Welcome to the World Wide Web site of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law



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.         

  • Cuba-US Relations: The Hopefully Not So Long and Winding Road Ahead

    We would like to share this report in response to President Obama's announcement yesterday seeking to normalize relations with Cuba. The report briefly explains the nature of the steps taken by President Obama yesterday, and the additional substantive steps he could take to begin to repair damage done by five decades of a failed policy aimed at assassinating the leaders of Cuba, precipitating the violent overthrow of the Government, and causing economic suffering among the Cuban people .

    This is a historic first step and much work remains to be done. The embargo must be challenged in the halls of the U.S. Government and public opinion. The absurd designation of Cuba as a sponsor of state terrorism must be promptly dropped by the U.S. State Department. Covert actions aimed at regime change in Cuba should be terminated. The Cuban people have the inalienable right to chose their own course without threats of terrorism coming from Miami or the burdens of outdated hostile Cold War policies coming from Washington. We look forward to joining in the next stages of the struggle for peaceful and respectful bilateral relations between our two countries.
  • Dec. 12, 2014: Obama Announces Release of the Remaining Cuban Five Prisoners

    Today, President Obama announced the release of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino - the remaining members of the Cuban Five intelligence officers imprisoned in the U.S. Simultaneously, Cuba released today Alan Gross, the American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast. For more, read a comprehensive article by the NYTimes.

    This is a historic first step and much work remains to be done. The embargo must be challenged and the absurd listing of Cuba as a sponsor of state terrorism must be promptly dropped by the US State Department. Covert actions aimed at regime change in Cuba should be terminated. There is much work left to be done in the struggle to recognize that the Cuban people have the inalienable right to chose their own course without threats of terrorism coming from Miami or the burdens of outdated hostile Cold War policies coming from Washington. The Center looks forward to joining in the next stages of the struggle for peaceful and respectful bilateral relations between our two countries.
  • October 1, 2014 - IN THE NEWS - The San Francisco Bay View: Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law blasts proposed prison visitor strip search policy as unconstitutional.  (Read the article)
  • Upcoming Webinar Seminars on Constitutional Law, Immigration, Human Rights, and Prisoners' Right Issues- Register now!   Legal services providers and pro bono attorneys are invited to participate in our upcoming Fall series of webinar trainings provided by the staff of the Center for Human rights.  Register using this form.  The Center has scheduled the following webinars, ever Friday in September from noon - 1pm: (1) Recent development in Immigration Law & Policy - learn about new policy and administrative changes, including the surge of newly arrived unaccompanied immigrant children; (2) Recent development in Constitutional Law - learn about development in 5th and 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection provisions; (3) International Human Rights Law for Legal Aid Practitioners - Learn the basics of international human rights law and its application to social justice and poverty advocacy; (4) The Rights of Prisoners in Solitary Confinement and their Families - learn about the issues affecting California prisoners in solitary confinement and their families.  MCLE credit is available for CA attorneys.  Register here today.
  • Upcoming Constitutional Law Seminar Retreats for Legal Service Provider -                 Limited Space - Apply Now!                                                                                                        The Center for Human Rights & Constitutional law is conducting constitutional law seminars at all inclusive 2 day (8 hours total), 2-3 night retreats one to be held in an ocean-front home in Capistrano Bay (Southern California) tentatively scheduled for October 6 - 8 and a second retreat to be held in large house on a canal in Capitola (Central Coast, California, just south of Santa Cruz) tentatively scheduled for October 23 - 24.  to view the Capistrano home select this link.  to view the Capitola home select this link.  No more than seven or eight participants may stay without charge for 2-3 nights and combine seminar attendance with time in beautiful settings to relax and develop personal relationships with other legal services attorneys.  Participants may stay in the homes we have secured with no charge or stay anywhere else close by.  Candidates should be legal services or pro bono attorneys likely to use constitutional law principles in their work and share what they learn with other staff attorneys in their programs.  Depending on the number of responses we receive, we may limit participants to one per legal services program.  For more information about each location, date and to apply for consideration, please complete and submit this form today.  Agenda includes: (1) how to identify important constitutional issues in advocating for and representing low-income and vulnerable communities in California; (2) how to frame and litigate constitutional claims on behalf of poor people before administrative bodies and the court; (3) coalition building and community education involving constitutional rights of poor people; (4) time to interact with and get to know legal services attorneys doing similar work in other program and exploring future collaboration; (6) time off for participants to explore the beautiful surroundings in which these homes are located.  Participants may arrive the night before the seminars begin and remain for a day after they end in order to enjoy the surroundings and develop persona nad professional relationship with other participants.  Meals will be provided on the first full day of training, and breakfast and lunch on the second half day of training.  Members of the California Bar will receive CLE credits for attending.  Apply today.

