comment period for such a lengthy and complex proposed regulation is proof of the administration’s intention to carry out its immoral plan as quickly as possible,” said Victoria Neilson, managing attorney of CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations Program. “We strongly question whether they will review and consider the responses from experts, people of faith and advocates working on the ground with experience on how asylum truly must work to protect and save lives.” 

In its organizational comment, CLINIC wrote: 

“Until recently, the United States was seen around the world as a beacon of hope for those fleeing harm. [...] CLINIC’s Board member, Bishop Mark Seitz recently published an op-ed reminding us: ‘Faith and hope tell us that the machinery of darkness which our immigration enforcement has become is not permanent. Faith teaches us that there will be a day when all of this pain will be no more, when walls of hatred come tumbling down and when grace transforms the dark present into something better. This darkness is ours to undo.’ […] If published in their current form, these proposed regulations would essentially end asylum. CLINIC implores the Departments to ‘to end the darkness’ and withdraw this proposed rulemaking in its entirety.”

CLINIC will continue to organize side-by-side with those who are directly affected, the interfaith community and others in the fight to save asylum. CLINIC expects that this proposal, which flies in the face of U.S. and international law, will be challenged in the courts and calls on Congress to take action to protect the right to seek asylum.

Posted on June 23, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration’s June 22 extension and expansion of its April proclamation blocking many visa entrants from coming to the United States is a thinly veiled attempt to use the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout as cover for the administration’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda. The expansion cuts off H-1B, H-2B and L-1 employment visas and and many J visa programs.

“The original proclamation and this expansion and extension have nothing to do with COVID-19 or the well-being of Americans,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s advocacy director. “This continues the administration’s attacks on family unity and hurts many others. In addition to hamstringing employers, these orders prolong the suffering of those who have already been waiting a long time to reunite with their loved ones.”

The April 22 proclamation banned many people who are seeking lawful permanent residence to reunite with family in the United States, those with employment sponsorships, and applicants for diversity visas, among others. The ban on diversity visas — a program intended to create immigration access for underrepresented nationalities — disproportionately affects Black immigrants from Africa. The original proclamation tries to pit people against each other, falsely insinuating that immigrants threaten the economic welfare of African Americans, minorities and the disabled. The expansion will extend the ban for these immigrant categories through at least Dec. 31, 2020.

“The administration is trying to deceive us by saying if we shut down these visa categories, America’s economic crisis will be alleviated,” said Bussey. “It’s the same as shutting down the border to asylum seekers in the name of COVID — they’re pushing a false narrative, scapegoating immigrants and failing to actually put in place policies that will mitigate the pandemic’s path of destruction.”

CLINIC also remains gravely concerned about the impact of the ban on immigrant religious workers. “There has rarely been a time in the history of our country when religious workers have been so needed,” said Miguel Naranjo, director of CLINIC’s Religious Immigration Services. “So many lives have been lost; families need comfort and spiritual guidance to deal with their pain, to try to accept this new reality in which we find ourselves.”

CLINIC calls on the administration to use evidence-based strategies rather than fear-mongering to mitigate the economic crisis. Bussey added: “All of us are needed on a global scale to confront the pandemic. Our response must be grounded in the inherent worth, dignity and contributions of each and every person. Fear and division will without a doubt make things worse and lead to more pain.”

Posted on June 18, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The June 18 Supreme Court ruling stops the administration from terminating DACA, but Congress must still take immediate action.

“While we are grateful that today’s Supreme Court decision stops the administration from terminating DACA, this movement is far from over,” said CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher. “Congress must act now to reflect the will of the people in this democracy and to make official what is true — DACA recipients are Americans and this is their home.”

CLINIC’s Board Chair, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, said: “Just as the church has stood by immigrants and refugees throughout our nation’s history, we will walk alongside our brothers and sisters who have DACA during the legal steps ahead. This ruling gives a reprieve to DACA holders, but Congress should quickly pass legislation granting these Americans a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship.”

The decision affects more than 700,000 people from around the world and their families, tens of thousands of whom are working in essential industries during the coronavirus pandemic. The 5-4 ruling said the administration’s attempt to rescind DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. CLINIC joined an amicus brief in the cases, Department of Homeland Security et al., v Regents of the University of California et al. Catholic organizations including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called for legislative action that would provide DACA recipients with a pathway to citizenship.

“The administration’s immigration policy can be summed up as cruelty for political gain,” said CLINIC’s Advocacy Director Jill Marie Bussey. “They have vilified DACA recipients at every turn, trying to convince people that separating families and ripping people out of their communities and jobs will somehow benefit America. The administration cannot obscure the truth that every DACA recipient is a vital and indispensable member of this nation of immigrants.”

CLINIC, along with the majority of Americans, calls on Congress to act now to protect DACA recipients, to prevent a new family separation crisis and to bring justice to a community that has been forced to wait far too long. 

While Congress takes action, CLINIC urges the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immediately and completely reinstate 2012 DACA, reopening the program to applicants who have been waiting to apply for DACA’s protections.

Posted on June 17, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Proposed new regulations will eviscerate the American asylum process, making it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to succeed in receiving protection in the United States from dangers in their home countries, said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. 

“The proposed rule violates U.S. and international human rights law, effectively ending asylum,” said Gallagher. “It targets and casts aside some of the most vulnerable people in the world, who need and deserve safety and to be treated with human dignity. The administration’s actions represent some of the most egregious human rights violations in our nation’s immigration history.”

The proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review posted June 15 would, among other changes:

  • Allow immigration judges to summarily deny applications before the applicant even has a hearing;
  • Essentially end asylum for those fleeing violence from intimate partners and family members, gangs and others who don’t fit the definition of “state” actors;
  • Raise the legal standard for passing a “credible fear” interview, which serves as the basis for whether an asylum seeker is allowed into the United States to pursue a protection-based claim; and
  • Allow denial of asylum for discretionary factors, such as entering the United States between ports of entry or transiting through a third country.

The proposed rule changes were announced with just a 30-day period for comment. Federal rule changes — particularly those involving such a sweeping revision of long-standing policies — typically provide a 60-day window for comment. The fast-track for these changes means there is little time for immigration legal experts to analyze and comment on the 63-page regulation language, which affects nearly every aspect of asylum law. 

CLINIC’s collection of immigration stories includes many recent examples of how changes in asylum policies raise the risks for people who flee to the United States because their lives are in danger. Some examples include: "Already vulnerable migrants in Juarez endangered by COVID-19 pandemic" and "Out of sight, out of mind: Six stories of asylum seekers and migrants under MPP mind."

CLINIC will provide information on how the general public or legal experts may comment on the proposed rules on our website in the next few days.

Posted on June 3, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher issued the following statement, June 4, 2020.

CLINIC stands against anti-black racism

We at CLINIC join a brokenhearted world in its cries of outrage and condemn the murder of George Floyd and so many other black people throughout the history of the United States. These last two weeks have brought us — as individuals and as a nation — face-to-face with an ugly truth too long ignored or downplayed: anti-black racism is indeed woven through the fabric of our country.
 
This isn’t news to black people. The outcry about George Floyd and so many other victims has shown that all of us bear responsibility — as individuals, as employers, as institutions, as cities, neighborhoods and communities of faith. CLINIC stands with our colleagues and partners, supporters, and affiliates against these acts of violence, which dehumanize, denigrate and disempower black people. We grieve with the victims of anti-black violence and we are in solidarity with those protesting and demanding change.
 
Founded on the instruction of Catholic social teaching to care for each other, CLINIC’s network of advocates for immigrant rights serves people from around the world who also suffer from racism and exclusion. They face many of the same systemic problems: over-reliance on arrest and detention in dehumanizing conditions; insurmountable government fees and lack of access to due process and legal counsel; underfunding of health, housing and educational services.
 
Theologian Father Bryan Massingale keenly observed this week, “It's easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, by the immense weight of centuries of accumulated fear, resentment, privilege and righteous anger.” However, he offered a way forward to guide us.
 
We will only begin to atone for our national sin of racism, he said, when we take some uncomfortable steps. We must sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings, admit our ignorance and finally do something about it.
 
As an organization we are closing today, June 4, to honor and remember George Floyd and the thousands like him who have suffered and died because racism is so integrated and accepted into the fabric of our nation.
 
White silence equals violence.
 
We will focus on what we can do internally to better understand how racism manifests in our organization and what steps we will take towards positive change. And we will consider how we as a social justice organization will recognize our role in failing to truly challenge a system that excludes our black brothers and sisters.

Posted on April 23, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC’s Board Chairman Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, joined with Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in decrying the April 22 presidential proclamation declaring a halt to immigration.

WASHINGTON — Responding to the proclamation signed by President Trump announcing a temporary reviewable immigration halt, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and chair of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), issued the following response:

“In this moment, our common humanity is apparent more now than ever. The virus is merciless in its preying upon human life; it knows no borders or nationality. Pope Francis teaches us that to live through these times we need to employ and embody the 'creativity of love.' The President’s action threatens instead to fuel polarization and animosity. While we welcome efforts to ensure that all Americans are recognized for the dignity of their work, the global crisis caused by COVID-19 demands unity and the creativity of love, not more division and the indifference of a throw-away mentality. There is little evidence that immigrants take away jobs from citizens. Immigrants and citizens together are partners in reviving the nation’s economy. We must always remember that we are all sons and daughters of God joined together as one human family.

“We are extremely concerned about how the proclamation will impact immigrant families looking to reunify, as well as religious workers. The proclamation prevents certain immigrant family members from reuniting with their loved ones living in the United States. Additionally, it bars religious workers seeking to come to the United States as lawful permanent residents from supporting the work of our Church, as well as many other religions, at this time. This will undoubtedly hurt the Catholic Church and other denominations in the United States, diminishing their overall ability to minister to those in need.”

Posted on April 15, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A year after the administration said it would “monitor” whether conditions warrant designating TPS to protect Venezuelans in the United States, the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic make the need for TPS even more pressing. More than 215 organizations asked in 2019 for TPS to safeguard Venezuelans from the humanitarian crisis there, providing work authorization and protection from deportation.

“By continuing to merely ‘monitor’ the situation in Venezuela, the administration is abdicating its responsibility to protect vulnerable Venezuelans in the United States from having to return to dangerous conditions,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s Executive Director. “Food, medicine and electricity have become rare commodities there, making it an unsafe environment for anyone. The Department of Homeland Security must use TPS as Congress intended — to protect people affected by exactly this kind of upheaval. Lives hang in the balance.”

Since DHS’ response, more than 1 million people have fled Venezuela. Even before the pandemic, the Venezuelan refugee crisis in 2020 was on pace to outsize the exodus from Syria. As described in CLINIC’s newly updated report, Congress intended TPS to protect people when they may not qualify for other humanitarian immigration protections, such as asylum or refugee resettlement. Rates of approval for Venezuelans who apply for asylum are low, about 15 percent.

Another problem worsened by the pandemic is Venezuelans held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with no path to release as deportations to Venezuela have been suspended. “We know at least hundreds of Venezuelans are trapped in ICE detention in the United States as COVID-19 spreads. TPS would have prevented this,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy. “Had TPS been designated last spring, at least 200,000 Venezuelans in the United States would have had access to work legally and be better able to provide for their families right now.”

Venezuela is home to the largest humanitarian disaster in the Western Hemisphere, with severe shortages of food, medicine and medical supplies. There is no functioning health care system, especially crucial amid the COVID pandemic.

”TPS is a life-saving protection proven to safeguard people from harm when the rest of our immigration system does not,” Bussey said. “While we undoubtedly need permanent protections for Venezuelans, we need TPS now to protect this vulnerable population. Either Congress or the administration can get this done.”

Posted on March 31, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — On the eve of its expiration on March 30, the White House announced that Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED, for Liberia is extended until Jan. 10, 2021. DED provides protection from deportation and work authorization for thousands of Liberians who have been living in the United States for decades. This extension was needed in order to make it possible for many Liberians to be able to apply for green cards under a new law that went into effect in Dec. 2019, called Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness, or LRIF. 

“While this extension is a crucial measure of justice, we don’t forget that this latest development for the Liberian community became a necessary fix to a crisis the administration created,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s Advocacy Director. “The original termination of DED in 2018 without a plan in place has caused so much needless anxiety and suffering. There are consequences when immigration policy is not constructed in a thoughtful and humane way. We call on Congress not to repeat history for DACA and TPS holders.” 

While LRIF created a pathway for Liberians to get green cards and eventually become citizens, it did not provide continued protection and work authorization beyond March 30, when DED was set to end. Therefore, without additional action, potential beneficiaries would have been at risk of gaps in work authorization and protection from deportation. CLINIC and partner organizations wrote to the administration in January, explaining why either DED or comparable measures were needed for a successful implementation of LRIF. 

“This extension was needed both for potential beneficiaries and for our country as a whole in this moment of crisis,” Bussey added. “So many Liberian DED holders work in essential services, including health care. We take this opportunity to thank them and their families for their incredible service.”

Next, CLINIC will call on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to do the necessary outreach and public engagement to ensure that beneficiaries have the information they need, especially in these challenging times.

Posted on March 30, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Joined by more than 100 organizations, CLINIC called on the Justice Department to freeze the rulemaking process on proposed significant fee increases, in light of the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis. The increases would apply to fees for appealing decisions and filing applications for relief in the immigration court system. In spite of the national emergency and related work disruptions from stay-at-home orders, the Justice Department has not extended the comment deadline, or even responded.

“The Justice Department is using these fee increases to price people out of justice,” said Victoria Neilson, managing attorney in CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations program. “Even as it becomes more difficult to get a fair day in immigration court, the Justice Department proposes to raise fees for appeals to $975. This rule also adds a fee for asylum applications in removal proceedings for the first time. It is shameful to force the most vulnerable to pay fees to seek safety from persecution.”

The fee increases would be the first for immigration appeals in three decades. The increases range from $30 to $865. The largest, of nearly 800 percent, would raise the cost from $110 to $975 to appeal an immigration judge’s ruling. The changes grossly exceed rates of inflation. The proposal would make the cost of an appeal in the immigration court system almost double what it is in federal court.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, CLINIC had urged the Justice Department to provide more time for public comments. The Feb. 28 notice of proposed rulemaking only gave a 30-day comment period instead of the typical 60-day period.

“Pushing this rule through in the midst of a public health crisis demonstrates that the administration’s cruelty has no bounds,” said CLINIC Advocacy Director Jill Marie Bussey. “Any and all new rules affecting immigrants and our immigration system should stop during this national emergency. Failure to do so is blatantly inhumane.”

See CLINIC’s public comment on the proposed rule.

This effort is part of CLINIC’s ongoing work to protect immigrants from additional barriers to obtaining and maintaining legal status during the coronavirus crisis. Other efforts include:

Posted on March 2, 2020

WASHINGTON — In a case brought by CLINIC and partners, a federal court ruled March 1 that the Trump administration illegally appointed Ken Cuccinelli to serve as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As a result, the court concluded that Cuccinelli “lacked authority” to perform the exclusive functions of the director. The court further voided as “invalid and without legal force or effect” two immigration directives Cuccinelli issued that eviscerate important legal protections for asylum seekers.

The legal blow was delivered to the Trump administration as a result of a lawsuit brought by CLINIC, Democracy Forward, RAICES, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP., on behalf of RAICES and individual asylum seekers. The ruling sets aside the removal orders and negative credible fear determinations for the asylum seekers in the case, meaning that they will have another chance to have their claims heard.

The court’s conclusion also raises serious questions about the legality of removal orders issued to other asylum seekers under the same directives, and other actions Cuccinelli has undertaken.
 
“This ruling is a big win that confirms Ken Cuccinelli’s installation and service as acting director of USCIS was unlawful. This is both a victory for the rule of law and a significant blow to the Trump administration's xenophobic agenda,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “We are proud to share this legal victory with the brave asylum seekers who brought the Trump administration to court to ensure that the United States stays true to its tradition of providing a haven for those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the U.S.”
 
