Non-profit

The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center

Website:

immigrantjustice.org/%20

Location:

Chicago, IL

Project of:

The Heartland Alliance

Formation:

1990s

Type:

Immigration advocacy

Executive Director:

Mary Meg McCarthy

The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is a liberal expansionist immigration advocacy group that operates in the American Midwest. NIJC focuses primarily on preventing law enforcement from detaining and imprisoning illegal immigrants and advocating for policy changes in immigration.

NIJC also provides legal assistance for low-income illegal immigrants who identify as LGBT and illegal immigrants who have HIV. [1] NIJC is a program of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights.

Organizational Overview

National Immigrant Justice Center advocates for left-of-center expansionist immigration policies and represents illegal immigrants in court proceedings. NIJC has filed lawsuits to release detained illegal immigrants into the United States. [2] It has also authored reports that are critical of law enforcement, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). [3] It criticized both the Trump and Obama administrations for enforcing immigration laws and policies. [4]

NIJC provides legal services for proceedings under the Deferred Action for Eligible Youth (DACA), family-based immigration proceedings, applications for permanent residence, naturalization and citizenship processing, and applications under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.  NIJC also helps illegal immigrants in legal proceedings to prevent deportations. [5]

Policy Views

National Immigrant Justice Center claims current U.S. law “criminalizes immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.” NIJC has also condemned the Trump administration for enforcing federal immigration law, and accuses law enforcement of discriminatory and racist policing practices. [6]

NIJC has advocated against prosecuting illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the United States after illegal entry. NIJC also condemns the prosecution or detention of illegal immigrants who are deported and immediately attempt to re-enter the United States, calling the practice a “mockery of due process.” [7]

NIJC demands that Congress stop funding ICE and Customs and Border Protection, redirecting the funding towards environmentalist projects. [8] NIJC has also called for the Department of Homeland Security to stop detaining illegal immigrants if they identify as LGBT, claiming that immigration laws are inherently discriminatory against them. [9]

Advocacy

In May of 2020, National Immigrant Justice Center and the ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit to release illegal immigrants from prison who were considered “at risk for complications” from COVID-19. [10] NIJC’s petition led to the release of three illegal immigrants from Jerome Combs Detention Center. [11]

NIJC co-authored a similar report on deterntion facilities with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Detention Watch Network, and Human Rights Watch. The 2018 report condemned the Trump administration’s request for $2.8 billion to handle an influx of illegal immigrants and the administration’s reduction in funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Despite these condemnations, the report’s final recommendations include reducing funding to handle illegal immigration while expanding operations within detention facilities. [12]

On December 14, 2014, NIJC wrote a letter of opposition to H.R. 5759, a bill designed to prevent unconstitutional actions taken by the executive branch to circumvent immigration law. [13]

NIJC also contributed to the Heartland Alliance “Rainbow Report” to provide legal guidance on civil law, discrimination, and hate crimes as they relate to immigration. [14]

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

NIJC’s associate director of litigation Mark Fleming said while referring to the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that “Trump will get the enforcement dollars to go after their parents”. [15]

Violence Against Women Act

On May 14, 2012, NIJC wrote a letter with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights condemning the passage of HR 4970 in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. While originally a bipartisan bill, new language in the reauthorization resulted in a party line vote, including a condemnation of the bill by then-U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the bill’s original authors. Part of the controversial new language included a provision for illegal immigrants subject to the bill to apply for temporary visas known as U-visas. [16] [17]

Criticism of the Obama Administration

Then-NIJC policy director Royce Murray criticized the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala for failing to keep their citizens safe in a letter written to the Obama administration to express support for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. [18]

In 2016, NIJC co-authored a report with the ACLU and Detention Watch Network. The report notes the significant number of deaths that occurred in short-term facilities holding illegal immigrants during the Obama administration. The report links the deaths to insufficient capacity for medical care and recommends that ICE reduce the detention of illegal immigrants. [19]