  • Hunger Strikers Write to CA Legislature: August 12, 2014 - The four original hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State Prison send the following letter addressed to all the members of the CA Senate and Assembly regarding Sen. Loni Hancock's SB 892 (solitary confinement).  This letter from the four original hunger strikers includes rational and cogent arguments regarding the substantial deficiency in Sen. Hancock's bill in the current form (read & download their letter here).
  • Non-Smuggler Migrants Case Update: August 5, 2014 - Maricopa County in Arizona agreed to drop its opposition to a permanent injunction barring Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery from charging immigrants with felony conspiracies to "smuggle themselves."
The concession came as part of settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law on behalf of several community groups, including Somos America/We Are America Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The lawsuit challenged Maricopa County's conspiracy prosecutions in which prosecutors coerced thousands of non-smuggler migrants into pleading guilty to criminal offenses that preclude them from legalizing their status as residents of the United States. Maricopa County relied upon a 2005 state "anti-coyote" law that declared it a state crime to transport unauthorized entrants for gain in Arizona. Maricopa County, alone among Arizona's 15 counties, misused the law to arrest and prosecute non-smuggler migrants on the pretext they had conspired to smuggle themselves.

Since 2006, some 14,000 non-smuggler migrants were jailed without bond and convicted of felony conspiracies to smuggle themselves in Maricopa County. In September 2013, the U.S. District Court in Phoenix held the practice an unconstitutional state attempt to regulate immigration, an exclusive prerogative of the federal government.

This week the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed that the federal court’s injunction against the conspiracy prosecutions remain in effect permanently. Carlos Holguín, CHRCL General Counsel and lead attorney for the plaintiffs, described the County's' decision as ending
the unconstitutional regulation of immigration via a contrived subversion of state law. Select this link to read an article in the Arizona Republic about the settlement.
  • Special Immigrant Juvinilees Case Update: July 21, 2014 - Today lawyers for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and Public Counsel filed a motion for class-wide enforcement of the settlement in Perez-Olano v. Johnson. The Perez-Olano settlement bars the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), from blocking abused, abandoned and neglected children's access to lawful status as Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) by (1) demanding that they obtain the consent of the federal government before seeking the protection of state juvenile courts, or (2) by declaring them ineligible for SIJ merely because they turn 18 before filing for SIJ benefits.
In April 2011, CIS declared that applicants must be both under 21 and the subjects of valid state court dependency orders at the time they apply for SIJ benefits. However, for the next two and one-half years the agency granted SIJ benefits to applicants who were no longer dependents so long as they were under 21 at the time they applied. In late summer 2013, the agency suddenly and without notice began denying SIJ benefits to applicants whose dependency orders had lapsed prior to their filing Forms I-360 and even revoking SIJ petitions it had previously approved on the same grounds.