The court specifically voided as “defective” Cuccinelli’s anti-immigrant policies which:

  • Cut in half, or more, the time for asylum seekers to consult with a lawyer and prepare evidence to substantiate their fear of persecution — which can leave them with just a few hours, while detained, to prepare for an interview with potential life or death consequences; and 
  • Prohibited asylum seekers from obtaining a continuance except in extraordinary circumstances, such as being unconscious. Under Cuccinelli’s directives, continuances were no longer granted when additional time was needed to prepare for the interview or overcome language barriers.

“This administration has done everything it can to undermine protection for vulnerable asylum seekers,” said Bradley Jenkins, federal litigation attorney for CLINIC. “We are grateful that today the District Court restrained the lawless behavior of USCIS in this case, and that our plaintiffs will have an opportunity to have access to a fair credible fear interview process.”

RAICES Litigation Director Manoj Govindaiah said: “We applaud this ruling finding Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to his former role at USCIS. The court’s strong rebuke sends a powerful message to the administration that it cannot escape the lawful process for appointments. We are grateful that our brave plaintiffs will have an opportunity to establish their eligibility for asylum in a manner that follows the law, and that the court reinforced our nation’s tradition as a country that welcomes immigrants.”
 
The court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Trump administration made an unlawful end-run around the Federal Vacancies Reform Act by taking the extraordinary and unprecedented step of creating a new office for Cuccinelli in order to install him as the acting head of USCIS. The court found that “the structure and purpose of the FVRA further confirm that Cuccinelli was not lawfully designated to serve…”

Posted on February 28, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A ruling today by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored asylum rights for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence and harm. The decision in Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf reinstated an injunction blocking implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols — also known as the Remain in Mexico policy. It appropriately reins in administration efforts that fly in the face of asylum law and American humanitarian values.

The ruling upheld a preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which found the Migrant Protection Protocols to be unlawful. For over a year, the United States government has sent vulnerable asylum seekers to dangerous border cities in Mexico to await hearings on their asylum claims.

In response to the Remain in Mexico policy, CLINIC established the Estamos Unidos Asylum Project in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to advise asylum seekers about asylum and related humanitarian relief in the United States. Estamos Unidos Attorney Tania Guerrero described conditions in Juarez and other border cities. “Remain in Mexico has been a humanitarian nightmare and we are relieved to see it end. We are thankful that asylum seekers who have been waiting in Juarez in fear for their lives will be allowed to pursue their claims in the United States.”

The 9th Circuit panel said: the policy “has had serious adverse consequences for the individual plaintiffs. Plaintiffs presented evidence in the District Court that they, as well as others returned to Mexico under the MPP, face targeted discrimination, physical violence, sexual assault, overwhelmed and corrupt law enforcement, lack of food and shelter, and practical obstacles to participation in court proceedings in the United States.”

Guerrero said Remain in Mexico has had broad implications. “This policy has been a dark stain on the United States’ role as a world leader on refugee protection,” she added. “The 9th Circuit today correctly decided that this program was never authorized by Congress and that it contradicts the immigration statute.”

CLINIC is committed to advocating for an asylum system that protects the rights and dignity of individuals.

Posted on February 28, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto has been named to chair CLINIC’s Board of Directors by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Soto has served on CLINIC’s board since 2002, including a previous term as chairman from 2007-2010. 

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is very pleased that Bishop Soto has accepted the appointment. “Bishop Soto will do a great job leading CLINIC as chairman. His experience is critical at this time as asylum seekers, as well as DACA recipients and TPS holders, need CLINIC and its members to increase the availability of high-quality legal assistance.”

Bishop Soto noted his long connection to CLINIC, dating to its founding in 1988. “Since CLINIC was established, I have been privileged to work alongside of very dedicated professionals who strive to protect the human dignity of migrants and help them to become new Americans,” he said. He added that CLINIC “is a dynamic, committed community of men and women who walk with the immigrants and refugees seeking to make the United States their home.”

CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher welcomed Bishop Soto to his new role. “He is a passionate defender of immigrants’ rights,” she said. “I’m very pleased with his appointment and am looking forward to working more closely with him.”

Bishop Soto is a native of California — the eldest of seven children — who has long advocated for the rights of immigrants and worked in Hispanic ministry. In addition to his degrees in philosophy and divinity studies, he holds a master’s in social work from Columbia University, which he put to use as director of Immigration and Citizenship Services at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Orange, in California. He took the Catholic Charities post just before the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, which led to a nationwide legalization program. CLINIC was founded in 1988 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as part of the church’s response to the need for affordable immigration legal services.

He was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Orange in 1982 and was first named a bishop in 2000, as an auxiliary bishop in his home diocese. He first went to the Diocese of Sacramento in 2007 as coadjutor bishop. Upon the retirement of Bishop William K. Weigand in November 2008, Bishop Soto became head of the Sacramento Diocese.

Bishop Soto described CLINIC as “a vital part of the charitable ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States. The work of CLINIC is a work of mercy bringing the wisdom and justice of the Lord Jesus to many vulnerable families. “

Bishop Soto succeeds Bishop Kevin J. Vann of Orange, California, who served two terms as chair of CLINIC’s board.

“I had the honor of having Bishop Vann as chairman of our board as I joined CLINIC a year ago,” said Gallagher. “His support and guidance were invaluable in helping me step into a very complex role. His service to CLINIC has been invaluable and I thank him on behalf of all our affiliates and staff for leading us with a steady hand and great wisdom.”
 

Posted on February 24, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The State Department rushed to implement its new public charge rule —  giving only a weekend’s notice of changed requirements before they were implemented Feb. 24. The agency finalized its new public charge questionnaire and policy guidance late on Friday and made them effective today, giving no time for applicants, practitioners, or consular officers to adjust to the changes.

The new rule imposes radical changes to a long-standing interpretation of public charge. Beginning today, applicants for an immigrant visa will need to demonstrate how their income, job skills, age, education, and enrollment in health insurance meet this higher standard.

“This is simply the latest effort by this administration to reduce family-based immigration, particularly from developing countries,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “It is an end-run around Congress, which has voted down such efforts in the past.”

Charles Wheeler, an attorney with CLINIC who has focused on public charge, calls it “an unholy mess. This is going to cause major disruptions at consulates around the world. Applicants have been given no time to prepare for the heightened questions they will face beginning today.”

The State Department’s new public charge rule affects almost all applicants for an immigrant visa. CLINIC and other organizations have sued to stop its implementation. A hearing on that motion for a preliminary injunction will be heard Feb. 28 in the Southern District of New York in Make the Road New York, et al v. Pompeo. A related challenge to the Department of Homeland Security’s public charge rule was successful, although the Supreme Court Jan. 27, in a 5-4 decision, granted the government’s motion to allow the rule to be implemented while the case is on appeal.

See CLINIC’s library of materials related to public charge changes on our website.

Posted on February 3, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC joined with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA in this statement decrying the latest expansion of the Trump administration’s ban on travel to the United States from certain countries.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who chairs CLINIC’s Board of Directors, had this additional statement:

“Since 2017, families from the countries covered by the original travel ban have been frustrated time and again in their efforts to reunite with loved ones. The administration’s promised waivers for humanitarian travel are all but nonexistent. Adding more countries to this shameful policy will serve only to keep more families stuck on opposite sides of the globe from each other.”

Posted on February 2, 2020

WASHINGTON The President issued a proclamation Friday restricting the issuance of immigrant visas to people from Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria. People from Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be eligible for certain visas to come to the United States, commonly called “Diversity Visas.”

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., along with Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA issued the following statement strongly disagreeing with the administration’s latest action:

“The proclamation restricting immigration further undermines family reunification efforts and will make ensuring support for forced migrants in the designated countries more difficult. This proclamation also serves as a painful reminder of the 2017 ban which threatened our country’s founding principle of religious freedom. Over the last three years, waivers to allow visas from current travel ban nations based on undue hardship (such as family illness) were supposed to be available but were almost never authorized. We note with particular sadness and have witnessed firsthand the trauma of family separation that occurs with travel bans, which will only increase with this new proclamation.

“We respect that there are challenges in assuring traveler documentation and information exchange between countries as a means to ensure the safety of citizens. However, we also believe that ill-conceived nation-based bans such as this injure innocent families. As the bishops’ conference president Archbishop José Gomez has stated. . . , ‘Welcoming families has allowed our country to integrate successive immigrant generations into the fabric of American life, allowing them to contribute their faith, values and talents to make this country great.’

“We urge the administration to reverse this action and consider the human and strategic costs of these harmful bans.”

Posted on January 31, 2020

WASHINGTON — Today, the administration announced an expansion to the Muslim ban that includes Nigeria, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar. It also bans individuals from Sudan and Tanzania from obtaining “diversity visas.”

This week marked three years since the Trump administration’s nefarious first attempt at a Muslim and refugee ban, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in ongoing litigation against the ban. Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) and other senators introduced a resolution condemning the refugee and Muslim ban as well as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. In February, the House Judiciary Committee will mark-up the civil rights-centered No Ban Act. 

Also this week, the administration announced a new pregnancy ban on tourist visas for women whom a consular officer has “reason to believe” may be pregnant or could become pregnant.

Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) leaders offer the following quotes about the expanded Muslim ban. 

“Since 2017, families from the countries covered by the original travel ban have been frustrated time and again in their efforts to reunite with loved ones. The administration’s promised waivers for humanitarian travel are all but nonexistent. Adding more countries to this shameful policy will serve only to keep more families stuck on opposite sides of the globe from each other,” said Bishop Jaime Soto, board chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

“Communities across the country have been organizing against racist, xenophobic and anti-Muslim policies such as the Muslim ban, and will continue to organize. We understand that an attack on any of us—especially targeted communities—is an attack on all of us. Urgent action is needed to protect the lives of people from countries affected by the ban, but instead the U.S. is continuing a dark history of legalized oppression. These countries in the expanded ban are mostly African, highlighting the ways in which this administration continues to target immigrants of Black and African origin. AFSC calls upon people from all faith traditions as well as those without religious affiliations to join us and stand in solidarity with the Muslim and African community. We will not stand for xenophobic policies that target and criminalize Muslims or any other communties,” said Mary Zerkel, Coordinator of American Friends Service Committee’s Communities Against Islamophobia Program.

"The Christian Reformed Church has long encouraged its ‘congregations and individual members to speak out against, and seek to reform, laws and practices concerning the treatment of immigrants that appear to be unduly harsh or unjust,’ so we are compelled to speak out in opposition to new travel restrictions placed on these additional countries. This policy change is not only discriminatory, but it also prolongs the separation of families longing to be reunited with loved ones and limits our ability as the Church to fulfill our biblical calling to welcome the stranger," said Rev. Reggie Smith, Director, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America.

“Today we hear that, again, our government will further limit the peoples who can enter this nation. We know that, with this announcement, families will remain separated, and those in danger will have no safe place to turn,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II,  Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),  “As Presbyterians, we worship God and that worship is guided by the teachings in Isaiah 58. We cannot please the Lord with fasting and prayer if we also oppress and deny others their dignity. Worship that is pleasing to the Lord lifts the yoke of oppression and shares hearth and home. We will continue to be faithful and demand that the actions done in our name do not further harm those who are oppressed and those separated by borders.” 

“Three years ago, when President Trump introduced his first discriminatory ban, we pledged to fight it at all costs. With the expansion of the ban, we remain as committed to that fight as ever,” said Reverend John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service. “We have seen the horrific impact of the ban on the refugee and immigrant families we serve, so expanding it is not only morally reprehensible, but contrary to everything that has long made the United States a beacon of hope. Keeping loved ones apart, simply because of where they come from, takes that hope and replaces it with despair. We call on Congress to defend our values and stand up to such brazenly discriminatory policies."

Sheila Katz, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women, stated: “As Jews, we know what it’s like to wish others would respond while policies rooted in religious injustice are carried out. We know what it’s like to seek a haven and a better life in the United States. We know what it’s like to be turned away out of fear and prejudice under the guise of ‘security.’ The Muslim Ban is an affront to these Jewish values and the U.S. Constitution.” 

“For Christians, the president’s travel ban is an issue of faith. How we treat people of different backgrounds, particularly immigrants and other marginalized groups, is a test of our faith in the scriptures. No family or community should be separated because of their religion or where they come from—but that’s exactly what Trump’s travel ban has done and what his expanded ban would continue to do. We must protect the rights of people of all religious backgrounds and nationalities to be with their families. The president’s travel bans have not been about national security, but have been consistent with his rhetoric vilifying Muslims and people of color in general. Therefore, we will continue to oppose the administration’s travel bans and urge Congress to pass legislation that prevents the president and future occupants of the Oval Office from banning people because of their religion or nationality,” said Paola Fuentes Gleghorn, the Immigration and Women and Girls Campaign Coordinator for Sojourners.

“Today, we remember in sadness families separated and hopes for protection dashed in the first refugee and Muslim ban announced three years ago. In our remembering, we are recharged to continue our efforts to ensure religious discrimination will never be allowed to infect our U.S. policies towards the refugees and immigrants our faith calls us to welcome.  Scripture urges we ‘set at liberty the oppressed’; not oppress the liberty of the world’s most vulnerable,” said Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries.

Stephen Schneck, PhD, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network, said: “The Muslim ban goes against everything that we stand for as Franciscans and against what Jesus and Francis of Assisi taught and lived. It is morally wrong to single out one group of people based on their faith. Our country was founded to be a place of refuge and community, not fear and hate.”  

“Enshrined and inherent in America’s founding is the assertion that all people are created equal. Muslim bans, no matter what new rhetorical flourishes are used to describe and defend them, are just that: bans on Muslims,” said Hannah Graf Evans, the Immigration and Refugee Policy Legislative Representative for the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers). “No president should be able to enact such racist, Islamophobic policies – policies that blatantly target Muslim citizens, immigrants, and visitors – in the near complete absence of congressional action or oversight. Freedom of religion – and the first amendment – must stand for something.” 

“In our ever-evolving, interconnected world, the exclusion of innocent people has no place. President Trump’s expanded Muslim ban is anathema to the American spirit. Our common humanity calls us to meet the other with respect, guided by internationally agreed upon laws and informed by human rights, the dignity of the person, compassion and mercy,” said Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. 

Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm

###

Contact: Lynn Tramonte | media@interfaithimmigration.org | 202-255-0551

Posted on January 27, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Supreme Court’s Jan. 27 order allowing the federal government to enact new standards for deciding when immigration benefit applicants might constitute a “public charge” is far from the last word on whether the rule is legal.

The 5-4 order reversed the only remaining nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the new rule, while legal challenges continue in several federal courts. A separate injunction still blocks the rule from being implemented in Illinois.

“While we are obviously disappointed that the Supreme Court has allowed the public charge rule to be implemented while the court challenges proceed, we remain hopeful that the rule will ultimately be declared illegal,” said Bradley Jenkins, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney. “Indeed, the justices who commented did not say anything one way or another about whether they thought the public charge rule violates the law.”

CLINIC is a plaintiff in one of two companion cases being heard in a New York District Court that challenge the new public charge rules as illegal. The case, Make the Road New York vs. McAleenanalso includes as plaintiffs African Services Committee, Asian American Federation and Catholic Charities Community Services of the Archdiocese of New York.

Posted on January 17, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The federal government’s decision Jan. 17 to extend Temporary Protected Status for Somalia for 18 months allows about 500 people protection from deportation but does nothing to help other Somalis who have arrived in the United States since 2012. 

The extension will allow Somalis who hold TPS to renew their status, including work permits, and remain in the United States through Sept. 17, 2021. The Department of Homeland Security did not redesignate TPS for Somalia, as called for by CLINIC, other organizations and Members of Congress. Redesignation would have opened TPS to Somalis who arrived in the United States more recently than 2012.

Living conditions in Somalia continue to be dire due to armed conflict, climate extremes, including floods and drought, and devastating food shortages. At least 2.6 million people are displaced in Somalia and 5.2 million people, nearly half the population, are in need of humanitarian aid.

“Advocates called on the administration to redesignate TPS for Somalia because not only are dangerous conditions ongoing, in some cases they are deteriorating,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s advocacy director. “In the past few weeks, Al-Shabaab has carried out a series of horrific attacks, including the Dec. 28 bombing that killed nearly 80 people in Somalia’s capital. These conditions are not safe for current TPS holders and they are not safe for the people who would have benefited from redesignation. The failure to redesignate and offer protection for more recently arrived Somalis is senseless and cruel.”

