Protecting Immigrants’ Rights
Whether at work, at school, or at home, immigration affects every family, business, and community in the United States; indeed, it is at the core of our national identity. Today, Latinos are the largest-growing ethnic group in the country. MALDEF is at the forefront of the law and policy efforts to create and preserve opportunities for those in search of economic opportunity and personal freedom in America. MALDEF attorneys and staff have successfully challenged divisive and unconstitutional anti-immigrant ordinances across the nation. MALDEF has created an advocacy and litigation Action Tool Kit for use by community leaders to understand the implications of the ordinances and challenge them.
In March 2004, a group of Latinos were violently assaulted, detained and threatened with death by rancher Roger Barnett, his wife, Barbara, and his brother, Donald. Almost five years later, justice was served as a civil jury awarded damages on the women plaintiffs' claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The absence of federal comprehensive immigration reform has led to increased cases of racial profiling by law enforcement, as local officers see fit to take enforcement of federal immigration law into their own hands because of frustration with federal immigration enforcement. In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies have gained a national reputation for targeting Latinos and unlawfully detaining, questioning, and arresting them for the sole purpose of investigating their immigration status, in violation of federal law.
On May 1, 2007, thousands of nonviolent protestors gathered in many cities around the United States, including Los Angeles, to march in support of comprehensive immigration reform. At the march in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used excessive force against a group of peaceful protestors in MacArthur Park.
The Legal Arizona Workers Act requires all employers in the state of Arizona to verify their employees’ immigration status through a voluntary federal Electronic Employment Verification System, known as “E-Verify.” The Social Security Administration’s own studies have shown that the E-Verify database contains incorrect information for nearly 13 million U.S.-born citizens and almost 10% of naturalized citizens.
In November 2004, the Morales family and their friend Emma English, all United States citizens, were assaulted by border vigilante Roger Barnett while they were hunting on state land in southern Arizona. Armed with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, Barnett held them at gunpoint, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them, and threatened to kill them.
In November 2006, the City of Farmers Branch became the first city in Texas to pass an anti-immigrant ordinance. Ordinance 2892, and its later replacement Ordinance 2903, required landlords of apartment complexes to verify that every person living in an apartment in the City, was a United States citizen or an eligible immigrant.
In July 2006, the City of Valley Park, Missouri enacted two anti-immigrant ordinances penalizing businesses and landlords for hiring or renting to undocumented persons.
The City of Glendale, California had an ordinance that prohibited anyone in a public thoroughfare such as a sidewalk from soliciting employment, business, or contributions from passers-by. Anti-solicitation ordinances such as the law in Glendale are seldom enforced – but when they are, they are often used to target day laborers who seek employment while standing in public areas in accordance with their First Amendment free speech rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
In September 2007, the town of Cave Creek, Arizona passed an anti-solicitation ordinance targeting day laborers, who often seek work in traditional public areas subject to constitutional protection, such as sidewalks.
In November 2006, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure titled “Proposition 100,” which amended the bail provision of the Arizona Constitution to create a blanket no-bail scheme for undocumented persons charged with certain felonies in Arizona.
Local ordinances that prevent day laborers from soliciting employment in public areas hurt the Latino community and are contrary to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. The Redondo Beach anti-solicitation ordinance made it unlawful to stand on the sidewalk and solicit employment, business, or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle.
In 2006, in move that came to be echoed around the country, the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania enacted a series of anti-immigrant ordinances: the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance” and the “Tenant Registration Ordinance.”
In September of 2007, the Otero County, NM Sheriff and a number of deputies conducted a series of immigration raids against the Latino residents of Chaparral, New Mexico. The raids included warrantless invasions of private homes, stops of pedestrians and drivers without probable cause, and filing of false charges against Latino residents of Chaparral.
In appreciation for the service of men and women in the U.S. military during a period of conflict, Texas’s Hazlewood Act provides a tuition waiver at Texas public colleges and universities for returning veterans. Although the program is intended to further the education of all honorably-discharged Texas veterans, the state interpreted the Act to exclude those veterans who were legal permanent resident immigrants and not U.S. citizens at the time they entered the service, including those veterans who subsequently became citizens.
In March 2004, with no evidence of a violation of a school code or criminal law, local police stopped three undocumented high school students while they were on school grounds. MALDEF filed a federal suit on behalf of the students and an Albuquerque parent organization alleging that Albuquerque Public School (APS) administrators, officers of the Albuquerque Police Department, and a Border Patrol Agent violated the students’ constitutional rights.
On December 5, 2006, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners unanimously enacted Georgia’s first ordinance prohibiting the rental of dwelling units to unauthorized immigrants in its unincorporated territory. The Commission’s proffered reason for the ordinance was to address the County’s problems with overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and crime; yet it provided no empirical evidence that illegal immigration contributed to these blights.
In October 2006, the City of Escondido, California, passed an anti-immigration ordinance that required landlords to ensure that they were not renting property to undocumented persons within the City of Escondido, and threatened them with civil and criminal penalties if they were found to have an undocumented tenant residing on their properties. The ordinance also made English the official language of the city.