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Category:
International Human Rights

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Today a Judge from the District Court for the District of Columbia order our government to stop keeping asylum-seeking families in jail as a deterrent to other potential migrants.  The lawsuit is only at the preliminary injunction stage at this point, but hopefully this is the beginning of the end of "family detention" in America.

Read the full opinion here:

Civil Action No. 15-11, Memorandum Opinion

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My first post of the New Year.  This is just an intro for the link below to an opinion piece I co-authored with Kim Hunter, Dan Thomann, and Jennifer Smith, all of us volunteers for AILA's Artesia Legal Defense Team.  With the help of many volunteers, 14 families who were jailed at Artesia have been granted asylum.  Hundreds more women and children were released to their friends and families in the United States on bond to pursue their asylum claims outside of the prison system.  When the Artesia was closed, only 15 residents remained to move to the brand new family jail at Dilley Texas.  Unfortunately, the end of the Artesia family jail did not end family imprisonment.  Hundreds of mothers and children remain jailed in facilities near the towns of Karnes and Dilley in Texas.

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/opinion/2014/12/23/opinion-these-kids-want-their-freedom-for-christmas/

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In August, 2014 I spent a week in Artesia, New Mexico working on asylum cases for women and children imprisoned there by our government.  Sadly, hundreds are still imprisoned there and the U.S. Government is building even more family prisons.  These are my letters to the President and First Lady, mailed in September.


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20500-0001


Dear Mr. President,

I have been a supporter of your presidency since the beginning.  My husband and I took our then-infant daughter to celebrate in Millennium Park in Chicago on Election Day in 2008, and I remember it as one of the happiest events I have ever been at in my life.  I have had an Obama bobblehead in my office for years.

No more. The president I supported ran on a platform of Hope.  He chanted "yes we can!" and "Sí, se puede!"  That president is gone.

I have spent the past weeks working with women, children, and infants that you have imprisoned, Mr. President, in what I can on...

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In response to the masses of Central American children fleeing to the United States, public officials have been playing up the theory that the families have just been duped by coyotes into believing that the U.S. will help them, or that some sort of pan-American game of telephone ended with Guatemalans hearing that DACA meant free green cards for all kids.  Our president and vice-president have been publically lecturing Central American families on the dangers of the northward journey, as though they had neither the knowledge nor capability to consider that factor hitherto. 

Today, the American Immigration Council published a report based on a year-long study of factors driving child migration and the effect of deporting children back to Central America.  The full study can be read here:http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/perspectives/no-childhood-here-why-central-american-children-are-fleeing-their-homes .

The reasons that adolescents flee El Salvador according to researcher, Elizabeth...

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As our government scrambles to find some way to handle the thousands of desperate migrant children and families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador slipping across our southern border, we should remember the past.  Seventy-five years ago, in June of 1939 another wave of desperate migrants was pleading for entry to our country. There were no visas available because of strict quotas on immigrants, and legislation that would have allowed more of these migrants into the country had died in Congress.  President Roosevelt and his Department of State declined to extend any extraordinary relief, instead sending a letter to the migrants that they must "await their turns on the waiting list."  We turned away boatloads of migrants, Jewish families fleeing Nazi Germany, and sent them back because they did not fit our immigration priorities. Of the 938 passengers on one ship, the St. Louis, more than 250 died in the Holocaust.

As an American, I am not proud of that moment in ...
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As media reports show fighting in Slovyansk, Donestsk, and even Odessa, Ukrainian citizens in the United States fear for their friends and family, and for their own safety should they need to return.  Many are anxiously hoping that the United States government will declare Temporary Protected Status for their nation.  Unfortunately, while the civil unrest in Ukraine has grown, the U.S. government position regarding the Status of Ukrainians in our country has not changed since my blog post of last month**Updated February 17, 2015, still no TPS for Ukraine**

Even though there is no TPS designation yet for Ukraine, some attorneys (and most certainly some non-attorneys) are offering TPS-related service to Ukrainians in anticipation of a future designation.  Below is my response to an inquiry about such services today:

Temporary Protected Status is available only for citizens of the few countries for which the U.S. government has designated.  As of today (May 7th) the govern...
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With the Russian takeover of Crimea and political turmoil throughout Ukraine, many people are asking whether the United States will grant asylum or protected status to those affected by the conflict.  

Unfortunately for Ukrainian or Russian nationals who fear returning to the region, there is not any organized program to provide protected status in the United States at the time of this update (Updated October 1, 2014).  As yet, our government has not declared Temporary Protected Status for Ukraine, nor has the United Nations High Commission on Refugees begun operations in the region.