CLINIC was among 140 organizations and faith leaders who wrote to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security in December asking him to not only extend TPS for Somalia but to redesignate. Redesignation would have meant the option to seek TPS would be open to people who arrived in the United States more recently than the current cutoff date in 2012. 

CLINIC has repeatedly called for Congress to investigate the handling of TPS for various countries, noting ways the administration has not followed the law and past practice for how TPS decisions are made. 
 

Posted on January 6, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Jan. 3 decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemen allows the 1,250 people it currently covers another 18 months in the United States, yet does not allow potentially thousands of more recently arrived Yemenis to apply for protection from the war-ravaged country.

The previous extension of TPS for Yemen was due to expire March 3. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that Yemenis who currently hold TPS will be able to remain in the United States and extend work permits until at least Sept. 3, 2021.

“Congress created TPS to protect people from the exact type of massive humanitarian crisis that exists in Yemen today,” said Jill Marie Bussey, advocacy director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “The failure to redesignate TPS for Yemen is the failure to use the law as Congress intended. The need for protection from this crisis does not change based on the day a person arrives in the United States — to offer protection to current TPS holders but not to more recently arrived people is illogical and unconscionable. Congress must investigate and the administration must be held accountable."

CLINIC and 128 other faith leaders and organizations in a Dec. 13 letter to the Department of Homeland Security called upon the administration to extend and redesignate TPS for Yemen. A similar letter delivered the same day called for the same actions for TPS for Somalia. TPS for Somalia is due to expire March 17, meaning the administration must make a decision by Jan. 17.

In September 2019, a joint statement by two dozen relief agencies to the U.N. General Assembly called the situation in Yemen “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” That report was among details of a newly updated CLINIC backgrounder on the situation in Yemen. More than three-quarters of the population, 24.1 million people, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Experts warn that Yemen is “one step” away from famine. One of the worst cholera epidemics ever recorded has affected nearly a million people, with 1,234 deaths reported in the first half of 2019, an escalation from the previous year.

Posted on December 20, 2019

WASHINGTON — As the deadline approaches to submit comments about proposed changes in fees for immigration benefits, three Catholic agencies highlighted the benefits of naturalization and opposed the proposed changes by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that would make immigration unattainable for low-income and vulnerable immigrants.

CLINIC, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA filed a joint comment emphasizing that access to naturalization and other immigration benefits are mutually beneficial for immigrants, their families, employers and society. The comment also decried a proposal to take funds paid by immigrants to cover the costs of processing their applications and transfer them to ICE for enforcement purposes.

“Immigration benefits must remain accessible to applicants and petitioners of all socioeconomic strata,” said the 32-page comment. “Catholic social teaching emphasizes the value of economic freedom, for the economy must exist for the benefit of the human, not vice versa. It is not in anyone’s best interests for people to fall out of lawful immigration status solely because they cannot afford to pay the filing fee. It would certainly be harmful to the immigrants and their families, but it would also be detrimental to employers who would lose their workers, and to the U.S. economy that would lose productivity.” 

The proposed fee schedule would disproportionately increase the costs of immigration for low-income immigrants and their families. Some of the changes include an 83 percent increase to the naturalization fee, a 79 percent increase for green card applications, and a 55 percent increase in DACA renewal fees. The proposal also includes a new fee to apply for affirmative asylum, making the United States one of only four countries in the world to impose such a fee.  

“The family is the building block of American society,” the three Catholic organizations said, “and imposing or increasing burdens on those seeking to pursue better lives for their families is antithetical to American values. The call to family, community, and participation is a central tenet of Catholic social teaching. Proposals to increase fees and eliminate fee waivers for many categories of benefits will place low- and moderate- income families at a disadvantage, making immigration benefits less accessible to the most vulnerable.” 

Legal and social services agencies are encouraged to join in opposing the proposals before the Dec. 30 due date for comments. CLINIC has developed tools to assist people and organizations. As of Dec. 20, more than 19,300 comments had been submitted. A public platform CLINIC developed has facilitated the submission of more than 8,100 comments. 

Posted on December 19, 2019

WASHINGTON — CLINIC joined other legal service organizations Dec. 18 filing a federal lawsuit challenging the “weaponization” of the U.S. immigration court system to serve the administration’s agenda of hostility to immigrants. 

The suit Las Americas v. Trump was filed in Portland-based U.S. District Court of Oregon on behalf of CLINIC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Innovation Law Lab, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and Santa Fe Dreamers Project. 
 
“Through the work of our affiliates and other nonprofits whom we train and mentor, we see more and more that justice is being cast aside in favor of speed,” said Michelle Mendez, director of CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations program. “Some of the most vulnerable people in the world come to the United States looking for safety and fairness. It is imperative that our court system provide this.”

The complaint outlines pervasive dysfunction and bias within the immigration court system, including:

  • Areas that have become known as “asylum-free zones,” where virtually no asylum claims have been granted for the past several years.
  • The nationwide backlog of pending immigration cases, which has now surpassed 1 million — meaning that thousands of asylum seekers must wait three or four years for a court date.
  • The Enforcement Metrics Policy, implemented last year, which gives judges a personal financial stake in every case they decide and pushes them to deny more cases more quickly.
  • The “family unit” court docket, which stigmatizes the cases of recently arrived families and rushes their court dates, often giving families inadequate time to find an attorney and prepare for their hearings.

“Under the leadership of President Donald Trump and the attorney general, the immigration court system has become fixated on the goal of producing deportations, not adjudications,” said Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab. “The system is riddled with policies that undermine the work of legal service providers and set asylum seekers up to lose without a fair hearing of their case.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six legal service providers whose work for asylum seekers has been badly impaired as a result of the unjust immigration court system.

Innovation Law Lab also announced the full launch of an Immigration CourtWatch app, which enables court observers to record and upload information on the conduct of immigration judges. 

Advocates, attorneys and other court watchers are encouraged to download and use the app. 
 

###

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org and follow us on social media: Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook and @splcenter on Twitter.

Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon with projects around the country and in Mexico, is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, lawyers, and activists to advance immigrant justice. For more information, visit www.innovationlawlab.org.

Posted on November 14, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new round of proposed regulations from the administration would make it impossible for most asylum seekers to be permitted to work while their cases are pending.

Proposed regulations released in the Federal Register Nov. 14 would block asylum seekers from applying for work permits for a full year after submitting their asylum petitions.

“The United States has traditionally been a safe haven for asylum seekers,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. ”This proposed change pulls the rug out from under them, leaving them even more vulnerable and unable to support themselves during the asylum process.”

The proposed rule would increase the length of time an asylum application must be pending to 365 days before applicants can even apply for a work permit. Under current rules, asylum seekers can file after their applications have been pending 150 days and USCIS is required to make a decision within 30 days. During this waiting period, asylum seekers would be unable to work legally. Most asylum seekers come to the United States with little more than the clothes on their backs, and many would have no way to pay for legal counsel without being able to work.

“Time and again the administration has made it harder for the most vulnerable people, those in flight from life-threatening conditions in their homelands, to have access to counsel,” Gallagher said. “It is unjust and wrong that any asylum seeker would have to go through this increasingly complex system alone because the government is limiting their ability to hire counsel.”

The rule would also block work authorization for asylum seekers who enter the United States between ports of entry, those who did not file for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States and those with certain criminal convictions, among other exclusions. The rule would require officers of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who lack specialized asylum training, to make complex determinations about asylum law and criminal law. They would be given unprecedented discretion to deny asylum seekers employment authorization documents.

Also on Nov. 14, the administration formally announced proposed fee increases for a variety of immigration applications. Among them was a $50 fee to seek asylum — the first time the United States has sought to charge for this humanitarian protection.

Comments on the proposed asylum employment authorization rule may be submitted through Jan. 13, 2020.

Posted on November 8, 2019

WASHINGTON — A coalition of leading immigrant rights organizations has condemned the Trump Administration’s proposal to drastically increase the cost of applying for citizenship, a radical policy shift that would prevent millions of green card holders from beginning the naturalization process.

Applying for citizenship currently costs $725, which already makes the naturalization process too expensive for many green card holders. The new Trump administration proposal would increase the cost to the applicant by $445, pushing the total cost to $1,170 and creating an unnecessary barrier to citizenship for millions of eligible applicants.

Compounding the damage, the administration also announced plans today to eliminate a fee waiver program for lower-income green card holders. That means any naturalization applicant—regardless of how little they earn—would have to pay the new, higher fees in full. 

Another major component of the announcement is just as troubling. The Trump administration said it would transfer $200 million in fees that had been collected by USCIS, the federal agency which processes naturalization applications, to ICE, the agency that is responsible for deportations and which has carried out family separations and the administration's most hardline anti-immigration policies.

If enacted, these changes would sharply reduce the number of new naturalization applications, especially from lower-income green card holders. That will create a wealth test for citizenship, one that could exclude hundreds of thousands—and potentially millions—of otherwise eligible applicants.

STATEMENT FROM MELISSA RODGERS, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS, IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER

“The Trump administration has been waging a coordinated assault on the naturalization process, and today's regulations show how far the White House is willing to go to reduce the number of new U.S. citizens and change the demographic composition of our country. In essence, the White House is creating a wealth test for citizenship and telling lower-income applicants that they're not welcome in Trump's America.”

STATEMENT FROM ARTURO VARGAS, CEO, NALEO EDUCATIONAL FUND

“Today’s proposal from the White House is an assault on the nearly nine million lawful permanent residents in our country, about half of whom identify as Latino. If the federal government institutes unreasonably exorbitant financial barriers to the citizenship process, the damage would reverberate in communities throughout the country. The entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of naturalized citizens contribute to the vitality of America’s economy and democracy; our shared prosperity increases with each new American who takes on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. NALEO Educational Fund will continue the work necessary to ensure the dream of American citizenship stays alive for our community.”

STATEMENT FROM SUSAN COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND ADVOCACY, NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR NEW AMERICANS

“This discriminatory policy—just like the Muslim ban, the public charge rule and the healthcare ban--would destroy the path to refuge, legal residence, citizenship and inclusion for all those for whom Lady Liberty raises her torch. This is a ban on the tired, the poor, and those yearning to breathe free, plain and simple. Congress must step in and prevent this from going into effect before it causes irreparable harm to our families and nation.”

 STATEMENT FROM LAURA VAZQUEZ, SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, IMMIGRATION INITIATIVES, UnidosUS

“The Trump Administration has made life harder for Latino children and families. They have gone after DREAMers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and now those who are on the verge of becoming U.S. citizens. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that the Administration’s goal is really an all-out assault on the 60 million Latinos hasn’t been paying attention. That their policies also happen to go against the interests of our economy and our country make them only more cruel and nonsensical.”

STATEMENT FROM ANNA GALLAGHER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CATHOLIC LEGAL IMMIGRATION NETWORK, INC.

“The Trump administration once again is making changes that undermine American values and will hurt vulnerable, low-income populations. These proposed fee changes will have destructive consequences on men, women and children seeking asylum, DREAMers, and immigrants on the path to citizenship. We are deeply disturbed that this administration continues to limit access to the American dream."

### 

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policymakers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training and technical assistance, and policy development and advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. As a key part of its mission, ILRC serves as the lead agency for the New Americans Campaign, a national campaign aimed at increasing the number of “new Americans” by ensuring access to the naturalization process and trusted legal assistance.

NALEO Educational Fund is the nation's leading non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates the full participation of Latinos in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. 

The National Partnership for New Americans is a national multiethnic, multiracial partnership of 35 immigrant and refugee rights organizations. Our members provide large scale services--from assistance with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and citizenship applications to voter registration to health care enrollment--for their communities, and they combine service delivery with sophisticated organizing tactics to advance local and state policy. We believe America’s success is rooted in our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the fabric of our nation, and to upholding equality and opportunity as fundamental American values.

UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For more than 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) is the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services programs. Its mission is to provide immigration legal services to low-income and vulnerable populations. In service of that mission. CLINIC provides materials, training, and funding to its members, including in particular local organizations that provide naturalization services.

Posted on October 25, 2019

WASHINGTON — Changes to a fee waiver process announced Oct. 25 by the Department of Homeland Security will create significant barriers to citizenship for tens of thousands of non-wealthy applicants each year. CLINIC and a group of organizations that provide legal assistance, social services and other support to immigrants intend to file suit in California on behalf of people and communities who will be harmed by the changes.

Under current policy, immigrants are typically not eligible to naturalize until they have lived as lawful permanent residents in the United States for five years, speak English, understand U.S. history and civics, and demonstrate a commitment to the U.S. Constitution. There is also a $725 application fee.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services currently waives the fee for those who cannot afford to pay it, which is approximately 40 percent of applicants. Under rules in place since 2010, lawful permanent residents (also commonly referred to as green card holders) who receive means-tested benefits from another government agency are automatically entitled to a fee waiver, making the process easy for USCIS to administer and for applicants and service providers to complete.

The new rules will make it much harder to qualify for a fee waiver, and will severely curtail naturalization applications, particularly from low-income applicants. Recent research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab suggests that the new rules could reduce the number of naturalization applications filed each year by as much as 10 percent.

“Waivers of the $725 application fee make it possible for thousands of hard-working people to become U.S. citizens,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “This change is a roadblock on the path to the American Dream. The justification by USCIS — that reducing the number of fee waivers will help fund agency operations — is baseless, in fact it’s counterproductive. Even as USCIS fees keep going up, their case backlogs grow. USCIS mismanagement should not be used to punish immigrants.”

Protect Democracy, Advancing Justice-AAJC, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and Mayer Brown LLP are preparing to file suit in California on behalf of organizations and communities who will be irreparably harmed by these changes. CLINIC will be among the plaintiffs.

STATEMENT FROM SEATTLE MAYOR JENNY A. DURKAN

“The American promise must be open to all. Wealth is not and should never be a requirement of being an American citizen. Seattle will fight for the promise of America and against a pay-to-play approach to citizenship. We demand this administration be accountable to our constituents and maintain the current fee waiver process. I am grateful to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes for ensuring our City protects the constitutional freedoms of our communities. Immigrants and refugees are part of Seattle’s heritage, and they will continue to make us the city of the future.”

STATEMENT FROM JESSICA MARSDEN, COUNSEL FOR PROTECT DEMOCRACY

“This Administration wants to stop legal immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. for years from becoming citizens. The president talks tough about so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ and asylum-seekers, but behind the scenes is also making policy intended to hurt legal immigrants who have been here for years. All legal residents who live and work here, pay taxes, and want to be Americans — our neighbors, coworkers, and friends — should have the opportunity to become citizens and participate in our democracy.”

STATEMENT FROM MELISSA RODGERS, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS, IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER

“The Immigrant Legal Resource Center strongly condemns the Trump administration’s latest attempt to make it harder for low-income immigrants to seek an exemption from the high costs of applying for citizenship. The new regulations will make it significantly more difficult for hundreds of thousands of aspiring Americans to receive fee waivers, effectively creating a wealth test for citizenship.”

STATEMENT FROM JOHN C. YANG, ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE | AAJC PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

“This rule change is about changing the complexion of future immigrants from black and brown to white and furthers a class-based society that is discriminatory and unwelcoming. We cannot allow our government policies to reject the time-tested promise on the Statue of Liberty of a country that is accepting of the potential of the tired, poor, and huddled masses who yearn to breathe free in America.”  

STATEMENT FROM RICH STOLZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ONE AMERICA

“We believe in an America that welcomes immigrants and supports people in seeking their citizenship and right to vote regardless of race, national origin, class or economic status. Unfortunately, this action and others taken by the administration serve to create a two-tiered immigration and naturalization system — a ‘fast track’ for the wealthy and a much more difficult path for everyone else. This attack on immigrants smacks of discriminatory actions like poll taxes and other measures designed to deny people of their right to exercise their citizenship and vote. In the past, we made progress when people came together to stand for justice. Today our movement will push back against barriers to citizenship that harm working people with all the tools in our toolbox, including litigation to hold the administration accountable.”
 

###
 

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

Mayer Brown is a distinctively global law firm, uniquely positioned to advise the world’s leading companies and financial institutions on their most complex deals and disputes. The firm offers pro bono legal representation across the spectrum of public interest law, including in such areas as asylum and immigration, housing, public benefits, education, criminal justice reform, social finance and social entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice. AAJC’s mission is to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Advancing Justice | AAJC is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1991 in Washington, D.C.