In the enforcement motion, lawyers for abused, abandoned and neglected immigrant youth argue that under the Perez-Olano settlement and the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act applicants need only be under 21 at the time they apply for SIJ benefits. A copy of the motion to enforce is available here.
  • Hunger Strike Anniversary: July 8, 2014 - The California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and other groups will conduct a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the 2013 hunger strike initiated by prisoners in solitary confinement. The groups will announce the filing of a lawsuit charging Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and CDCR of illegally refusing to publicly disclose information, data and studies regarding its solitary confinement rules, policies, and practices (download press release). The lawsuit will be brought under the Public Records Act in order to achieve greater transparency regarding the hunger strike and will be filed on July 8, 2014 in the Superior Court of Sacramento (download complaint). The 2013 hunger strike was joined by thousands of prisoners in and outside California and resulted in retaliatory actions being taken against those who participated in the hunger strike (Media coverage). For more information on prisoner rights project (select here).
  • Letters Opposing SB 892: May 19, 2014 - The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional law, California Families Against Solitary Confinement and numerous other groups and individuals involved with prison reform issues have sent a letter to the California Assembly Appropriations Committee members supporting AB 1652 (Ammiano). If enacted AB 1652 would bring to an end California's policy of keeping about 2,500 prisoners in solitary confinement for 6-25 years for alleged gang membership with no accompanying wrong doing. Select here to view/download copy of the AB 1652 letter. Select here if you wish to add your organization or name and title to the SB 892 letter. Prison reform groups have also sent a letter to the California Senate Appropriations Committee members opposing SB 892 (Hancock) in its present form. If enacted SB 892 would insert into state law the policy of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement for many years for alleged gang membership with no accompanying wrong doing. Select here to view/download copy of the SB 892 letter. Select here if you wish to add your organization or name and title to the SB 892 letter. By the end of this week the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees will vote on SB 892 (Hancock) and AB 1652 (Ammiano). Family members, advocates and organizations involved in solitary confinement issues should be in touch with Appropriations Committee members, their staff and Committee staff Tuesday-Thursday this week. A list of the key members may be view/downloaded by clicking here
  • Comments on SB 892: April 25, 2014 - The Center distributed a letter to Senator Hancock and the members and staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee expressing concerns about proposed S.B. 892, which seeks to reform California's solitary confinement practices. Foremost, we expressed concern about the bill’s perpetuation of CDCR’s gang validation policy. Prominent organizations, advocates, and individuals signed on to the letter, including labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo and Mike Garcia, and influential groups such as League of United Latin American Citizens and Council on American-Islamic Relations. The letter may be downloaded here. Please contact us to sign on to our letter in support of our recommendations to CA legislators. 
Read the Center's proposed amendments to the language of Sen. Hancock's S.B. 892 here.
Read the type of legislation the Center, community-based organizations, prison reform experts and faith-based and labor leaders would support here. This proposed legislation has only three parts we consider essential to rational legislation for this term and could be expanded upon next term after data collection from CDCR. Our recommendations draw heavily from Assemblyman Ammiano's A.B. 1652 and harmonizes the positive aspects of S.B. 892.
Watch Peter Schey, President of CHRCL, testify at the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on April 28th with our concerns and recommendations regarding S.B. 892 here.

  • Letter to President Obama: April 14, 2014 - CHRCL sent a letter to President Obama in response to his request to the Department of Homeland Security on how to slow deportations. We do not believe asking for "Deferred Action Status" is enough. Our letter explains how aside from granting Deferred Action Status (temporary status) to the largest possible group of  immigrants, the President could also, with no change in federal laws, grant lawful permanent resident status possibly to as many as two million immigrants -- without requiring any action by Congress. The letter to Obama may be downloaded here.
We urge all advocates to review the Center's letter and to send similar or supportive letters to the President, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Attorney General, with copies to all other principle aides and principle lawyers listed here.
  • Prisoner News: March 17, 2014 - Senator Loni Hancock today introduced new legislation to revise and reform solitary confinement conditions and procedures. (read more)
  • Legislative Update: February 2014 Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Update on Federal and California Legislation Impacting Low-Income Immigrant Communities.  Select this link to download a PDF version of this legislative update. 

  • 2014 Constitutional Manual: Updated Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law Manual on Constitutional Law, Due Process and Equal Protection for Legal Services and Pro Bono Attorneys.  Click here to download free PDF version of the updated manual. 
  • Immigration Reform:  Analysis of Senate Bill Proposals for Legalization: nine significant elements of the Senate Bill's Legalization Proposal that must be changed to have an effective program that does not potentially exclude millions of low-income immigrants living in the U.S.  Click here to download report.

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

Casa Libre: shelter for homeless unaccompanied immigrant children

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

The Legalization Site

Unaccompanied Minors Project

Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Websites: