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VACIR is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition of organizations that exists to win dignity, power and quality of life for all immigrant and refugee communities.

Category Archives: Blog

The Fight for Dreamers Continues!

From Immigration Attorney and VACIR Board Member Hassan Ahmed:
Attorney General Sessions announced the end of #DACA. Here is what that means (based on info we have now):
1. If you have never filed for DACA, it’s too late, as of today. You’ll have to find another way to stay. There may be options depending on your particular history, so seek counsel.
2. If you are filing for renewal of DACA, you have until Oct 5 to get your application in.
3. There is a new standard: even DACA renewals accepted by USCIS will be adjudicated on a “case by case” basis. I expect this to mean more arbitrary denials. Just because you file it correctly doesn’t mean you’ll get the renewal.
4. If granted, renewals will be for the full 2 year period.
5. No more advance parole for DACA holders. This closes the ability to travel, reenter, and apply for a green card (for those familiar: no more “DACAbally.” This applies to advance parole requests that are pending as of today, 5 Sep 2017.
6. If you have DACA, and it’s approved, it may not be terminated based on today’s announcements, but it still can be terminated for any other reason.
If you’re a Dreamer – please, please do not despair. We’ve been getting the weeping phone calls today. But fear kills your intelligence and courage, and you’ll need both. There are thousands of people – lawyers, advocates, elected officials – with you on this. You’re not alone.
On policy:
This is every bit the narrative expected from the likes of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III. Trump delegated the task of rescinding DACA to his AG, who isn’t supposed to dictate policy. And his presser was filled with omissions and falsehoods that belie the real impetus for today’s shameful action.
1. Sessions again repeated the white nationalist battle cry that immigrants are to be feared, and “we can’t admit everybody” and those we do admit should “assimilate” (as opposed to integrate) – a clear nod to the ill-conceived RAISE Act. Yet he supposedly is waiting for Congress to do something to admit the 800,000 Dreamers anyway.
2. Just like he did in his confirmation hearing, Sessions said the law must be enforced. But the law itself gives wide discretion to immigration officers. The ramped up deportations without regard to criminal history is testament to this. I suspect this is what he meant when he said his officers are now “inspired.” Apparently the slow death of DACA is the “compassionate” way to do things – the new buzzword being an “orderly winding down” of a supposedly illegal program. The 6 month period will make it more difficult to obtain an injunction halting the rescission – but let’s hope I’m wrong about that.
3. Separation of powers: It is frightening that the head of the US Department of Justice does not understand our system of government. He says the President (Obama) had no authority to temporarily shield whole classes of immigrants from deportation. Yet President (Trump) has unbridled authority to ban classes of immigrants and deport them. Sessions can’t have it both ways. If he had a problem with the way DACA was rolled out, then roll it out properly instead of rescinding it. If DACA is illegal no matter how it was rolled out, then *so is the travel ban.*
4. The 5th Circuit did indeed rule that DAPA (which was similar to DACA) was probably an excess. But let me say this clearly: the Supreme Court has *never* ruled that DAPA was unconstitutional. Let’s also remember that a lawsuit to shut down DACA would go before the very same judge Hanen who shut down DAPA in the first place. Hanen is far from a neutral arbiter, and I don’t make that statement lightly.
5. The supposed legislative fix. Sessions conveniently left out something that should have been made very clear: Congress has had since 2001 to find a solution for Dreamers and have failed. Now, they’re supposed to get their act together in the next 6 months. The implication – and perhaps expectation – is that nothing will happen, and all Dreamers will lose their ability to work, be arbitrarily labeled a “public threat” under Trump’s March 6 executive order, and be put in line for deportation.
6. Lest it be forgotten, this is textbook bad faith. Coax immigrants to come out of the shadows with promises of a work permit and no deportation, get their information, and then use it against them. I am not blaming Obama’s administration for DACA – but it was always meant to be a stop-gap measure. And the very same Congressmen now clamoring for the “rule of law” are the ones who stonewalled every single attempted legislative fix.
This is one campaign promise the administration has been able to keep. Rescission of DACA makes no sense economically, and it’s certainly the immoral thing to do. No court has ruled it illegal. The only possible explanation: xenophobia. Now structural and government-certified.
Please stay tuned. This isn’t over.

Safety First


By Jeff Connor-Naylor, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

Providing all Virginians, regardless of immigration status, with the ability to get a driver’s license could increase road safety by boosting the share of drivers who are trained and tested, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Institute titled Hands on the Wheel.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia already allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain some form of driver’s card. The three earliest states to implement expanded access to driver’s licenses all have seen a greater than 30 percent drop in traffic fatalities since 1994, compared to a nationwide 20 percent drop.

There are several reasons why offering licenses to all drivers make the roads safer. Virginia law requires that anyone getting a new license must first complete a driver’s education course or hold a learners permit for at least 60 days, which helps a new driver become more familiar with road safety. Drivers who have a license may also be more likely to stay at the scene of an accident, reducing incidents of hit-and-run collisions. Increasing access to driver’s licenses could also increase the share of cars that are insured.  

Getting more drivers licensed also improves our communities and economy. Driving is a necessity for most families, not a choice. Expanding access to licenses would help parents get to parent-teacher conferences, families get to church, and workers get to their jobs.

Newly licensed workers could fill job openings far from public transportation that would otherwise have remained empty. Agricultural employers could see an increase in the share of their workers who are trained, tested, and licensed drivers. And car insurance costs could go down for everyone if there’s increased road safety and decreases in the number of uninsured drivers.

There are good reasons to deny some people access to driving. Those who have a track record of driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example, should not be allowed to endanger everyone else on the road. But the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants who want to participate in the system of testing and licensure are not in this category and should be provided the chance to learn and abide by the rules of Virginia’s roads. Expanding access to driver’s licenses would increase safety and help Virginia’s economy and communities.



VACIR Signs on to Letter Demanding a Stop to Deporations

On January 4, 2016 VACIR joined organizations from across the country asking Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to cease the unjust raids and deportation of our community members. 

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

The Honorable Loretta Lynch
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Re: Notification of disabilities of persons targeted in Central American refugee raids and request for immediate modifications

Dear Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Lynch:

We write to notify you personally that a substantial proportion of the Central American refugees likely targeted in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raids that began yesterday, and a substantial proportion of those who are currently in removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), are disabled, as that term is defined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This letter is meant to notify you of their disabilities and to request reasonable modifications to the asylum process and removal proceedings and to the current enforcement operations.

Notice of Disability Under Rehabilitation Act

Based on available information, a substantial portion of the Central American refugees who were placed in removal proceedings on or after January 1, 2014, including those who are now being targeted in ICE raids, were exposed to profound and substantial trauma in their countries of origin. Since 2014, thousands of people from Central American families, including single mothers and toddlers, have come to the United States seeking refuge from gang- and gender-based violence in their countries of origin. Families have traveled hundreds of miles through dangerous conditions to bring children to safety. A very high proportion of the Central American mothers and children now targeted for ICE raids have survived sexual assault or other forms of extreme violence, have mourned the loss of close family members to particularized violence, and today suffer the inevitable consequences of exposure to this trauma. In many cases, the harmful health consequences of this prior trauma were made even worse by the conditions of confinement DHS imposed on these families, both at the U.S. border and in family detention facilities. A June 30, 2015 complaint submitted to DHS by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Immigration Council, and Women’s Refugee Commission (“AILA Complaint”) documents the significant detrimental impact of family detention on mothers and children who are asylum seekers and victims of trauma.

A substantial proportion of the Central American parents and children who have sought refuge in the U.S. are suffering from severe symptoms of—and in many cases meet diagnostic criteria for—posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety, and depression. Symptoms from these and other trauma-related conditions can substantially impair and limit major life activities, including negatively impacting and interfering with the ability of these families to meaningfully participate in asylum processing and immigration removal proceedings, federal programs subject to the Rehabilitation Act. As a result, a substantial number of the Central American refugees now targeted for ICE raids are disabled, as that term is defined in the Rehabilitation Act. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1); 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2. The violent nature in which the current DHS raids are being conducted poses substantial risk for further harm and exacerbation of traumatic symptoms.