The City of Seattle, Washington is Washington State’s largest city and the seat of King County. Seattle created its Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) in 2012 to improve the lives of Seattle’s immigrant families. OIRA funds and coordinates two naturalization programs, the New Citizen Campaign and the New Citizen Program, both aimed at helping the estimated 75,000 Seattle-area LPRs become U.S. citizens.

Central American Resource Center of California (CARECEN) is the largest Central American immigrant rights organization in the country. Its mission is to empower Central Americans and all immigrants by defending human and civil rights, working for social and economic justice, and promoting cultural diversity. As part of this mission, CARECEN offers free legal assistance to eligible immigrants in order to help them apply for citizenship and become civically-engaged citizens.

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policymakers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. As a key part of its mission, ILRC serves as the lead agency for the New Americans Campaign, a national campaign aimed at increasing the number of new Americans by ensuring access to the naturalization process and trusted legal assistance.

OneAmerica is the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State. Its mission is to advance the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities, and it focuses on helping eligible immigrants apply for citizenship and become civically engaged citizens.

Self-Help for the Elderly provides assistance and support for seniors throughout the San Francisco area. As a part of this mission, Self-Help serves as the lead agency for SF Pathways to Citizenship, a partnership between the City of San Francisco and six legal and social services providers. As the lead agency for SF Pathways to Citizenship over the last 5.5 years, Self-Help has been responsible for over 8,000 applications, over 60% of which were filed with fee waivers.

Posted on October 24, 2019

MIAMI, FL. — Attorney Whitney Untiedt, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, and Florida Justice for Our Neighbors, or JFON, are pleased to announce that through their joint efforts, an immigrant who had been blocked from naturalization was able to become a U.S. citizen.

I was honored to join forces with CLINIC to file a federal lawsuit when the government refused citizenship to a qualified applicant,” said Whitney Untiedt of Freidin Brown, P.A. “In standing up for one woman, we stood on behalf of all immigrants whose voices are silenced and whose human rights are trampled.”

Ms. A.L., a Haitian immigrant living in Florida, applied for citizenship in 2011. After her interview to become a citizen, the government sought to deport her because she did not update an immigration petition when her husband died in 2003. The immigration judge presiding over her removal proceeding found the error was unintentional and granted a waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act that protected her from deportation.

Ms. A.L. applied for citizenship a second time shortly thereafter, but was once again denied. DHS claimed that while her waiver protected her from being deported, the so-called misrepresentation prevented her from obtaining citizenship.

After the final decision denying Ms. A.L.’s naturalization was issued in August of 2018, Florida JFON contacted CLINIC, which, in turn, reached out to attorney Whitney Untiedt, who had partnered with CLINIC on pro bono cases in the past. Together, they filed a lawsuit in May of 2019 that challenged the unlawful denial of Ms. A.L.’s naturalization. Through their joint effort, a favorable settlement was obtained and Ms. A.L. was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on Sept. 13, 2019. “I have never been prouder to be a lawyer than the day I attended my client’s citizenship swearing-in ceremony,” said Untiedt.

On the joint effort to provide Ms. A.L. with the legal representation required to successfully overcome the obstacles of the US immigration process, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney, Bradley Jenkins, said: “It took a village to get Ms. A.L. her citizenship. Justice for Our Neighbors Miami represented her for years as she tried to navigate the immigration process and received denial after denial of her application. Ms. A.L. herself took, and passed, the citizenship test multiple times. When a lawsuit became necessary to require the government to recognize the legitimacy of Ms. A.L.’s claim to citizenship, CLINIC partnered with Whitney Untiedt from Freidin Brown to bring the case.”

 

#####

 

Whitney Untiedt has spent more than a decade serving Floridians in difficult legal matters. After working as a public defender for many years, she developed a national practice representing nonprofit organizations and low-income clients facing complex legal situations. In 2016, she was named “Lawyer of the Year” for ensuring that Florida juveniles who had been unfairly sentenced received appropriate resentencing hearings. At Freidin Brown, P.A., Whitney leads the firm’s national Whistleblower and Qui Tam practice, while also representing victims of medical malpractice and complex personal injuries throughout the state of Florida. Before joining the firm, Whitney was a partner and Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at an AmLaw 100 firm where she developed a national reputation for her work on behalf of nonprofit organizations and vulnerable clients facing complicated legal situations.

Freidin Brown, P.A. is a Miami-based law firm that focuses on medical negligence, complex personal injury, and whistleblower cases throughout Florida and the United States. With over a century of combined experience, our lawyers have dedicated their careers to obtaining justice for their clients.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, is the largest nationwide network of nonprofit immigration programs, with 380 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Programs include training and supporting immigration legal agencies, advocating for humane immigration policies and litigation on behalf of vulnerable populations, integration support, and legal representation for immigrant religious workers. CLINIC also is a partner in providing pro bono representation to detained families, and offers public education materials on immigrants’ rights and Catholic teaching on migration.

Florida Justice For Our Neighbors, or JFON, supports a hospitality ministry that welcomes immigrants by providing free or low-cost, expert immigration legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The organization also engages in advocacy for immigrant justice, and offers education to communities of faith and to the public. Florida JFON, part of the National JFON network, is a non-profit ministry of the United Methodist Church that provides free immigration legal aid to families in the Miami area and throughout south and central Florida and promotes education on immigration issues and advocacy for immigrant rights. The Florida JFON office is located in Cutler Bay, Florida and holds monthly clinics south of Miami at churches in Florida City and Homestead.

Posted on October 11, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A federal judge’s Oct. 11 decision blocking implementation of a new “public charge” rule for immigrants confirmed arguments raised by CLINIC and other plaintiffs that the rule is “arbitrary and capricious” and should be blocked nationwide.

“We welcome this common-sense decision,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “We hope it will ease the worries of our immigrant brothers and sisters who are fearful of using services to which they and their families have a right.”

The new standards were to take effect Oct. 15. The injunction puts implementation on hold pending the outcome of lawsuits. The rule would have dramatically changed the standards by which immigrants would be judged for whether they might at some point rely on a range of public benefits.

In a 24-page decision, Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York wrote that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims, that plaintiffs “will suffer irreparable harm if the rule becomes effective” and that the “balance of equities and the interests of justice favor issuance of a preliminary injunction.”

“The public charge standard was never intended to exclude working class immigrants from developing countries,” said Charles Wheeler, CLINIC’s director of Training and Legal Support. “This ruling confirms that the American dream remains open to them.”

“The rule would have affected all low-income immigrants seeking to reunite with their family in the United States,” Wheeler added. “The court rightfully blocked this administration’s illegal efforts to limit lawful immigration from certain parts of the world.”

In a separate decision Oct. 11, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the Northern District of California also granted a preliminary injunction on the public charge rule. That injunction is applicable to the city or county of San Francisco, Santa Clara County, California, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Maine and Pennsylvania.

Posted on October 9, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC affiliates make up more than one third of grant recipients nationwide for a program that funds citizenship and naturalization programs.

Fifteen agencies in the CLINIC network were among the 41 organizations in 24 states that received a funding award through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fiscal Year 2019 Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program, announced Sept. 26. The two-year grants of up to $250,000 each will support citizenship classes, naturalization application assistance and services aimed at helping immigrants integrate. The program has helped more than 245,000 permanent residents prepare for citizenship over the last 11 years.

CLINIC’s affiliates have received funding through the highly competitive grant program since its inception in 2009. This year, 37 percent of the 41 grantees are CLINIC affiliates. 

Of the 15 CLINIC affiliates that received a grant from USCIS, five are Catholic legal immigration programs:

  • Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
  • Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Inc., in Overland Park
  • Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, in Reno
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, in California
  • Catholic Charities, Diocese of Fort Worth, Inc., in Texas

The remaining 10 are community-based legal immigration programs:

  • Church World Service, Inc., in Durham, North Carolina
  • Hartford Public Library, in Connecticut
  • Instituto del Progreso Latino, in Chicago
  • Jewish Family Service of San Diego, California
  • Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, Inc., in Springfield
  • Lutheran Community Services Northwest, in Portland, Oregon
  • Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, in Denver
  • Pars Equality Center, in Sherman Oaks, California
  • Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York
  • The International Institute of St. Louis

CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher congratulated the recipients, noting: “USCIS citizenship grants have helped our affiliates provide assistance for vulnerable immigrants to become citizens. This is an invaluable step for immigrants to become fully established in their new home country. Naturalization truly changes lives and we are grateful that USCIS continues to support this work.”

Posted on September 27, 2019

WASHINGTON — More than 100 international, national, state, and local organizations urged Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Director Kevin McAleenan to grant Bahamian nationals Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to Hurricane Dorian’s massive destruction and displacement of Bahamian nationals. Click here for a media backgrounder on TPS for the Bahamas.

In the September 25 letter, the organizations noted:

  • “Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane and one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history, first made landfall on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas on September 1, 2019.”
  • “With sustained winds of 185 mph, Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas causing death and injury, widespread destruction, mass displacement of residents, and serious disruption of living conditions across the Bahamas affecting over 76,000 people.” and 
  • A grant of TPS would provide employment authorization and protection from deportation for approximately 14,000 Bahamian noncitizens in the United States.”

The letter further details the legal grounds for granting Bahamian nationals TPS and provides historic examples of DHS designating countries for TPS based on environmental disasters.

Jill Marie Bussey, Director of Advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., said, “Congress created TPS for these types of situations. It is immoral and cruel to deport Bahamian nationals back to a country that is in the midst of rebuilding after a devastating hurricane. To categorically declare that the administration would not designate Bahamas for TPS is premature, inappropriate, and not reflective of our values. This administration has already ended TPS for 98 percent of TPS holders. The situation of the Bahamas represents an opportunity for it to atone and revisit this misguided use of this vital humanitarian protection.”

“Bahamians extend their hospitality to over five million U.S. tourists yearly. It is our duty to offer residents of the Bahamas sanctuary in their time of need. Designating TPS for Bahamian citizens and waiving visa requirements is the least the United States can offer in response to this crisis,” said Mustafa Jumale, Policy Manager of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

“Hurricane Dorian wrought untold devastation on the Bahamas, and thousands in the country have just started on the arduous journey of rebuilding what they have lost. Denying TPS to Bahamian nationals would not only be hypocrisy — but also a seriously unjust and inhumane act,” said Carolyn Fiddler, Communications Director at Daily Kos. “We call on the Trump Administration to offer Bahamian noncitizens in the U.S. employment authorization and protection from deportation in their time of need.”

Posted on September 23, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Press coverage is invited for a full day of expert panels and a keynote speaker — Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan — at the annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, Monday, Oct. 7. The conference will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington  D.C. (near Union Station — not the main campus in Georgetown).

Panelists will include immigration and civil rights attorneys, policy experts, immigration reporters and activists. Panel discussions will cover the state of programs that the Trump administration has targeted for drastic changes, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA; Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, and asylum; how such changes have affected life at the Mexican border; and a look at the humanitarian situations in Central America that give rise to current migration trends.
 
The 16th annual conference is organized by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., the Migration Policy Institute and Georgetown University Law Center.
 
See a full agenda here. Among scheduled panelists this year:

  • Chiara Cardoletti-Carroll, Deputy Regional Representative for the United States of America and the Caribbean, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Muzaffar Chishti, Director, Migration Policy Institute office at NYU School of Law
  • Dylan Corbett, Founding Director, Hope Border Institute 
  • Anthony Fontes, Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University
  • Anna Gallagher, Executive Director, CLINIC
  • Kim Johnson, Director, California Department of Social Services
  • Sue Kenney-Pfalzer, Director, Border and Asylum Network, HIAS
  • Doris Meissner, Director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program, Migration Policy Institute
  • Maureen Meyer, Director for Mexico and Mexican Rights, Washington Office on Latin America
  • Lorella Praeli, Vice President, Community Change
  • Julia Preston, Contributing Writer, The Marshall Project
  • Joel Rose, Immigration Correspondent, National Public Radio 
  • David Shahoulian, Democratic Chief Counsel, House Immigration Subcommittee
  • Cecillia Wang, Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union

Press participation is free, but registration is encouraged. The number of spaces for camera crews is quite limited and advance registration for those spots is necessary. To register as working press, contact Pat Zapor at CLINIC, pzapor@cliniclegal.org, or Michelle Mittelstadt at MPI, mmittelstadt@migrationpolicy.org.
 
If you are a member of the public who would like to attend, register here.

Posted on September 19, 2019

WASHINGTON — Today, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and ImmigrationNiskanen CenterFWD.usUnited We DreamCatholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; and TheDream.US released a groundbreaking report that urges Congress and state legislatures to expand access to professional, business, and commercial licenses (also known as “occupational licenses”) to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients, Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, holders, and all other immigrants with the ability to lawfully work. Over 1,100 different occupations require a license and approximately 25 percent of all workers nationwide are required to obtain a license in order to work in their occupations. And yet, federal and state laws prevent many immigrants — even those with legal permission to be in the country — from even applying for those licenses.

The report urges: (1) Congress to enact legislation ending the federal and state prohibitions on occupational licenses for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and all immigrants with work permits; (2) Congress and states to enact non-discrimination prohibitions for occupational licenses; and (3) states to implement other policies to increase portability and access to licenses.

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director of the Presidents’ Alliance, stated, “Our higher education faculty and institutions invest years building and developing students’ knowledge base and skillsets, oftentimes for careers that require professional and occupational licensing. For our nation to receive dividends from the education of these talented scholars and hardworking learners, it is absolutely critical that they be allowed access to federal and state occupational licensing schemes. In doing so, our country will ensure that these alumni can contribute fully to their communities and states, and achieve economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.”

Kristie De Peña, Director of Immigration at the Niskanen Center, stated, “Americans and lawmakers alike should seek to capitalize on the skills, talents, and educational attainment of all productive and lawful workers, and not create artificial barriers to gainful employment. Congress and state governments must remove the onerous regulations that prevent certain immigrant populations from enhancing our nation’s productivity and economic efficiency, and allow them to grow and thrive in America.”

Ali Procopio, University Program Director at FWD.us, stated, “Students strive for years to gain the skills and the building blocks they need to work in careers that they’re passionate about — such as in nursing, teaching, and engineering — and it makes zero sense to deny these talented, hardworking individuals the licensing that will help make those dreams a reality. Not only is empowering these students to reach their full potential the right thing to do, but our communities and our economy will see enormous benefit from helping them to contribute fully by extending appropriate professional and occupational licensing in fields that are frequently underserved.” 

Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, State/Local Policy Manager for United We Dream, stated, “Across the country, there are immigrants who are kept from earning a living for themselves and their families. These are people like street vendors, independent business owners, nurses, lawyers and teachers, who, because of their immigration status, are kept from from earning professional, commercial, and business licenses. That is wrong. States should work to ensure they are welcoming to all immigrants. Creating an environment where all immigrants are able to thrive and make a living for themselves by not restricting access to these licenses.”

Christy Williams, State and Local Advocacy Attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., stated, “Eliminating barriers to occupational licenses for immigrants goes beyond expanding access to job opportunities. It is about protecting the inherent dignity that comes with reaching your career goals. Legislators should establish systems of support that empower immigrants to achieve the fulfillment and satisfaction of contributing their talents to the workforce.”

Gaby Pacheco, Director of Advocacy, Development, and Communications for TheDream.US, stated, “As the nation’s largest college access program for DACA recipients and other immigrants, licensing access is absolutely critical for our Scholars and Alumni to fully utilize their higher education degree. In a recent survey of our Scholars, 66 percent indicated they were studying in a career that would require licensure, including large numbers of Scholars seeking to fill the nation’s shortage of nurses, medical professionals, and bilingual teachers. Representing over 5,000 Scholars and graduates, we urge Congress to swiftly enact legislation to expand licensure to this cohort of students and young professionals. We have said time and again, what’s good for DREAMers is good for America and providing licensure will ensure that their contributions, and potential are fully unleashed.”

Download CLINIC's Resource: Professional and Occupational Licenses for Immigrants

Posted on September 14, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A new package of dramatic increases in the cost to apply for naturalization, get a green card or renew DACA could have devastating consequences for low-income immigrants.