Asylum is one option for Ukrainians or Russians in the United States who fear persecution at home.  However, people should be careful not to fall prey to immigration consultants who promise easy results or who claim that "everyone" from the area will get asylum. As I have written before when conflict erupted in Syria, asylum is a very personal form of relief. Each person much make his or her own case as t...
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With harsh new laws persecuting sexual minorities threatening the Winter Olympics and thus making headlines even on ESPN, petitions demanding that the U.S. grant asylum to LGBT Russians are circulating on the internet.  The good news for any lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Russian living in the United States is that you may already be eligible for asylum.  For asylum claims, sexual identity or sexual orientation is considered a "social group," so a person who is persecuted based on sexual identity or orientation may make a claim for asylum.

The first recognition of sexual minorites as a protected class came in 1986, when a Cuban "Marielito" was granted withholding of removal by an immigration judge who determined that he must not be deported back to Cuba because he was certain to face imprisonment and mistreatment as a registered homosexual. The case was appealed, and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the judge's decision, in Matter of Toboso-Alfonso in 1990. (Decision a...
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Yesterday was a banner day for the "Marriage Equality" movement in the United States.  In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme court struck down the federal "Defense of Marriage Act," (DOMA) a 1996 law which defined "marriage" as a union between a man and a woman for purposes of federal laws.  

When it was enacted, DOMA really just codified the status quo; no jurisdiction had yet recognized marriage between partners of the same sex. The law was a preemptive strike at a time when the earliest gay marriage cases were under consideration in the Hawaiian courts.  The situation now is vastly different.

Marriage equality, defined as recognizing same-sex marriages in the same way as opposite-sex marriages, has been gaining steam for the past decade.  As recently as ten years ago opponents of same-sex marriage could claim the "will of the people" was against marriage equality, because no state had legislatively granted same-sex marriage rights and many states had passed laws or constitutiona...
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Happy International Women's Day!  March 8th is celebrated around the world as a day to honor women's contributions to economy and society.  This date actually commemorates strikes by female garment workers in New York in 1857 and 1908, according to this article in today's Christian Science Monitor, and was initially called "International Working Women's Day."  Women around the world will have some time off work to celebrate, and will receive flowers and small gifts from employers and students.  In many nations, the day is also being used for events and demonstrations highlighting the special challenges that women still face, including gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, patriarchal oppression, and unequal pay.  The date is little marked in the United States, perhaps due to our national aversion to publicly condoning anything that's ever been associated with or approved by socialists anywhere. 

Yesterday, however, our President did give the 51% an early Women's Day pres...
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Last week Governor Quinn signed a law that sets up a licensing protocol for Illinois drivers who do not have legal immigrant status.    The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights was a driving force behind this bill, and has created this information sheet describing the features and limitation of the Temporary Visitor Driver's License.

I hope that this begins a trend among our legislative bodies to carefully consider the purpose served by any particular license, benefit, or right and whether that purpose is served by restricting it to persons of certain status.

Far too often in our nation's recent history, lawmakers have responded to shocking tragedies by placing sweeping restrictions on entire classes of people who share some characteristics with the perpetrators of horrific acts.  Thus, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 begat the "REAL ID Act" of 2005.  Since many of the terrorists who planned an implemented the attacks had been living in the United States, ...
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USCIS announced recently that they have reached the quota for "U-visas" for this year.  This means 10,000 visas have been granted to victims of serious crimes such as murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, and involuntary servitude who are helping law enforcement bring criminals to justice.

In these times when many states are seeking to further restrict and criminalize the daily lives of undocumented immigrants, it is important to recognize that undocumented immigrants are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.  Some immigrants are specifically targeted as an easily exploited workforce subjected to slavery or peonage.  Others fall victim to domestic abuse or street violence, afraid to report crimes or seek safety for fear of exposing themselves to deportation. The U-visa grants special status to certain crime victims so that they can come forward and participate in investigations ans prosecutions of dangerous criminals. 

While this is in fact a form of relief for the v...
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Today, March 29, 2012 Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, declared temporary protected status (TPS) for Syrian nationals present in the United States.  Syrians can register for this status from now until September 25th, of this year (2012).  The protected status will last until September 25th of the following year, 2013.

I just attended a teleconference hosted by USCIS on this topic, and thought this would be excellent topic for my first blog entry on this site.  So here's a primer on TPS, and some specifics about the Syria designation.  This is simplified and not meant as advice on any specific person's situation.  There are many nuances to immigration categories that are beyond the scope of this blog.

What is TPS?  How is this different from Asylum?


Foreign nationals who are granted TPS are allowed to live and work in the U.S. without fear of removal (deportation) other than on criminal grounds, and can travel outside the U.S. with special permission (advanced parole).

T...
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