NIJC filed a lawsuit in early 2013 against ICE for inadequate health care and unsanitary conditions in immigrant detention centers. [20] On December 7, 2011, it also wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama to increase oversight in immigrant detention facilities to prevent sexual assault and abuse. [21]

Criticism of the Trump Administration

NIJC has reportedly “vowed to fight to stop the Trump administration” from what NIJC calls “further traumatizing children and families” through the enforcement of federal immigration law. NIJC condemns attempts by the Trump administration to facilitate increased funding for detention centers while also demanding better conditions in detention facilities. [22] [23] [24]

NIJC policy director Heidi Altman criticized President Donald Trump’s general immigration policy and the agencies which administer the policies, saying they require “a complete and utter reorientation of the culture.” [25]

NIJC signed onto amicus curiae briefs along with the ACLU and left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to condemn President Trump’s January 2017 executive order 13768. The executive order withdraws federal funding from “sanctuary” areas that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. [26]

Notable Staff

In March of 2020, executive director Mary Meg McCarthy told illegal immigrants to complete the 2020 census. [27] McCarthy endorsed H.R. 7311, a bill which purported to help unaccompanied alien children who are victims of sex trafficking. The 2008 version of the bill endorsed by McCarthy added unique language which increased the burden on the United States to house and process immigrants without providing additional resources for doing so. [28]  The bill has been criticized for encouraging illegal immigration by benefiting persons who do not qualify for protection. [29] [30]

Lisa Koop, the associate director of legal services for NIJC, criticized a Department of Homeland Security memo seeking to prevent human trafficking and smuggling of children across U.S. borders, claiming the measures would make children more vulnerable. McCarthy also commented on the measures, calling them “draconian.” [31]