Proposed increases formally announced in the Federal Register Nov. 14 would also come with the elimination of many fee waivers that currently put immigration benefits within reach of low-income applicants. The dramatic changes were accompanied by a 30-day window for public comment, half the time usually allotted.

“The Trump administration is ratcheting up its attacks on immigrants with proposed changes that go against American values and will hurt vulnerable, low-income populations,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “These proposed fee changes will have destructive consequences on men, women and children seeking asylum, on Dreamers and for immigrants on the path to citizenship. We are deeply disturbed that the administration continues to limit access to the American dream.”

Among the changes proposed:

  • Applications to naturalize will increase from $640 to $1,170, an 83 percent increase.
  • The cost of three applications used to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence and interim benefits will increase to $2,195 from the current $1,225, a 79 percent increase.
  • Renewing DACA, required every two years, will cost $765, up from the current $495, a 55 percent increase.
  • A new $50 fee to apply for asylum. Only three other countries charge asylum applicants to seek protection.

“As harsh as it is to pile such large increases onto applications, it is unconscionable to, at the same time, get rid of many of the fee waivers that make it possible for low-income immigrants to afford to apply,” Gallagher said.

She also decried the administration’s proposal to transfer funds from USCIS fees to enforcement activities by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fees are collected from immigrants applying for work permits, green cards and other types of status.

“Recent changes in policies have worsened USCIS processing backlogs, already at record levels,” Gallagher said. “Families remain separated for months and sometimes years. This move to transfer much-needed USCIS fees to ICE for heightened enforcement reveals this administration is ignoring what is really needed to make America great.”
 
CLINIC encourages its network and others concerned about ensuring immigrants have fair access to asylum, naturalization, green cards, DACA and other types of benefits to file comments on the proposed changes before Dec. 16, 2019.

Posted on September 6, 2019

WASHINGTON — Today, on behalf of RAICES and seven asylum seekers, Democracy Forward, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Proskauer Rose LLP sued the Trump administration to challenge several unlawful immigration directives issued by Trump appointee Ken Cuccinelli that eviscerate protections for asylum seekers fleeing persecution. The unlawful directives violate federal law because they curtail asylum seekers’ statutory rights, were implemented without considering the devastating impact on asylum seekers, and were issued without any notice.

The lawsuit also asserts that the asylum directives are invalid under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the Appointments Clause of the Constitution because they were issued by Ken Cuccinnelli, who was unlawfully appointed to serve as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It was submitted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

An asylum seeker’s case for refuge in the United States turns on the effective presentation of their asylum claim at what is called the “credible fear” interview. The outcome of this interview can be the difference between life or death if the immigrant is forced to return to a dangerous homeland. The administration's unlawful asylum directives are designed to diminish the likelihood of success for these asylum seekers by rushing them through their interview, and strip away critical protections designed to ensure that they understand their rights and have the opportunity to consult with counsel.

The asylum directives being challenged in this lawsuit: 

  • Cut in half the time for asylum seekers to consult a lawyer and prepare evidence to substantiate their fear of persecution which can leave them just a few hours to prepare for their interview, if that. 
  • Prohibit asylum seekers from obtaining a continuance except in extraordinary circumstances, such as being unconscious. Specifically, continuances are no longer granted when additional time is needed to prepare for the interview or overcome language barriers. 

The directives were first implemented at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and subsequently at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas. Both are family detention centers housing women and children that are run by for-profit private prison companies. The Karnes detention center houses approximately 1,300 women, primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who have experienced severe forms of trauma, including child abuse, rape, incest, domestic violence, and the persecution of their loved ones.

The directives are part of the Trump administration’s concerted effort to implement anti-immigrant policies designed to prevent asylum seekers from obtaining refuge in the United States. 

“Recognizing the human dignity of all people includes honoring their right to apply for asylum,” said Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of CLINIC. “The American people expect that when the government makes a life-or-death decision, the person affected will get their day in court. “These directives erode the last vestiges of due process for people who have already suffered greatly and seek protection in our country. They are contrary to immigration laws and the Constitution and must be stopped.”

“These unlawful directives issued by an unlawfully appointed official punish asylum seekers fleeing persecution and undermine American values,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. 

“These latest policies are yet another attempt by the Trump administration to subvert basic principles of due process and fairness at the expense of the most vulnerable,” said Manoj Govindaiah, Director of Legal Strategy and Training at Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “These unlawful changes to longstanding policy were undertaken to ensure that asylum seekers have no true opportunity to seek refuge in the United States. We look forward to supporting these brave asylum seekers in their challenge to these unjust and callous changes.”  

“This is an important case seeking to uphold the rule of law even as it applies to the most vulnerable in society,” said William C. Silverman, Proskauer’s Pro Bono Partner.  “Immigrant families in detention who are seeking asylum in the U.S. must not be denied reasonable access to counsel. The new policy directives are unlawful and unjust.”
 
After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to block Cuccinelli’s confirmation for any position, the Trump administration did an end run around the law with the extraordinary step of creating a new office for Cuccinelli in order to install him as the acting head of USCIS.
 

###
 
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas with offices in Austin, Corpus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
 
Proskauer is an international law firm recognized for its excellence both in practicing law and serving clients. It is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s top companies, financial institutions, investment funds, not-for-profit institutions, governmental entities and other organizations across industries and borders. 
 
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Posted on September 5, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Starting this week, lawyers at major law firms across the country will begin representing immigrants detained by ICE’s raids of poultry plants and facilities, in bond cases. It is estimated that several hundred immigrants remain in detention. Of that, nearly 100 immigrant workers arrested in the raids have requested pro bono legal representation for their bond applications and hearings.

The lawyers, who will be working on the bond cases pro bono, are organized by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation’s Project Corazon and come from major U.S.-based law firms, including Kirkland & Ellis; Kilpatrick Townsend; and Wilkie Farr and Gallagher. The lawyers will work closely with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., which will provide training, mentoring and supervision on the cases. 

“The people we’re trying to help have been taken from their families and are suffering in isolated detention centers. They desperately need legal counsel,” explained Traci Feit Love, Executive Director of the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation and Project Corazon. “We are proud to partner with CLINIC and our coalition of large law firms to help  make sure that families are reunited and justice is done.”

“Lawyers at big firms may spend most of their days working on major corporate matters, but they often still maintain a real interest in helping the most vulnerable members of our communities to have access to the due process to which they are entitled by law.” said Jacqueline Haberfeld, New York Pro Bono Counsel, Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “Working on this Remote Bond Project through Project Corazon means that these skilled attorneys all over the country are able to undertake meaningful and impactful legal work with appropriate infrastructure provided by Lawyers for Good Government, paired with training, mentorship, and expertise provided by some of the best immigration attorneys in the country through Project Corazon’s partnership with CLINIC.”

“Immigration is one of the most complicated areas of U.S. law,” said Michelle Mendez, director of CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations program. “CLINIC is heartened to see lawyers volunteering their time. We are ready to train and mentor them to help ensure pro-bono partners are equipped to navigate the law’s complexities.” 

# # # # # 

Project Corazon, run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation in partnership with nearly 50 top law firms, was created to help reunite families separated by the Trump Administration's inhumane "zero-tolerance" policy. Since the launch of Project Corazon, the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation has expanded its mission, mobilizing thousands of lawyers to defend the rights of immigrants and their families.

Posted on August 23, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC condemns the joint final rule issued Aug. 23 by the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services that allows the federal government to hold immigrant children in family detention indefinitely. 

The rule is intended to end the Flores Settlement Agreement, which for over two decades, has protected children in immigration custody by guaranteeing them the least restrictive setting. Courts have interpreted this rule to limit family detention to a maximum of 20 days in facilities that are not state licensed to provide child care. The federal government has been unable to obtain state child care licenses for these facilities. “These unlicensed facilities are essentially jails,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “Children should never be held in jails. Period. Traumatizing children to score political points is repugnant. This is a shameful day in U.S. history.”

Under the new rule, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can use its own licensing system, gutting a fundamental principle of child protection established by the Flores settlement. Seven children have died in federal immigration custody since 2018, highlighting ongoing problems with how the government has managed its child care responsibilities.

The government claims detention is necessary to ensure asylum-seeking families appear in court. CLINIC has documented, however, that in absentia removal numbers reflect the consequences of a confusing immigration system that vulnerable, pro se asylum seekers, especially children, are unable to navigate. 

The government received more than 98,000 comments in response to the proposed rulemaking, including CLINIC’s own comments describing how the proposed regulations were unlawful and immoral. Despite broad opposition, the government has moved forward with the rule, making only minor revisions to the final regulations.

Judge Dolly Gee, in the Central District of California, oversees the Flores case. The plaintiffs in the Flores case have one week following publication of the final regulations to brief the court on whether the regulations comply with the Floressettlement. If the judge rules in the government’s favor, the new rules would go into effect in 60 days.

Posted on August 16, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — More than 250 faith leaders and organizations urged the federal government to withdraw “a backdoor asylum ban” in the form of a requirement that asylum seekers be turned away from the United States if they don’t first seek protection in countries along their way to U.S. borders.

In a public comment submitted to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the faith leaders and organizations said the Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications rule “puts people fleeing for their lives at risk of further harm, is inconsistent with our nation’s historic and moral commitment to human rights and violates existing asylum law.”

The interim final rule was announced July 15 and took effect the following day. Two lawsuits were filed and a preliminary injunction quickly blocked it. The faith leaders objected to the rule on the grounds that it puts the majority of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border at risk of further harm, and violates asylum law and the due process rights of asylum seekers.

The letter cited the teachings of the Torah, the Old Testament and the Quran, all of which call for their followers to care for and protect those from other lands.

“The rule fails to understand or acknowledge the realities of asylum seekers’ journeys and the lack of options they have been left with,” the letter said. “No one flees their home or country by choice.”

“For those passing through Northern Triangle countries and Mexico, applying for asylum and waiting for a decision from a country that has little or no ability to process such claims may put the asylum seeker at further risk of harm,” it continued.

The comment was filed Aug. 15.

Posted on August 12, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security’s final rule on public charge, which is expected to be formally published Aug. 14, is a direct assault on the American immigration system and threatens one of its core principles: family unity. The new rules are scheduled to take effect 60 days after formal publication.

“The overwhelming opposition to the proposal has fallen on deaf ears,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “This administration has now chosen to advance its dangerous rule despite clear evidence that it already has—and will continue—to harm families and communities.” CLINIC was among more than 260,000 organizations and individuals who submitted public comments about the proposed rule and its likely effects.

“In anticipation of the rule, families have already started to forgo assistance they are legally allowed to use for basic needs such as health care, food and housing support out of great fear and anxiety,” Gallagher said. “This strategy to suppress family immigration has significant public health and safety implications as families worry about meeting new financial hurdles.”

She noted that the regulation requires applicants to demonstrate they will be able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle—essentially that they have already attained the American dream before they even obtain full immigrant status in the United States.

“For more than 50 years, our immigration laws have prioritized maintaining family unity for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with their spouses, children and parents,” Gallagher said. “This sharp departure from our past practices and core values is yet another attack on immigrant families—one with serious societal consequences—and in direct opposition to the principles of Catholic social teaching.”

Charles Wheeler, CLINIC’s director of Training and Legal Support, equates the new requirements to an affluence test. “Most of the clients that our programs represent will likely fail this test. This regulation is essentially a back-door way of implementing the administration’s proposed merit-based immigration system, reducing family immigration, and circumventing Congress, which has already rejected those proposals,” he said.

Posted on August 6, 2019

GREENBELT, Maryland — A Maryland-based federal court granted a temporary restraining order Aug. 2 to protect the rights of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children seeking asylum. The order by U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel blocks the government’s implementation of a policy that would significantly limit vital protections for children under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

Four young asylum seekers contended in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court,Southern Maryland division, that a May 31 policy by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unlawfully limits their ability to seek asylum under the TVPRA, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the 5th Amendment to the Constitution. The plaintiffs asked the court to halt the policy immediately and showed that a failure to do so would result in immediate harm to the plaintiffs and others like them around the country.

The temporary restraining order blocks USCIS from implementing the order for 14 days from issuance. It also orders the government to retract “any adverse decision already rendered in an individual case” under the USCIS memorandum and to reinstate the asylum seekers’ cases under the previous system.

The four arrived in the United States as children without a parent or legal guardian to seek safety from persecution, severe violence, and discrimination in their home countries.

The USCIS policy, which was adopted without advance notice or opportunity for public comment, requires asylum officers to re-determine whether an asylum applicant who had already been found to be an “unaccompanied” child continued to meet the statutory definition of that term on the date of filing for asylum. The policy applies to all USCIS decisions issued on or after June 30, 2019. This means that child asylum applicants who submitted their filing after they had turned 18, or after reunifying with a parent or legal guardian, face the prospect of having USCIS refuse to decide their asylum applications, even those filed long ago. 

The new policy would force affected child asylum applicants to raise their claims only in an adversarial immigration court hearing. These children would also have to file their application within one year of arriving. The TVPRA exempts children who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian from the one-year deadline to file asylum, allowing them more time to find an attorney and make their case.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Public Counsel, and Goodwin Procter LLP filed the lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order on the plaintiffs’ behalf.

“Congress decided in 2008 to give the most vulnerable asylum seekers­—unaccompanied children—a fair chance to present their asylum claims given their age and past trauma,” said Michelle Mendez, Defending Vulnerable Populations director at CLINIC. “Congress intended for unaccompanied children to start the asylum process before an USCIS asylum adjudicator, not in an adversarial immigration court proceeding. The court took an important step to stand up to the government’s cruel efforts to make it more difficult for children to live in safety in the United States.”

“We are pleased that the court has halted this policy, which retroactively imposed a one-year bar on filing for asylum for many vulnerable children. As the court recognized, the government conceded that our clients are likely to succeed on their constitutional due process claim. The court also found that our clients are likely to succeed in showing that USCIS’s new policy violates the Administrative Procedure Act,” said Kevin J. DeJong, attorney at Goodwin Procter LLP.

“Many young people have had their path to safety blocked by USCIS’s unlawful policy,” said KIND Senior Director for Legal Strategy Scott Shuchart. “We are grateful for the court’s decision and our clients look forward to USCIS exercising its jurisdiction to properly consider the cases it has now been ordered to address.”

“The court’s order protects thousands of children who otherwise would have been forced to testify about their persecution in court or may have been precluded from bringing their claims altogether. The ruling allows our young Honduran client to proceed with his asylum interview next week, a right he has under the law. If not for this TRO, USCIS would have rejected his asylum claim outright,” said Mary Tanagho Ross, appellate staff attorney at Public Counsel.

The defendants are the Department of Homeland Security and its acting secretary, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and its acting director. 

For further information contact: 
CLINIC Communications Director Patricia Zapor, 301-565-4830, pzapor@cliniclegal.org
Goodwin Procter LLP – Senior Manager of Communications Somna Maraj, 212-459-7212, smaraj@goodwinlaw.com
KIND – Senior Director of Communications Megan McKenna, 202 631-9990, mmckenna@supportkind.org
Public Counsel – Communications Director Joshua Busch, 310-991-2503, jbusch@publiccounsel.org

Posted on August 1, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The failure of the administration to redesignate Temporary Protected Status for Syria, along with the 18-month extension of TPS approved Aug. 1, is hardhearted and wrong, according to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

“It is unacceptable that this administration refuses to acknowledge that in addition to those who have TPS already, Syrians who arrived in the United States later also should be protected,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “It is unjust and cruel that thousands of Syrians who arrived more recently to the United States are not protected.”

Redesignation, the mechanism under the law that allows the Department of Homeland Security to offer protection to people who more recently arrived from the Syrian war, was called for by faith leaders and organizations, other NGOs and members of Congress. TPS offers protection from deportation to people who were in the United States at the time of a natural disaster, political upheaval, war or other conditions that make it unsafe for them to return home.

“Syria continues to suffer under one of the world’s most extreme humanitarian crises,” Gallagher added. “Recent arrivals need the same protection as the 7,000 current Syrian TPS holders. The administration’s failure to grant maximum TPS protection for Syria is unacceptable. It’s called for under the law and by morality.”

In recent months, violence in northwestern Syria has escalated. Studies show danger continues for returnees, including imprisonment and torture. CLINIC’s recent report documents these and other factors that prevent Syrians from safely returning to the country.

Prior to the current administration, Syria as well as other countries received both 18-month extensions and redesignation at every decision point. The State Department reports that thousands of nonimmigrant visas were issued to Syrians since the last time TPS for Syria was redesignated in 2016. Some of them could have potentially applied for TPS protection had it been redesignated.

“Congress intentionally designed TPS to provide life-saving protection to people who otherwise could face death, imprisonment, or other suffering,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s attorney for policy and outreach “We urge Congress to look into the failure to redesignate, given the massive consequences.”

Posted on July 29, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution will be denied safety in the United States under a precedent decision issued July 29 by Attorney General William Barr as the administration continues its attacks on asylum.

Writing in Matter of L-E-A-, Barr overturned a Board of Immigration Appeals precedential decision which recognized that persecution based on family membership could be a basis for asylum. It allowed people who faced persecution because of their family membership to seek asylum on that basis. Although federal courts have regularly found that family meets the requirements of a “particular social group,” Barr’s decision to further restrict asylum eligibility will make it more difficult for those fleeing violence and threats based on their family membership to find safety in the United States. CLINIC attorneys Bradley Jenkins and Victoria Neilson represented Mr. L-E-A- along with his private attorney, Mei Chen.

“In this latest assault on asylum, the administration has taken the absurd position that families are not recognized within societies as distinct groups,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “With this decision, the administration not only harms asylum seekers, it also calls into question the primacy and sanctity of families as building blocks of society. This is shameful.”

The decision sends Mr. L-E-A-’s case back for review in immigration court. Jenkins said his client has other legal grounds that still form his basis for seeking asylum. “We will continue to fight for Mr. L-E-A- in his quest to live a life free from fear of harm,” he said. "We are confident that the federal courts of appeal will overturn the attorney general’s misguided and legally erroneous decision.”

Jenkins said Barr’s decision will have an immediate effect on other asylum seekers who have been targeted because of their family membership. He added that persecution on the basis of family-based membership in a particular social group has been one of the principal bases on which asylum has been granted for the past 30 years. Consequently, Barr’s decision could affect thousands of people.

For more information on Matter of L-E-A-, visit the CLINIC L-E-A- litigation page.

Posted on July 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — The political leadership at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has increasingly turned its efforts toward enforcement and away from its congressionally mandated purpose, CLINIC’s Advocacy Director Jill Marie Bussey told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship July 16.

Immigrants’ “lives are being upended as deliberate policy choices and gross mismanagement have led to crisis-level case processing backlogs,” Bussey said in her opening statement at a hearing on policy changes and processing delays at USCIS. “The current situation at USCIS is wholly and completely avoidable. It was brought on by mismanagement and poor policy.”

She offered examples of several immigrants affected by the changes explaining, “slow processing times rob people of their dignity, livelihood and security.” Among them:

  • Cheryl, a Jamaican national and survivor of brutal domestic violence, has waited for approval for her green card under the Violence Against Women Act for nearly a year, quadruple the previous processing time. While she fled her abuser, without a work permit she could not provide for her children and was forced to move back in with him. Under current processing times, Cheryl will wait at least another six months.

“She is at the mercy of USCIS to end this cycle,” Bussey said.

  • Father Arjun, a Catholic priest from India works in a largely rural area of upstate New York. The two-year wait for his green card application to be approved — normally a process of a few months — has meant that his ministry, including celebrating Mass and visiting the sick and dying, could effectively be sidelined because renewing his driver’s license is tied to his immigration status.
  • Hazem came to the United States on a student visa as Syria’s civil war broke out. He applied for Temporary Protected Status and works for a company in Oregon. Processing delays have caused him to have difficulty using his own bank account and renewing his driver’s license and cost him income.

“Over the past two years, we have become increasingly alarmed to see the political leadership at USCIS steering this services-based agency toward enforcement and away from its congressionally mandated purpose — the administration of immigration benefits,” Bussey said.

Other witnesses at the hearing included: Eric Cohen, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Marketa Lindt, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. A panel of three USCIS staff members was also scheduled for the hearing.

See Bussey’s full testimony and oral statement here. To schedule an interview with Bussey or another member of CLINIC’s advocacy team, contact Ileana Cortes Santiago at icortessantiago@cliniclegal.org, 301-565-4812 or 787-431-6575.

Posted on July 8, 2019

GREENBELT, Maryland — Four young asylum seekers are suing the Department of Homeland Security saying that a new policy unlawfully limits their ability to seek asylum. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, the asylum applicants say a May 31 policy by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services violates their rights under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), the Administrative Procedure Act, and the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Public Counsel, and Goodwin Procter LLP on behalf of the plaintiffs, who arrived in the United States as children, unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian. It seeks class-action status and a temporary restraining order, blocking implementation of the policy.

The four young immigrants filed applications for asylum because of violence, discrimination, and persecution in their home countries. The TVPRA, a 2008 law, ensures that children who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian can seek asylum in a child-appropriate interview with a trained asylum officer and that they are not subject to the one-year filing deadline.

“This policy changes the rules for these children’s cases midway through the process,” said Rebecca Scholtz, senior attorney with CLINIC. “This retroactive and unlawful policy eviscerates the protections Congress enacted for vulnerable children, and, if allowed to go forward, will cause grave harm to asylum-seeking children who face violence and persecution in their home countries.” 

Congress created the TVPRA protections in 2008. They ensure that children such as the plaintiffs, who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian, can seek asylum in a child-appropriate interview before a trained asylum officer. The TVPRA also ensures that children will not be frozen out of the asylum system if they take more than one year to find an attorney and file their applications. The lawsuit aims to preserve these protections in the face of a policy that USCIS adopted May 31, 2019, without advance notice to the public and an opportunity for public comment. 

The new policy requires asylum officers to redetermine whether an asylum applicant who had already been found to be an “unaccompanied alien child” continued to meet the statutory definition of that term on the date of filing for asylum. The policy applies to all USCIS decisions issued on or after June 30, 2019. This means that child asylum applicants who submitted their filing after they had turned 18, or after reunifying with a parent or legal guardian, face the prospect of having USCIS refuse to decide their asylum applications, even those filed long ago. 

The new policy would force affected child asylum applicants to raise their claims only in an adversarial immigration court hearing. The redetermination policy also applies to unaccompanied children’s exemption from a one-year filing deadline for asylum, meaning that if the affected children lose their TVPRA protections as unaccompanied children they may lose eligibility for asylum altogether.

“No child fearing persecution should find their path to safety blocked with unreasonable obstacles,” said Scott Shuchart, an attorney with KIND. “In Maryland alone, KIND serves many children who stand to be deprived of these basic safeguards established by Congress. We ask the court to ask the executive branch to follow the law. It is ironic to see yet another harsh move against asylum seekers coming this month, as we are celebrating our own nation's freedoms, not least the freedom from fear.” 

“Congress rightly created special asylum protections for children, and we are fighting to keep those in place — not just for our own clients, but for children nationwide. A 7-year-old’s only route to asylum should not require cross-examination by a government attorney in court,” said Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney at Public Counsel.

“We are troubled by the administration's decision — with no notice to the public — to remove protections Congress provided for immigrant children seeking asylum,” said Kevin DeJong, attorney at Goodwin Procter LLP. “We aim to halt this harmful policy, which retroactively imposes a one-year bar on filing for asylum for many vulnerable children, and takes them out of an asylum process designed for them in favor of putting them in front of a judge and prosecutor.”

The defendants are the Department of Homeland Security and its acting secretary, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and its acting director. 

For further information contact: 
CLINIC Communications Director Patricia Zapor, 301-565-4830, pzapor@cliniclegal.org
Goodwin Procter LLP – Senior Manager of Communications Somna Maraj, 212-459-7212, smaraj@goodwinlaw.com  
KIND – Senior Director of Communications Megan McKenna, 202 631-9990, mmckenna@supportkind.org
Public Counsel – Communications Director Joshua Busch, 310-991-2503, jbusch@publiccounsel.org

Posted on July 1, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — At a time when each day brings news of another example of inhumane and shameful treatment of asylum-seekers at the Mexican border, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. will launch a project to provide legal guidance to people waiting in Juarez, Mexico, to pursue asylum claims.

“For the last two years, in the face of the steady disruption of the U.S. asylum system, our network has stepped up time and again to assist immigrants who are subjected to attacks on their rights, relentless demonization and the rising threat of deportation and family separation,” said CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher.

“We are now taking our knowledge and expertise at building a legal representation network to the Mexican border at Ciudad Juarez,” Gallagher said. Like elsewhere along the border, some of the most heartbreaking tragedies have played out in and around Juarez and its sister city, El Paso, Texas. Currently, Juarez is temporary home to an estimated 11,000 asylum seekers from Central America and around the world, while they wait for their chance to seek the protection of asylum in the United States.

This new effort, called Estamos Unidos: Proyecto de Asilo/Asylum Project, will follow the model being used in Tijuana, south of San Diego. There, volunteers from across the country provide legal guidance, along with an assortment of other services, coordinated by the nonprofit Al Otro Lado. CLINIC Strategic Capacity Officer Luis Guerra, who worked with Al Otro Lado to build the Tijuana program, and CLINIC staff attorney Tania Guerrero will set up the Juarez project, which Guerrero will lead.

“At its most basic, this project will save lives,” said Gallagher, “by helping protect vulnerable people whose best hope for escaping violence and other threats at home lies in a new life in the United States, through the asylum process.”

CLINIC’s network has for 30 years fought for the rights of immigrants. CLINIC’s recent work on behalf of vulnerable immigrants has included reuniting formerly separated families, increasing representation for people facing deportation, challenging egregious policies in court, helping those affected by the Muslim travel ban and providing educational resources for the public, as well as the nonprofit legal community.

Through Estamos Unidos, CLINIC will work in partnership or consultation with allies and other Catholic agencies, including the dioceses of El Paso and Juarez, the Hope Border Institute and the Center for Migration Studies of New York.
 
Guerrero, an immigration attorney with broad experience in both the U.S. and Mexican legal systems, said: “CLINIC’s work in serving migrants and refugees has always involved several layers – from public education on immigration laws and policies and informing impact litigation to leading advocacy efforts on immigration. Being at the southern border is just another layer of our work on these issues.”
 
Estamos Unidos will be seeking financial donationsvolunteers and community support across the nation.
 
For more information about Estamos Unidos: Proyecto de Asilo/Asylum Project, contact CLINIC Communications Director Patricia Zapor, 301-565-4830.

Posted on May 1, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Escalating political tensions and protests in Venezuela this week illustrate the threats awaiting Venezuelans currently in the United States should they be forced to return. CLINIC’s new report, Lives in the Balance: Why TPS is Needed for Venezuela Now, summarizes why the law and basic human decency call for the Trump administration to designate Temporary Protected Status. TPS would protect Venezuelans from being forcibly returned to an unstable, physically dangerous homeland.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that at least 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled their country since 2014. In 2018, the report notes, 5,000 people a day left the country. CLINIC estimates that at least 72,000 Venezuelans could be protected through TPS.

Venezuelans who have not fled face bleak conditions: 80 percent of households are “food insecure,” and one third of the population are only able to afford one meal a day. Experts say the country’s health care system is in “utter collapse,” with 71 percent of emergency rooms unable to provide basic services. Even more hospitals lack a reliable source of water. Diseases including measles and diphtheria have resurged, with thousands of cases reported in the last two years.

The report also explains the law providing for TPS, the legal grounds which apply to Venezuela and why such a designation is in humanitarian and U.S. national interests. Despite growing bipartisan support in Congress and widespread calls by humanitarian, faith and human rights organizations, the administration has hesitatedto designate TPS for Venezuela. In fact, the United States deported 35 percent more Venezuelans in 2018 than in the previous year.

“Safe return is impossible at this time for Venezuelans in the United States,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s attorney for policy and outreach, author of the report. “Congress established TPS for exactly this situation. The administration has repeatedly pledged its support to the Venezuelan people. TPS should be part of our baseline humanitarian response.”

TPS would allow eligible Venezuelans in the United States to remain here until conditions improve in their home country, deferring their risk of being deported. TPS also allows recipients to have temporary work authorization so they can support themselves while they are in the United States, as well as potentially send life-sustaining financial support to relatives who remain in the home country.

CLINIC’s TPS experts are available for further information.

Posted on April 12, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — An April 11 ruling by a New York federal judge blocking the termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians is the second to prevent the administration from ending the program while legal challenges continue. The ruling affirmed arguments made by CLINIC and other advocates for TPS that the administration did not follow the statutory process in terminating TPS for Haiti.

U.S. District Judge William Kuntz of the Eastern District of New York said in his ruling in Saget v. Trump that there was evidence that those challenges would succeed and that the federal government’s process in deciding to terminate the program was politically motivated, not based on the law.

He said Elaine Duke, then-acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security “violated the TPS statute because she did not conduct periodic review in accordance with the dictates of the statutes--her decision was preordained and pretextual, and it was made in part due to political influence. Acting Secretary Duke’s decision was not purely evidence-based as the statute requires. In fact, it ignored much of the evidence in the record.”

This is the second court order temporarily preventing the termination of TPS for Haiti. In October, a San Francisco judge’s injunction blocked the termination of TPS for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan and Nicaragua. In March, the Nepal and Honduras terminations were also blocked by the courts.

CLINIC has called for Congress to provide permanent legislative protections for TPS holders. It also has called for congressional investigation of the administration’s actions in terminating TPS for countries that still pose grave risks to returning citizens who would be forced to leave the United States.

Posted on April 10, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — A California federal judge took an appropriate first step April 8 by issuing a preliminary injunction that temporarily halts the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, said CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher. The Migrant Protection Protocols, as the administration calls the policy, force non-Mexican asylum applicants to stay in Mexico while waiting for their cases to be heard.

The order by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg requires the administration to stop implementation and expansion of the policy on April 12. It has been in effect since January in California and had been expanded to Texas since then.

“This order validates the legal challenge to this untenable policy and acknowledges the burden it places on the plaintiffs who are seeking protection in the United States,” said Gallagher. Although the order only applies retroactively to the 11 individual plaintiffs named in the lawsuit—allowing them to return to the United States to pursue their claim for asylum—it also requires the government to no longer force asylum applicants to wait in Mexico.

Gallagher said besides putting asylum applicants at physical risk in Mexico, the policy creates unnecessary hurdles to seeking legal help.

“Asylum applicants are entitled under U.S. law to get legal help," Gallagher said. "But if they are prohibited from entering the United States to work with their legal representatives and prepare their asylum applications, their cases are significantly weakened. Providing access to effective representation is plain common sense and good for the system. Both asylum officers and immigration judges are in a much better position to review and decide claims more fairly and efficiently when they have well-prepared applications and applicants before them.”

The suit was filed on behalf of 11 Central Americans and half a dozen nonprofits that work with asylum seekers including: Innovation Law Lab, the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, the University of San Francisco School Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Al Otro Lado and the Tahirih Justice Center. At least one news report estimates at least 600 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico under the policy.

CLINIC Strategic Capacity Officer Luis Guerra, who is based near the Mexican border in California, said the Migrant Protection Protocols “do not protect anyone and instead continue to put people in harm’s way. It is inhumane to pretend we are protecting anyone while our policies are forcing them to go back to situations in which their lives are at risk. No one should have to worry about surviving long enough to make it to their next court hearing.”

Posted on March 28, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Trump administration’s expansion of the Remain in Mexico policy to El Paso, Texas, piles on to its two-year history of cruel and unjustified attacks on asylum seekers. 

“I am greatly concerned to see the administration compounding a set of policies that already show a disrespect for fundamental human rights and a poor grasp of the causes of the recent surge of refugees with another even more poorly conceived policy,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, a member of CLINIC's board of directors. Along with partner organizations, the El Paso Diocese has been providing legal assistance, shelter and other aid to some of the thousands of migrants who have sought asylum after crossing the border from Juarez, Mexico.

The policy of requiring certain asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await their immigration court proceedings has been in place since January at the San Ysidro, California, port of entry at Tijuana. It recently expanded to Calexico, California, across the border from Mexicali. People who have been forced to wait in Tijuana are reporting threats and violence, including kidnapping attempts. Under the latest expansion, some asylum seekers who arrive in El Paso are being returned to Juarez. In August 2018 alone, Juarez reported 182 killings. 

Bishop Seitz said the administration's Migrant Protection Protocols, "represent a new case of government double-speak. These protocols will not protect but only add further dangers to children and parents whose lives are already threatened. Our government is asking poor and vulnerable people to stay for an extended period of time in areas along the Mexican side of the border which they themselves acknowledge are controlled by narco-trafficking gangs. We are creating a situation in which desperate people with no other recourse will seek even more dangerous ways to enter the United States in order to avoid agents whom they fear will only send them back into danger.”

CLINIC opposed the policy as poorly conceived from the start. 

CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher said the policy's chaotic implementation bears out that warning and promises to strip asylum seekers of their human and legal rights. “For the last two years, this administration has issued one policy after another that disregards our laws, exacerbates human suffering and distorts our country's values." As examples, she cited the Muslim ban in January 2017 through the unconscionable separation of families last spring and the cancellation of the protections of Temporary Protected Status. “This policy flies in the face of people's legal rights, leaving them stranded in Mexico to wade through the complicated asylum process without a lawyer.”

CLINIC called on the administration to focus on a humane approach to protecting asylum seekers, appealing to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to end the misguided and immoral policy.

Posted on March 11, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration’s decision not to redesignate Temporary Protected Status for South Sudan, allowing more people to be covered by it is “morally reprehensible,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen issued an 18-month extension of TPS for South Sudan without redesignation on March 8, five days after the decision was due by law. In the weeks leading up to Nielsen’s decision, CLINIC and interfaith partners argued for maximum protection permitted under the law for South Sudanese TPS holders, based on current country conditions, public policy arguments and interfaith values. South Sudan has an ongoing civil war, massive displacement and a devastating food insecurity crisis.

“South Sudan is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,” said Gallagher. “This conflict is notorious for the violent targeting of civilians as well as sexual and gender-based violence regularly used as a weapon of war.” South Sudan also lacks clean water, a viable health care system and suffers from inadequate public infrastructure.

”Nielson’s decision not to redesignate is morally reprehensible,” she said. A recent study estimates that 400,000 people have lost their lives in the protracted conflict.

“Redesignation would have been in keeping with the law and congressional intent,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s director of advocacy. “Redesignation would have allowed people who have more recently fled from the conflict to apply for protection. That could be hundreds of people. South Sudanese who currently have TPS and more recent arrivals from South Sudan are in equal need of protection and safety. This is why TPS exists.”

In addition to the cruelty of not redesignating, the administration’s failure to announce its decision by the March 3 deadline is disappointing and left people in a state of anxiety and limbo. “This decision is wrong on the law procedurally and it’s wrong on the law substantively,” said Bussey.

CLINIC has been tracking the administration’s TPS decisions and has called for accountability and oversight for its failure to redesignate any country. Failure to redesignate broke with past practice for South Sudan, Yemen, and Syria, all of which had received the maximum protection under the law at every decision under previous administrations.

Posted on February 27, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — More than 500 interfaith leaders and organizations have called on the Department of Homeland Security to end its so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy (Migration Protection Protocols) that requires asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for months - or even years -while their asylum cases are processed in the United States. A letter delivered to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Feb. 26 condemned the policy as “baseless and immoral.”

The letter, delivered by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Church World Service on behalf of a diverse group, including faith based organizations, denominational leaders, religious orders, and faith-based immigration services agencies, focused on a shared faith-based call to compassion: “Our faith traditions compel us to welcome one another with love and compassion, regardless of place of birth, religion, or ethnicity. Our diverse moral teachings find consistency in the absolute value of the human person and our obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

The policy was implemented in January at the San Ysidro port of entry outside San Diego and was recently expanded to Eagle Pass, Texas, west of San Antonio. It is expected to be expanded to other ports of entry in coming weeks.

The Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, said “this ‘Remain in Mexico’ plan is the latest step in the administration’s campaign of cruelty and illegality, which has claimed the lives of migrant children and torn families apart. Instead of addressing the inhumane policies that led to the recent deaths of children in Customs and Border Protection custody, including 8-year-old asylum-seeker Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the U.S. government is closing our doors to others seeking protection and sending them back to danger.”

Rev. McCullough added: “This illegal policy destabilizes Mexican and U.S. border communities alike, and sows the same kind of chaos we saw during the height of the family separation crisis. Faith communities across the country are ready to welcome these families and help them rebuild their lives as our neighbors.”

“This policy is yet another poorly conceived and immoral attack on asylum seekers, which puts people at physical risk and threatens their access to legal counsel,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “As the letter explains, it will be a nearly insurmountable hurdle for asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico to get the assistance of U.S. legal counsel to help them prepare their cases. Denying them their due process rights to access to counsel when seeking asylum is just plain wrong and violates our obligations under the law to protect refugees from persecution."

Gallagher, who is attending a meeting in El Paso, Texas, of Catholic immigrant advocates from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, said many participants fear for the physical safety of refugees if they are forced to wait in Mexico while waiting for court hearings on their asylum claims.

The letter urges the administration to immediately terminate its cruel, immoral “Remain in Mexico” policy and to stop its attacks against asylum seekers, immigrants, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable populations seeking protection. The administration should instead meaningfully address the root causes of displacement, without undermining the U.S. asylum, anti-trafficking, or child protections.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Learn more about our work and join our global homebase for refugee solidarity at GreaterAs1.org.

Posted on February 21, 2019

SILVER SPRING Maryland — As co-counsel to a Mexican immigrant threatened by a drug cartel because of his family, CLINIC filed a brief with the Justice Department Feb. 19 in Matter of L-E-A-, a case which may have wide repercussions on future asylum eligibility. The immigration appeals case will be decided by the attorney general.

“Bad actors around the world, from despotic regimes to drug cartels, try to coerce people to do their bidding by threatening their families,” explained Bradley Jenkins, one of Mr. L-E-A-’s CLINIC attorneys. “From the very first interpretations of the 1980 Refugee Act, this sort of despicable violence has qualified people to seek asylum under the ‘particular social group’ category.” CLINIC is co-counsel with Mei Fang Chen to Mr. L-E-A-.

Mr. L-E-A- fled Mexico fearing for his life at the hands of a powerful drug cartel that had shot at and attempted to kidnap him as a means of threatening his father. The Board of Immigration Appeals decided Mr. L-E-A-’s case in 2017 in a precedential decision finding against Mr. L-E-A- but upholding a longstanding asylum law principle that a family relationship qualifies as membership in a particular social group, and therefore can be the basis for an asylum grant. Mr. L-E-A-’s case was pending before the immigration judge when Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker referred the case to himself on Dec. 3, 2018.

The certified question before the attorney general is “whether and under what circumstances an asylum seeker may establish persecution on account of membership in a ‘particular social group’ based on his or her membership in a family unit.”

“A family unit has long been considered a ‘quintessential’ particular social group for asylum law purposes,” said Mr. L-E-A-’s co-attorney Victoria Neilson, also of CLINIC. “This is a well-settled area of law both before the Board of Immigration Appeals and in federal circuit courts.”

“My client, Mr. L-E-A, was threatened by a drug cartel because of who his father is,” said his attorney, Mei Fang Chen. “The standard of family constituting a particular social group for legal purposes is an essential component of society as well as law. Any change to the current standard will further harm victims who were targeted by criminals and individuals fleeing harm because of a family relationship.” 

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a duly appointed attorney general has broad discretion to review appellate cases, but any decision must not violate the statute or be arbitrary and capricious.

“What is more a ‘particular social group’ than a family?” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “Family is the building block of society and is recognized as fundamental in virtually every culture in the world. This assault on vulnerable asylum seekers and on families is immoral.”

Posted on January 29, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — CLINIC is calling on the administration to prioritize human lives above its baseless and immoral “Remain in Mexico Plan,” or the Migrant Protection Protocols.

The Department of Homeland Security’s “Remain in Mexico” plan, which went into effect on Jan. 24, forces people seeking safety in the United States at the southern border to return to Mexico for months or years while their cases are in progress, after they claim a fear in the United States. This policy will unnecessarily place vulnerable asylum seekers at risk, in violation of U.S. and international law.

“Returning migrants and asylum seekers to Mexico completely defeats the purpose of asylum,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Waiting in Mexico will expose vulnerable people seeking safety to unstable, unsafe conditions as well as risk of further trauma, especially as they wait there for unknown lengths of time. For asylum seekers in Mexico it will be an almost insurmountable hurdle to work with an immigration attorney who’s experienced in U.S. law.

“People who have legal representation when they apply for asylum appear for their court hearings 98.5 percent of the time,” Atkinson said. “This policy is unnecessary and will interfere with people’s access to counsel and the asylum system.”

“This policy raises serious due process concerns that directly impact those seeking asylum,” said Jill Marie Bussey, advocacy director of CLINIC. “The Remain in Mexico Plan fails to protect vulnerable immigrants who seek safety at our borders. Time and again, DHS has disregarded U.S. asylum law and the benefits of legal counsel. In addition to lacking legal authority, this policy does not have an appropriate framework for its implementation.”

This administration’s repeated actions strip human dignity from those in need. CLINIC will continue to support asylum-seekers in their search for peace and protection.

Posted on January 23, 2019

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., joined a class action lawsuit, as an organizational plaintiff on an amended complaint, on behalf of the more than 10,000 children currently being held by the Trump administration in detention centers across the country.

Filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Legal Aid Justice Center and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC, the lawsuit asserts that the ongoing collaboration between the Office of Refugee Resettlement, known as ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has led to the prolonged detention of these children. A memo drafted in late 2017 and obtained Jan. 17, 2019, showed the administration intended the very result this policy has caused: the prolonged detention of children and serving as a deterrent to migrants who want to travel to the United States. Among other things, it showed that information gathered during the reunification process was being used to facilitate ICE’s efforts to arrest and deport potential sponsors and relatives of the detained youth. 

“ORR is ignoring the law established by Congress by detaining rather than releasing the children to their loved ones,” said Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC’s executive director. “We cannot allow this administration to continue to intentionally keep children away from their families, it is immoral and inhumane.”

Visit the Southern Poverty Law Center's website to learn more about J.E.C.M. et al v. Lloyd et al.

Posted on December 20, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security’s newest plan to prevent asylum seekers from applying for safety in the United States leaves them in danger, and possibly violates their due process rights, said the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

“DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claims that asylum seekers will have access to immigration courts and attorneys while in Mexico, but fails to provide details as to how the plan will be implemented,” said Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC’s executive director.

“Moreover, there are no details as to how these vulnerable asylum seekers will be kept safe in Mexico. Currently five out of six Mexican states that border the United States have the highest or second highest travel warning by the U.S. Department of State.”

The Dec. 20 announcement said immigrants who do not have proper entry documents will not be allowed into the United States to seek asylum. Since changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act were made in 1996, asylum seekers without proper entry documents have had to demonstrate to a U.S. asylum officer that they have a credible fear of returning to their home country in order to pursue an asylum claim before a U.S. immigration judge. Asylum seekers could be detained during all or part of this process. Under the new policy, asylum seekers would have to wait in Mexico to have a hearing before a U.S. immigration judge. There are no details as to how this policy will be implemented.

“As we enter the holiest time of the year, we hope that our government will reflect on our duty as people of faith to ‘welcome the stranger.’ Today the administration has turned its back on our legal and moral obligations,” said Atkinson.

Posted on December 11, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­The administration’s proposal to drastically change the way it calculates whether immigrants pose a risk of becoming a financial burden on society is morally and legally flawed, said the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., in a formal comment submitted to the Department of Homeland Security Dec. 9.

CLINIC’s statement on the administration’s proposed changes to what is known as “public charge” provisions cited a lack of justification, concerns about executive overreach and failure to properly account for public health and well-being.

In the comment, CLINIC Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson said the proposal is “irreconcilable with our nation’s values, as it would create unnecessary barriers to achieving the American Dream—a dream that was not intended to be limited to only the affluent. It is also contrary to our Catholic values and faith teachings, as it would negatively affect family unity, stability, and threaten public health.” CLINIC’s comment is one of more than 210,000 submitted during a period for the public to weigh in on what is known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on a rule called: “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.”

The comment described the centuries-old history of the legal definition for evaluating the risk of an immigrant requiring financial assistance from the government. It referenced the nativism reflected in some such laws and observed that the Catholic church “opposes discrimination against those from developing nations as it conflicts with the church’s support for the dignity of the human person.”

The proposed rule would radically expand who is subject to the “public charge” test and lengthen the list of benefits programs that, if used, could jeopardize someone’s immigration status. These additional public programs include non-emergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and housing assistance. Such programs serve whole families. U.S.-born spouses and children could be harmed if families decide they must decline benefits because of the possible effect on a relative’s immigration status.

Atkinson cited CLINIC’s comment in saying “there is no rational or evidence-based reason…for issuing this proposed regulation….Based on [its] voluminous restrictive policy record, DHS’s rationale for changing this regulation is not to promote self-sufficiency in immigrants, but rather, it is the latest effort to achieve the administration’s stated goal of reducing family immigration, especially given that federal courts have enjoined most of its prior attempts.”

Posted on November 27, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­Anna Marie Gallagher, an experienced litigator and immigration law expert, will join the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., as executive director, effective Feb. 1, 2019, announced Bishop Kevin J. Vann Nov. 27. Bishop Vann is chairman of CLINIC’s board of directors and head of the Diocese of Orange in California.

Gallagher will step into the position being vacated by Jeanne Atkinson, who has headed CLINIC since March 2013. Atkinson previously announced her plans to move to Italy to accompany her husband to his new position there. She will remain with CLINIC through the transition.

Bishop Vann, who headed the hiring committee that selected Gallagher, said he is “grateful to the process which resulted in the appointment of Anna as the new executive director. Her experience, enthusiasm and commitment to the mission of CLINIC is something that all of us on the selection committee noticed during the hiring process. I know that she is looking forward to continuing to build on the history and heritage of CLINIC, especially in these challenging days.”

Gallagher said she is “so pleased to have been chosen to lead CLINIC, especially given the increased distress and uncertainty faced by so many of our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters. I am looking forward to working with the excellent CLINIC staff to strengthen our support for our affiliates during these challenging times.” 

Atkinson was eager to welcome Gallagher to CLINIC, saying: “I have the utmost confidence in Anna’s ability to lead CLINIC. Her skills, knowledge, and leadership are exactly what CLINIC needs at this time and I am excited to see what the future holds under her direction.”

Gallagher comes to CLINIC from her current post as a shareholder and head of litigation practice at Maggio, Kattar, Nahajzer + Alexander, a Washington, D.C.-based firm focused on immigration and nationality law.

A statement from Maggio + Kattar said Gallagher’s new position “is a great opportunity for Anna and for CLINIC. She has been a zealous advocate for our clients for many years and we know that her dedication to immigrants and refugees will continue in this new and exciting endeavor. We are grateful for Anna’s hard work on behalf of our clients and her role within the firm." 

Over the course of her career, Gallagher has practiced in the field of immigration and refugee law in the United States, Central America and Europe. She has worked in private practice, the nonprofit sector and academia. Gallagher has authored numerous books and articles on migration and refugee practice and policy. 

Bishop Vann also took the occasion to express his thanks to Atkinson. “I am personally grateful to Jeanne for her leadership and friendship during her tenure as Executive Director for CLINIC. We both began our work for CLINIC at about the same time. These years have been a time of blessing for me, and growing into the knowledge of the vast ministry and mission of CLINIC and its affiliates.”

Posted on November 9, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­Today’s presidential proclamation coupled with the publication of an interim final rule will make it more difficult for those fleeing violence and other harm to seek asylum in the United States. 

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., said the effort “shows the administration will even try to get around federal law in pursuit of its cynical immigration agenda.”

The rule changes will bar those who cross the southern border between ports of entry from asylum eligibility, in violation of federal law and international obligations. 

“The government’s own statistics reflect a glaring lack of evidence that there is anything remotely resembling a 'crisis' at our borders,” Atkinson said. In fact, despite dramatic increases in Border Patrol staffing and other new security measures, the number of people apprehended at the border recently is at a 40-year low.