Providing Reasonable Accommodations to Central American Refugee Families

Media reports indicate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun to conduct a series of raids to deport Central American families. These refugee families have fled particularized violence and persecution in their countries of origin and are seeking asylum and other humanitarian relief. Central American refugee families are currently subject to armed ICE officers forcing or coercing their way into homes, in some instances pulling adults and children out of bed before dawn. The violent manner in which ICE officers are conducting raids threatens to cause further harm to these disabled refugees. Mothers and children who witnessed and survived arrest, torture, and murder of family members, and attempts on their own lives, will be grossly re-traumatized by ICE raids. These refugees’ ability to advocate for themselves in removal proceedings even after entry of a final order by, for example, moving to rescind in absentia orders or to reopen final orders of removal will be further impaired by ICE’s actions, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. These individuals now require reasonable modifications to DHS conduct of enforcement operations and EOIR adjudication of removal proceedings.

In addition to providing notice of disability, we request immediate modification of EOIR and DHS policies and DHS’s conduct of the raids now underway to ensure that these disabled refugees have meaningful access to their processing as asylum seekers and to their removal proceedings. DHS, EOIR, and government contractors have routinely provided families with inadequate orientation to the U.S. immigration system, a system that is supposed to guarantee the opportunity to seek asylum and other humanitarian relief. These disabled parents and children should be provided with a fair and humane process. Consequently, we request reasonable accommodations to ensure that end, including:

(1) review of the underlying removal orders on which DHS raids are purportedly based, in order to confirm that the orders were not obtained in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, see Franco-Gonzales v. Holder, 767 F.Supp.2d 1034 (C.D.Cal. 2010) (Rehabilitation Act applies to removal proceedings and requires reasonable modifications for disabled respondents);
(2) immediate suspension of all raids against Central American families pending conclusion of this review;
(3) provision of counsel to disabled refugees unable to represent themselves in asylum processing and removal proceedings;
(4) service of a written request for an individual or family to surrender for removal prior to the government conducting a raid; and
(5) any further reasonable modifications to the asylum processing, removal proceedings, and enforcement operations required for these disabled refugee families, in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act.

Without these reasonable modifications, parents and children are unable to meaningfully participate in refugee processing or removal proceedings, including an inability to pursue motions to rescind in absentia orders or to reopen final orders following arrest in a raid. PTSD and other trauma-induced mental impairments inhibit survivors’ ability to form a coherent narrative of traumatic memories, to concentrate, and to communicate. Conditions of stress exacerbate the effects of trauma on a survivor’s ability to tell her family’s story. Consequently, without the requested reasonable modifications, Central American refugee families are unable to meaningfully navigate complex immigration proceedings or coherently articulate past persecution and ongoing fear as required for asylum claims. The re-traumatizing experience of arrest by armed, uniformed ICE agents who enter private homes, often without a warrant or consent, means that the current raids further prevent these disabled refugees from meaningfully participating in removal proceedings by exacerbating these trauma-induced impairments.

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits government agencies from discriminating against individuals on account of qualifying disabilities. 29 U.S.C. § 794; 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1); 28 C.F.R. § 35.130. DHS regulations require that DHS agencies provide reasonable modification to disabled individuals, pursuant to the Act. 6 C.F.R. §§ 15.1-15.70. Failure to implement reasonable modifications accommodating the disabilities of these Central American refugees constitutes a violation of civil rights statutes protecting persons with disabilities, for which you, your agencies, and your subordinate officials may be liable. 29 U.S.C. § 794; 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1); 28 C.F.R. § 35.130; 6 C.F.R. §§ 15.1-15.70.

You already know or should know of the disabilities of the families now targeted for raids, based on the medical screenings that were performed or should have been performed upon DHS’s initial arrest or detention of these families and children. These screenings, along with removal proceedings, should also make you aware of the barriers to meaningful participation in removal proceedings and programs for asylum and humanitarian relief that these disabilities have caused. Accordingly, we do not believe that either this notification of disability or the specific request for reasonable modifications is required by law. Nevertheless, so as to bring this matter directly and unambiguously to your attention, we provide this formal notice and request.


American Immigration Lawyers Association, CT Chapter
Apostle Immigrant Services
The Arc of the United States
CASA de Maryland
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
Center for Popular Democracy
Church World Service
Coalition of Residents and Immigrants in Solidarity
Colombia Action/CT
CONECT – Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut
Connecticut Legal Services, Inc.
Community Activism Law Alliance
CT Students for a Dream
Disability Rights DC at University Legal Services
El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos
Faith In New Jersey
Georgia Detention Watch
Grassroots Leadership
Greater Hartford Legal Aid
Hesperian Health Guides
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
The Immigration & Refugee Task Force of the Unitarian Society of New Haven
Institute for Social and Cultural Practice and Research Inc.
IICONN (The International Institute of Connecticut)
Junta for Progressive Action
KIND, Inc. (Kids in Need of Defense)
Latino Advocacy Foundation of Fairfield County
League of United Latin American Citizens
LGBTQ+ Youth Kickback
Make the Road CT
Make the Road NJ
Make the Road PA
Manos Unidas de New Britain
MEChA de Yale
Migrant Families Popular Assembly
Migrant Justice
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Immigration Project/NLG
Neighbors Link Stamford
New Haven Legal Assistance Association
New Haven Peoples Center
New Haven Rising
New Jersey Youth For Immigrant Liberation
New Sanctuary Coalition of NY
Organize Now
Peoples Health Movement – US
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
Show Up for Racial Justice
St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Parish, New Haven, CT
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC)
Unidad Latina en Acción
United Action CT
United We Dream
Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights
We Belong Together
Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Org.

Conozca Sus Derechos

Deportation Raids: Know Your Rights

ICE is currently conducting raids of individuals who have a deportation order against them. Know your rights!
1. If ICE knocks on your door and does NOT have a warrant. You have the right to NOT OPEN THE DOOR.
2. If you are detained by an ICE official. You have the right to REMAIN SILENT.
3. You have the right to have an attorney present, and may ASK for an ATTORNEY at any time.
4. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING with out the guidance of your attorney.
5. If you have experienced a raid call CASA de Virginia for help at (240) 491-5783.
The message below is in Spanish.
Hay pasos a tomar para prepararse en caso de una redada.
1. Memorice el numero de 2 personas de confianza que sepan que son sus contactos y que le puedan contestar el teléfono en cualquier momento.
2. Tenga un plan de emergencia para el cuidado de los niños o de personas que requieran atención especial.
3. Haz contacto con un grupo comunitario ahora. Mejor organizar antes que llega la migra que después.
4. Si ICE va a su casa, no abra la puerta, aunque le enseñen una foto de la persona a la que busca, los conozca o no.
5. ICE no puede entrar a su casa sin una orden (orden de cateo) firmada por un juez. No tiene que abrir su puerta ni dejarlos entrar.
– Si llevan orden, pídales que se la pasen por debajo de la puerta
– Si ICE lleva una orden firmada por un juez, revise que tenga su dirección o el nombre especifico de la persona a la que buscan.
6. Permanezca callada/o. Cualquier cosa que diga puede ser usada en su contra por ICE.
7. No de información ni firme ningún papel sin primero consultar con su abogada/o.
8. Documente la redada Tome fotos, pregunte nombres, el numero de su identificación, cuente los agentes que estén presentes y escriba o documente lo que paso.
9. Puede pelear su caso Obtenga consejos o representación de un abogado de confianza y busque recursos con organizaciones comunitarias locales. Solo por qué tiene una deportación final no significa que no tenga opciones. Aunque es difícil, a veces hay oportunidad de poner presión a inmigración para que use su discreción, especialmente con el apoyo de organizaciones comunitarias con experiencia.
10. Reporte la redada a CASA de Virginia llame (240) 491-5783.
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