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Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law



"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those  

            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

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Welcome to the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law. The Center is a non-profit, public interest legal foundation dedicated to furthering and protecting the civil, constitutional, and human rights of immigrants, refugees, children, prisoners, and the poor.

Since its incorporation in 1980, under the leadership of a board of directors comprising civil rights attorneys, community advocates and religious leaders, the Center has provided a wide range of legal services to vulnerable low-income victims of human and civil rights violations and technical support and training to hundreds of legal aid attorneys and paralegals in the areas of immigration law, constitutional law, and complex and class action litigation.

The Center has achieved major victories in numerous major cases in the courts of the United States and before international bodies that have directly benefited hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged persons.

Bienvenido a la página del Centro por Derechos Humanos y Ley Constitucional. El Centro es una organización no-lucrativa que se dedica para el bienestar público y para promover y proteger los derechos civiles, constitucionales, y humanos de inmigrantes, refugiados, menores de edad, y los pobres.

Les damos la bienvenida a estudiantes, abogados, u otros voluntarios disponibles a unirse con los esfuerzos del Centro a proteger y promover derechos humanos y civiles en el ámbito nacional e internacional.         

 WHAT'S NEW

  • Judge: California Violated ADA by Segregating Disabled Prisoners (February 10, 2015)

A federal judge in California has ordered the state to cease segregating prisoners with disabilities by placing them in solitary confinement. Judge Claudia Wilken said that the practice violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in addition to several court orders. Read More

  • A New Hotline Is Available for Undocumented Immigrants (February 10, 2015)

If you're an undocumented immigrant who has dealt with the US Customs and Border Protection, the US government wants to hear about your experience, and it has set up a hotline to help facilitate these efforts. Read More

  • Examining the UAC-DACA Link (February 10, 2015)

New research from Niskane Center shows that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) not to blame for surge of unaccompanied minors.  Read More

  • PRESS RELEASE: Human rights and children’s advocates petition federal court to halt en masse detention of refugee women and children.

Together with co-counsel, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law  filed papers in the U.S. district court in Los Angeles challenging the Department of Homeland Security's "no-release" policy for Central American women and children, some 1,000 of whom are currently detained in detention camps in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Under a class action settlement in Flores v. Johnson, children are entitled to safe and appropriate placement during federal immigration custody, as well as a fair opportunity for release on bond or recognizance pending proceedings to determine whether they may remain in the United States. The settlement also obliges the Border Patrol to treat detained children "with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors" in the immediate aftermath of arrest.

Read the motion to enforce HERE and coverage of the issues HERE.

  • Safety for immigrant victims put on hold by U-visa delay (February 1, 2015)

U-Visa applications on the rise.  Demand for the program has far outpaced a 10,000-per-year cap on the visas set by Congress, with just over 26,000 applications filed last fiscal year. There's even a wait to get on the waiting list: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the applications in the order they were filed, hasn't evaluated any application submitted after December 2013.

  • A Plan for Central America (January 29, 2015)

The economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward. Inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back. Six million young Central Americans are to enter the labor force in the next decade. If opportunity isn’t there for them, the entire Western Hemisphere will feel the consequences. Read More

  • The truth about border security (January 28, 2015)

Too often, border security is viewed as preventing the illegal entry of people and goods across state lines. However, border security also is about ensuring the safe, efficient flow of commerce and increasing international trade. Comprehensive reform will do both, while our current approach serves neither objective. Read More

  • US Delays Thousands of Immigration Hearings by Nearly 5 Years (January 28, 2015)

In a fresh sign of the backlogs and delays pervasive in the U.S. immigration court system, the Justice Department has begun sending out notices to thousands of immigrants awaiting hearings that their cases will be pushed back nearly five years. The delay makes room for higher-priority cases caused last summer by a surge in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border with Mexico. Read More

  • Immigration Offenses Made Up Nearly Half of All 2012 Federal Arrests (January 27, 2015)

NEW US Department of Justice Report shows that nearly half of all U.S. federal arrests in 2012 by U.S. Marshals Service were for immigration offenses. Immigration arrests from five federal judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border -- which encompasses California Southern, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas Western, and Texas Southern -- made up roughly 60 percent of all federal arrests in 2012, a 15 percent hike from 45 percent of all arrests in 2006. In addition in 2012, these five districts accounted for 53 percent of suspects being investigated by U.S. attorneys and 54 percent of suspects detained prior to trial.  Read More

  • Migrants seeking asylum from gangs have a lot to prove. (January 26, 2015)

Last fiscal year, 2,797 unaccompanied minors filed asylum cases with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That was up 385 percent from the 577 filed in 2011. But asylum cases in general are hard to win, and even harder for those fleeing gang violence, experts say. To qualify, minors will have to show not only that they feared for their lives at the hands of criminal gangs in their home country. They will also have to show that the gangs targeted them because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. Read More

  • The way forward to end solitary confinement torture: Where's the Army? (January 26, 2015)

Prisoner representative Todd Ashker's depiction of CDCR's Segregated Housing Units: "What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group." Read More