Yet the administration has manufactured a “crisis” to mask its goal of reducing legal immigration and blocking admission to the United States to those most in need of the protections of this country, Atkinson added.

“This is a betrayal of the values on which this nation has thrived,” Atkinson said. “The Catholic teachings that inform CLINIC's work speak of welcome and safeguarding human dignity. That's what we expect of our country.”  

Litigation has already been filed in federal court to challenge these changes to existing law and to prevent  further harm  to  asylum seekers. Many people who fled violence in Central America cross the border after being turned away at U.S. ports of entry. They are not part of a border “crisis,” they are simply seeking safety, Atkinson said.

U.S. immigration law allows anyone in the country to apply for asylum without regard to how they entered the country. Asylum is a legal and viable system to protect vulnerable immigrants from being returned to countries where they would face persecution or torture.

CLINIC’s network will continue to provide legal guidance to asylum-seekers through our affiliates around the country.

Reporters: To interview one of CLINIC’s asylum law experts, contact Patricia Zapor, communications director, at 301-565-4830.

Posted on November 1, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­CLINIC and our network of 330 nonprofit immigration legal services providers stand ready to protect the legally guaranteed right to asylum, including for any person who seeks it at our borders or other ports of entry.

“Our country was founded by people who fled intolerable conditions in their homelands,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC. Along with subsequent generations of immigrants who sought refuge here, they helped this country grow into the beacon of freedom and tolerance that the United States has become over the past century. During that period, Atkinson said, “our welcoming nature has allowed the United States to thrive, and we have suffered when we turn away from that path.”

Our laws explicitly allow refugees to seek asylum here without regard to where they enter the country—­­be it at an airport or other official port of entry or through the desert. In a televised appearance Nov. 1, President Donald Trump laid out a series of steps he intends to take to make it harder to claim asylum. He said executive orders to enact the measures would follow.

“The administration’s unprecedented efforts to intimidate with military force all those who come to our border and to undermine the legal process for obtaining asylum are illegal and immoral,” Atkinson said.

Bishop Kevin Vann, of the Diocese of Orange in California and chairman of CLINIC’s board of directors added that “we are guided by the tenets of Catholic social teaching and the laws of the United States. Whether we study theology or law, we come to the same conclusion: turning away asylum seekers is wrong, and seeking to bully and intimidate and to continue to promote an atmosphere of xenophobia is unconscionable. It sadly brings to the fore again the darker moments of how immigrants have been treated over the years in our country, I’m specifically thinking of the 'Know Nothing' movement, nativism and the rise and influence of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“We should not be afraid of those reaching out to us for help,” said Atkinson. “We walk side by side with those seeking asylum and expect our government to uphold the laws and international principles that are the bedrock of America.”

Reporters: To interview one of CLINIC’s asylum law experts, contact Patricia Zapor, communications director, at 301-565-4830.

Posted on October 29, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­Current events and political rhetoric have pushed the U.S. asylum system into the spotlight. Here are some key facts about the legal grounding of our asylum system.

Despite public rhetoric around the migrants traveling through Mexico, there is no crisis at our southern border. The government’s own data shows border apprehensions have fallen significantly since the 1980s and ‘90s, and are around a 40-year low. Similar traveling groups of migrants have been organized for years. As demonstrated by the most recent example in April, many participants resettle along the way and do not reach the United States. The great majority of those who reach the border apply for asylum at ports of entry in accordance with the law.

U.S. asylum and refugee law is rooted in international law. In 1968, the United States acceded to the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which incorporates the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Thirteen years after acceding to the 1967 Protocol, Congress passed, and President Jimmy Carter signed, the 1980 Refugee Act.

These measures followed public outcry about the treatment by the United States and other countries of boatloads of refugees who sought protection from Nazi Germany but were turned away. In the case of the SS St. Louis, more than 900 people were returned to Europe, where 254 died in the Holocaust.

Under U.S. law, a person may apply for asylum at a port of entry or from within the United States. The law explicitly permits people who are in the United States to seek asylum whether they entered with documentation or not. An application for asylum may also be filed as a defense from deportation.

In order to seek asylum at a port of entry, an asylum seeker must declare a fear of being returned to the home country. The asylum seeker is then interviewed by an asylum officer who makes an initial determination whether the individual has a valid asylum claim. If so, he or she is placed into removal (deportation) proceedings for a full hearing before an immigration judge on that asylum claim. If the asylum officer does not find that the asylum claim is valid, and that finding is affirmed by an immigration judge, the individual may be removed from the United States with no rights of appeal.

These laws and procedures for asylum were established by Congress in accordance with U.S. obligations under the international law signed with our allies to protect refugees worldwide. Any of the migrants traveling through Mexico who reach our border should be processed through our asylum system, just as all migrants arriving at our border have been for many years. Access to the asylum process is a part of our laws. The administration must follow that law as enacted by Congress.

Catholic social teaching holds that people have a right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. It also says governments have a right to regulate their borders, and must do so with justice and mercy. See here for further explanation and links to resources.

For more information about asylum law and policy, check out the following resources from our partners and other experts:

Reporters: To interview one of CLINIC’s asylum law experts, contact Patricia Zapor, communications director, at 301-565-4830.

Posted on October 9, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Fifteen CLINIC affiliates were among the 40 organizations in 19 states that received a funding award through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program. USCIS received more than 90 applications for the highly competitive grant program.

The two-year grants announced Sept. 24 will provide up to $250,000 for support citizenship classes, naturalization application assistance and assimilation services. The program has helped more than 200,000 permanent residents prepare for citizenship over the last 10 years.

Of the 15 CLINIC affiliates that received a grant from USCIS, 10 are Catholic legal immigration programs:

  • Catholic Charities Diocese of Rochester (New York)
  • Catholic Charities of Central Texas (Austin)
  • Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston
  • Catholic Charities of Los Angeles
  • Catholic Charities of Syracuse
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton (California)
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Worcester (Massachusetts)
  • Catholic Charities San Bernardino & Riverside (California)
  • Catholic Migration Services (Brooklyn, New York)
  • Hope CommUnity Center (Apopka, Florida)

The remaining five are community-based legal immigration programs:

  • Coptic Orthodox Charities (Clearwater, Florida)
  • Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (Portland)
  • Hispanic Unity of Florida (Hollywood, Florida)
  • La Casa de Don Pedro (Newark, New Jersey)
  • Tacoma Community House (Washington)

This year, USCIS funded a new initiative for extended assimilation services to refugees and asylees. One CLINIC affiliate, Catholic Charities of Syracuse, New York, was among the four grantees that received assimilation grants.

Posted on October 4, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­The decision Oct. 3 by a California federal judge to block the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status for four countries is a welcome step toward protecting about 300,000 people who are facing loss of the status that has allowed them to stay in the United States.

“The court rightly pointed to problems with the administration’s decision-making process in terminating TPS, including possible constitutional violations,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

In addition to the legal flaws with the administration’s actions, the judge made note of the Hobson’s choice with which TPS-holding families are contending.

“TPS holders facing cancellation of the program are weighing unthinkable decisions,” Atkinson said. “They are considering whether to bring their children back to countries where rampant violence; inadequate housing; crippled economies; insufficient food and clean water would put their lives at risk, or to break the family apart, leaving children behind without their parents as they return to unstable situations.”

Federal District Court Judge Edward M. Chen issued a preliminary injunction in Ramos v. Nielson blocking the administration’s orders terminating TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua. TPS has allowed certain people from those countries to remain in the United States after their homelands were rendered dangerous or unstable due to natural disasters or conflicts. His restraining order did not cover the cancellation of TPS for Honduras and Nepal, or a similar program, Deferred Enforced Departure, for Liberians.

The administration must report back to the court within 15 days on steps it has taken to comply with Chen's ruling. He scheduled a case management conference for Oct. 26. TPS for Sudan, which affects about 1,000 people, is set to terminate Nov. 2. The termination dates for Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador are in 2019.

CLINIC joins with other advocates for people with TPS in urging Congress to enact legislation that will permanently protect TPS holders and their families.

For further information about TPS see CLINIC’s extensive resources or contact our communications department, 301-565-4830, or pzapor@cliniclegal.org.

Posted on September 24, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security proposal announced Sept. 22, aims to change the policy for who may qualify to become a lawful permanent resident, putting the interests of the wealthy ahead of the needs of poorer families who have waited years to be reunited.

“The administration has sunk to a new level of cruelty with this proposal to punish immigrants who use government assistance to feed, provide medical care for and house their families,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

This cynical tactic, intended to stir anti-immigrant hostility before the November election, is based on flatly inaccurate assumptions “The targets of the proposal are immigrant families, who are no more likely to use publicly funded services than native-born Americans,” she added. Yet it would force people to choose between obtaining green cards and getting needed assistance to which their families are legally allowed.”

“Making families decide between permanent immigration status or ensuring their families have enough to eat is an astonishingly cynical and heartless attack on families for political reasons,” said Atkinson.

The administration’s announcement and release of the draft of the proposed rule signals an urgent need to prepare for the next step – the release of the official Notice of Public Rule Making, or NPRM, in the Federal Register. Once the NPRM is released, the public is expected to have 60 days to submit comments on how the rule should be changed before it is final. CLINIC and its network will join with our many partners in the faith community, in legal circles and social service sectors in opposing this regulation change.

CLINIC has prepared an initial legal analysis of the proposed changes, which can be found here.

Posted on September 7, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration’s proposed regulations to dismantle the Flores Settlement Agreement are a blatant attempt to make an end run around the agreement that protects the dignity, respect and consideration for the vulnerability of children held in immigration custody. The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register Sept. 7.

“These proposed regulations are an abomination,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC. “Detaining children is inhumane and a violation of all that we hold dear as a nation that has long promised to protect the most vulnerable in society.”

The proposed regulations would change current practice, as defined by the Floresagreement and subsequent court rulings, to allow indefinite detention of children in facilities that have not been licensed by the states for child care. This includes holding them in private prisons that operate under the federal government’s standards.

“There are far less costly and much more humane alternatives to detaining children and families,” Atkinson said. “We are better than this.”

A Homeland Security advisory committee, convened to advise the agency on how to improve family detention, said in its top recommendation that Homeland Security should discontinue the practice. It said “detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families" and that "detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.”

CLINIC will join other advocates for immigrants in submitting formal comments to Homeland Security about the proposed regulations. The comment period runs until Nov. 6.

Posted on July 19, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The administration’s decision July 19 to extend Temporary Protected Status for Somalia will give the 500 people it covers 18 months to remain in the United States while providing no protection from deportation for other Somalis who arrived later.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that the TPS recipients from Somalia who have been in the United States since May 2012 will be allowed to re-register and remain through March 17, 2020. CLINIC and other advocates had urged the administration to redesignate TPS for Somalia. That would extend the chance at TPS status to more recent arrivals from Somalia.

“Conditions in Somalia are life-threatening,” said Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC’s executive director. “The country is currently enduring one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with a combination of ongoing violent conflict and other extraordinary conditions.” In addition to violence at the hands of the al-Qaida-affiliated movement, al-Shabaab, Somalia has been in a drought that nearly led to famine last year. The country also suffers from food insecurity, malnutrition, lack of access to health care, clean water and other basic needs

Since January 2017, six countries have had TPS terminated, affecting more than 300,000 people and their families. The Somalia decision is the third recent TPS announcement involving war-torn countries, including Syria and Yemen. Each received an extension but no redesignation.

“The administration had discretion to redesignate TPS for Somalia, just as it did with Syria and Yemen,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s advocacy director. “Its active choice not to redesignate affects hundreds of families who are seeking safety from one of the world’s most horrible humanitarian crises and ongoing conflicts.”

CLINIC and other advocacy organizations continue to call on the administration to use TPS as intended and for Congress to conduct oversight of TPS decisions.

Posted on July 9, 2018

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — In another policy change that could dramatically increase the number of legal immigrants who face deportation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, in guidance made public July 5, said that almost everyone who is denied an immigration benefit will be issued a Notice to Appear in court for potential deportation.

The change is a marked departure from the historic role of USCIS, the agency which processes applications for immigration benefits such as green cards, work authorization and naturalization. When the Department of Homeland Security was created by Congress in 2003, its customer service responsibilities were made distinct from the enforcement functions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

“This violates the intent of Congress in establishing USCIS as a customer service agency, instead turning it into a piece of the administration’s deportation machinery, using any excuse to remove immigrants from the United States, even after they have done everything in their power to work within the system and make it their home,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “This is an outright intimidation tactic, meant to discourage people from applying for various immigration benefits for which they qualify.”

The new policy requires USCIS to issue a Notice to Appear in almost all cases where a request for an immigration benefit has been denied in order to take steps towards deporting the person.

CLINIC’s Advocacy Director Jill Marie Bussey said that using the agency created for customer service and application processing as a means to deport people flies in the face of the intended function of USCIS.

“Our legal immigration system is designed to promote U.S. values and interests, to attract the best and the brightest to our workforce, to keep families together, and to protect the homeland by ensuring people are vetted and accounted for,” Bussey said. “Using USCIS as an arm of deportation deprives us of those benefits, and unequivocally makes our country less prosperous and less safe.”

Atkinson called on members of Congress to conduct a thorough investigation into the changes in the mission and operations of USCIS, to ensure the laws are upheld and that taxpayer dollars are properly spent.

Posted on December 16, 2016

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Justice’s rule on the Recognition and Accreditation of Non-Attorney Representatives is now available at the Federal Register website. The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 19. It will take effect Jan. 18, 2017.

The rule makes substantial changes to the Recognition and Accreditation Program, which includes removing the nominal fee requirement and requiring renewal of recognition. The leadership of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., welcomes the changes.

“We are pleased to see changes that heighten the professionalism of recognized organizations, while providing the flexibility to encourage the long-term sustainability of our affiliates,” said Jeanne Atkinson executive director of CLINIC. “As a result, more low income immigrants will be able to obtain assistance from trained providers.”

CLINIC is the largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services programs in the nation.

The R&A program governs how nonprofit organizations provide charitable immigration legal services. Nonprofits that meet certain requirements apply for recognition and non-attorney staff members may apply for accreditation after completing rigorous training focused on immigration law. Accredited individuals can help clients with immigration matters before government agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the asylum office. Certain accredited representatives may represent clients in immigration court. Currently, nearly 1,000 nonprofits are recognized and 1,900 non-attorney staff members are accredited.

Low-income migrants often cannot afford private attorney fees. Without nonprofits proving such services, immigrants are more likely to apply on their own or fall prey to unauthorized practitioners, sometimes known as notarios. “We want all immigrants to protect themselves by only going to trustworthy providers of legal services,” said Atkinson. “The R&A program is vital to helping achieve that.”

CLINIC’s network of affiliate organizations represents more than one-third of recognized agencies and more than 45 percent all accredited staff. CLINIC’s Capacity Building Director Jeff Chenoweth said, “When CLINIC opened its doors in 1988 we had 17 affiliates. Now we have more than 300. Over the years many things have changed, but the need to provide low cost services to immigrants remains constant. At CLINIC we’re proud to help these organizations achieve their missions. Nonprofits can make all the difference in protecting the poorest and most vulnerable among us.”

Major changes to the R&A program include:

  • moving the administration of the R&A process from the Board of Immigration Appeals to the Office of Legal Access Programs;
  • removing the “nominal fees” requirement and replacing it with a reporting procedure in which federally tax-exempt organizations will now demonstrate they are primarily serving low-income and indigent clients;
  • requiring organizations to renew their recognition every six years; and
  • replacing the current “good moral character” requirement for accreditation with a new “character and fitness” requirement.

As a longtime advocate for an efficient and fair R&A Program, CLINIC applauds the DOJ’s changes as an opportunity for legal service providers to freely manage their own programs. The new rule appropriately shifts the focus in determining nonprofit status to the federal tax-exempt, charitable status of an organization that primarily serves low-income and indigent clients. Also, the new recognition renewal requirement allows the Justice Department to hold providers accountable for maintaining their standards, while providing exceptional service to their clients.


CLINIC advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs—more than 300 organizations in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—is the largest in the nation.