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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
  • 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
  • Coalition to push for DREAM Act in 2015 (Legislative Gazette, January 12, 2015):
The New York Immigration Coalition will be pushing the DREAM Act this coming legislative session, as well as other reforms they say would help unaccompanied immigrant children and prepare the state to meet President Obama's executive action that expands who can apply for deferred status.
Members of the coalition joined state lawmakers during separate events in New York City, Westchester and Long Island to announce its new "Immigrant Equality Agenda" which holds passage of the DREAM Act as the top objective in Albany this year. Read More
  • Business as Usual With Mexico No Longer Possible as Human Rights Disaster Deepens (Huffington Post January 7, 2015) 
When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last met with President Obama he was riding a wave of legislative success and media adulation, but terrifying events in 2014 have changed all that.  The two presidents are meeting again this week after alarming revelations about of murders and abductions in Iguala and elsewhere in Mexico involving police, army, and criminal organizations connected to high-ranking politicians have shaken the country and fundamentally altered the political terrain of the bi-national relationship. Read more
  • New Year, New Congress: Human Rights First’s Top 5 Priorities for the 114th Congress
1. Close the door on Torture; 2. Shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; 3. Strengthen our immigration and asylum system by fully funding immigration courts; 4. Increase efforts to disrupt the criminal enterprise of human trafficking; 5. Create a Special Envoy for the human rights of LGBT people in the State Department. Read more
  • Judge blocks Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio's workplace raids (AZCentral, January, 6, 2015):
Under the Arizona law, undocumented immigrants can be charged with felony identity theft if they use fake documents to get work, even if those documents do not use real IDs and Social Security numbers. In the past six years, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has arrested more than 700 people in about 80 raids on workplaces. On January 5, 2015, U.S. District Judge David Campbell issued a preliminary injunction barring both the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and County Attorney Bill Montgomery from enforcing an Arizona law. Read more
  • The Marshall Project (December 2014)
In 2014 one of the most controversial practices in criminal justice, solitary confinement, faced unprecedented challenges. As a result of legislation or lawsuits, ten states adopted 14 measures aimed at curtailing the use of solitary, abolishing solitary for juveniles or the mentally ill, improving conditions in segregated units, or gradually easing isolated inmates back into the general population. In 2014 the correctional officers’ union in Texas even called for doing away with solitary confinement on death row, stating in a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that if inmates are stripped of all privileges they become harder to manage and more dangerous to corrections officers. Read more
  • Obama Immigration Plan, How will it be rolled out.
How Obama's immigration plan is expected to roll out. President Obama's new set of immigration policies could affect several million people, including the possibility of a three-year reprieve from the threat of deportation for parents of US citizen children. The new year will see those policies coming into effect. Also ahead in 2015 are important shifts in how agents will enforce immigration laws to focus more on deporting people with lengthy or violent criminal records and less on people whose only crimes are immigration offenses. 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-