  • Obama Plan To Protect Immigrants Backed By Over 30 Democratic Mayors (January 23, 2015)

More than 30 Democratic mayors plan to file an amicus brief in support of President Barack Obama's efforts to shield more than 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation in an ongoing legal battle in Texas to overturn the White House policy.  The amicus brief opposes a lawsuit filed in Texas by Republican governors who claim Obama's executive action on immigration announced in November is illegal because the measure was not approved by the GOP-controlled Congress. The National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as Democratic leaders including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel claim Obama's immigration measures serve public interests across the nation. Read More

  • Anti-Immigration Lawsuit on Shaky Ground (January 22, 2015)
 Last November, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that would halt the immediate deportation of 4.4 million undocumented immigrants and render another 290,000 eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In response, opponents – a coalition of 25 states, led by Texas – filed suit in federal court challenging the president's authority to unilaterally act on the matter. Last Thursday, Jan. 15, in Brownsville, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen heard arguments on the injunction; he said he wouldn't issue a ruling on the request before Jan. 30. But this latest salvo isn't exactly striking fear in the hearts of Austin's immigrant rights advocates. Instead, it's seen as nothing more than a political statement with little chance of prevailing in court. Read More
  • No Asylum: Immigrants Locked Up in U.S. after Fleeing Violence (January 22, 2015) 

Watch the Reason TV video for a glimpse at who exactly is being held in border detention centers at record rates. The video profiles the story of Marquez and her three daughters, who came to the U.S. from El Salvador after facing violent threats and extortion from gang members. While Maria and her family were seeking asylum from a dangerous gang that operates unchecked by an incompetent and often corrupt government, they almost immediately found themselves locked up in a family detention center in the small Texas town of Karnes, where they've spent the past six months fighting to avoid deportation.  Read More

  • Funding will train local attorneys to represent Central American children (January 21, 2015)
Little more than half of the nearly 13,000 children who have faced deportation proceedings in California since 2005 have had attorneys. Now, a state law passed in September gives local attorneys the means to represent more of the growing wave of Central American children crossing into the United States. The new law completes an about-face in state policy 20 years after Proposition 187 barred those in the country illegally from public services like health care and education. “It’s a major political change by the state of California to recognize that this really is a human rights situation,” Read More

Current Work and Areas of Expertise

The Center is a legal services support center with recognized expertise in complex litigation, constitutional law, and laws targeting vulnerable insular populations including immigrants, refugees, at-risk children, survivors of domestic violence, prisoners in solitary confinement, and member of LGBT communities. A partial list of the Center's major litigation includes the following cases: Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) (lead counsel for state-wide class of undocumented children denied access to public elementary education because of their immigration status); Reno v. Catholic Social Services, 509 U.S. 43 (1993) (national class action on behalf of persons unlawfully denied legalization under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986); Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993) (national class action on behalf of children denied release on bail pending the outcome of deportation proceedings); League of United Latin American Citizens v. Wilson, 131 F. 3d 1297 (9th Cir. 1997)(state-wide class action challenging on due process, equal protection and premption grounds the constitutionality of a voter-approved state Proposition denying health care, social services and education to suspected undocumented children and adults); and Orantes-Hernandez v. Smith, 541 F.Supp. 351 (C.D. Cal. 1982) (national class of Salvadoran nationals seeking political asylum in the United States).

Our work focuses on the following: 1. Federal litigation in support of abused, abandoned, and neglected immigrant and refugee children eligible to legalize status as Special Immigrant Juveniles. 2. Enforcing the rights of children detained pending deportation or removal to appropriate placement and services. 3. Federal litigation involving efforts by state and local governments to enforce federal immigration laws. 4. Litigation, legislative advocacy and policy analysis to address the rights of immigrants to state driver’s licenses. 5. Protecting the rights of immigrant survivors of crime, human trafficking, and domestic violence. We also work in other areas of law and policy identified as priorities by IOLTA-recipients. CHRCL welcomes the input of Trust Fund programs into its priority setting process.

Read about our legal support services here.


Casa Kauai

photoThe Casa Kauai's mission is to provide a relaxed atmosphere and high quality space in a peaceful and natural environment far from the daily stress of one's usual work for the creation, discussion, and development of projects and programs related to the protection and promotion of social justice, including human rights, economic rights, environmental protection, and cultural preservation.

We also intend that the retreat center be available for use by individuals who are making a significant contribution to the cause of social justice through their activities and who would like to spend time in a peaceful setting to rest and recuperate from their work.

Click here to learn more about reserving Casa Kauai.

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Solitary Confinement in CA Prisons

photoImmigrant Family and the Defense of Marriage Act

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Casa Libre: shelter for homeless unaccompanied immigrant children

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Voces Unidas: a bi-lingual nationwide resource database for abused women and children and their advocates

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The Legalization Site

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Unaccompanied Minors Project

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Tents 4 Homeless



Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Websites:
CENTERFORHUMANRIGHTS.ORG - CASA-LIBRE.ORG - CENTERFORHUMANRIGHTS.ORG/PRISONERS - CENTERFORHUMANRIGHTS.ORG/DOMA-