References

  1. “National Immigrant Justice Center.” Queery. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://queery.org/services/legal/national-immigrant-justice-center/ ^
  2. “NIJC Sues Illinois Jail To Release Immigrants In ICE Custody Who Face Severe Risk During COVID-19 Pandemic.” National Immigrant Justice Center. April 10, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/press-releases/nijc-sues-illinois-jail-release-immigrants-ice-custody-who-face-severe-risk-during ^
  3. “Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention.” Human Rights Watch, ACLU, National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network. June 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020.  https://immigrantjustice.org/sites/default/files/content-type/research-item/documents/2018-06/Code%20Red-%20detention%20deaths%20report%20June%202018.pdf ^
  4. “NIJC Sues Illinois Jail To Release Immigrants In ICE Custody Who Face Severe Risk During COVID-19 Pandemic.” National Immigrant Justice Center. April 10, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/press-releases/nijc-sues-illinois-jail-release-immigrants-ice-custody-who-face-severe-risk-during ^
  5. “General Immigration Services.” National Immigrant Justice Center. 2020. Accessed October 2, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/services/general-immigration ^
  6. “Decriminalize Immigration. National Immigrant Justice Center. 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/issues/decriminalize-immigration ^
  7. “Decriminalize Immigration. National Immigrant Justice Center. 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/issues/decriminalize-immigration ^
  8. “Defund Hate.” National Immigrant Justice Center.” 2020. Accessed October 2, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/issues/defundhate ^
  9. “LGBTQ Immigrants. National Immigrant Justice Center. 2020. Accessed October 2, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/stop-abuse-detained-lgbt-immigrants ^
  10. Nelson, Delaney. “Organizations fight to release immigrants facing COVID-19 risks in detention centers.” The Daily Northwestern. May 27, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://dailynorthwestern.com/2020/05/27/city/organizations-fight-to-release-immigrants-facing-covid-19-risks-in-detention-centers/ ^
  11. “NIJC Sues Illinois Jail To Release Immigrants In ICE Custody Who Face Severe Risk During COVID-19 Pandemic.” National Immigrant Justice Center. April 10, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/press-releases/nijc-sues-illinois-jail-release-immigrants-ice-custody-who-face-severe-risk-during ^
  12. “Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention.” Human Rights Watch, ACLU, National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network. June 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020.  https://immigrantjustice.org/sites/default/files/content-type/research-item/documents/2018-06/Code%20Red-%20detention%20deaths%20report%20June%202018.pdf ^
  13. “Letter on H.R. 5759.” National Immigrant Justice Center. December 4, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://judiciary.house.gov/sites/democrats.judiciary.house.gov/files/documents/mccarthy141204.pdf ^
  14. “Rainbow Response.” ACF, Heartland Alliance. Accessed October 1, 2020. http://rainbowwelcome.org/uploads/pdfs/Rainbow%20Response_Heartland%20Alliance%20Field%20Manual.pdf ^
  15. Emery, Susan. “Valpo Law School shines light on immigration issue.” NWI Times. September 19, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/valpo-law-school-shines-light-on-immigration-issue/article_b47ed1fa-fa79-559f-9ed8-eedb4bd900e2.html ^
  16. Weisman, Jonathan. “Women figure Anew in Senate’s Latest Battle.” The New York Times. March 14, 2012. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/us/politics/violence-against-women-act-divides-senate.html ^
  17. “Leading National Advocates Decry House Passage of HR 4970.” National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. May 2012. Accessed October 1, 2020. http://www.ncdsv.org/images/NTFESDVAW_LeadingNatlAdvocatesDecryHousePassageOfHR4970_5-2012.pdf ^
  18. “300 Organizations Ask Obama to Grant TPS for Central American Immigrants.” Latin American Herald Tribune. Accessed October 1, 2020. http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2404249&CategoryId=23558 ^
  19. “Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention. Detention Watch Network. February 2016. Accessed October 1, 2020.  https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/default/files/reports/Fatal%20Neglect%20ACLU-DWN-NIJC.pdf ^
  20. Malkovich, Becky. “Inmates sue ICE, Jefferson County.” The Southern Illinoisan. February 7, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://thesouthern.com/news/local/inmates-sue-ice-jefferson-county/article_06035ee0-70e5-11e2-83df-0019bb2963f4.html ^
  21. “US: All Immigration Detainees Deserve Protection from Rape.” Human Rights Watch. December 7, 2011. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/07/us-all-immigration-detainees-deserve-protection-rape ^
  22. Da Silva, Chantal. “Separated Immigrant Children Suffered ‘Suicidal thoughts’, Shelter Admits.” Newsweek. September 10, 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/separated-immigrant-children-suffered-suicidal-thoughts-detention-center-1113517 ^
  23. “Defund Hate.” National Immigrant Justice Center. 2020. Accessed October 2, 2020. https://immigrantjustice.org/issues/defundhate ^
  24. “Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention.” Human Rights Watch, ACLU, National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network. June 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020.  https://immigrantjustice.org/sites/default/files/content-type/research-item/documents/2018-06/Code%20Red-%20detention%20deaths%20report%20June%202018.pdf ^
  25. Burnett, John. “Biden Pledges To DismantleTrump’s Sweeping Immigration Changes – But Can He Do That?” NPR. September 14, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/09/14/912060869/biden-pledges-to-dismantle-trumps-sweeping-immigration-changes-but-can-he-do-tha ^
  26. City and County of San Francisco v. Donald J. Trump. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. February 12, 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/cco/Documents/4_Southern%20Poverty%20Law%20Center%2c%20National%20Immigrant%20Justice%20Center%2c%20ACLU%2c%20et%20al.pdf ^
  27. The Kansas City Star Editorial Board. “Do immigrants in KC feel safe enough to stand up and be counted in the 2020 census?” The Kansas City Star. March 16, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article241215281.html ^
  28. Zamara, Lazaro. “Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Primer.” Bipartisan Policy Center. July 21, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/unaccompanied-alien-children-primer/ ^
  29. Chiamulera, Claire. “Protecting Unaccompanied Immigrant Children.” The American Bar Association. May 1, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-33/may-2014/protecting-unaccompanied-immigrant-children/ ^
  30. Lovelace, Ryan. “Report: 2008 Law Not an Obstacle to Rapid Response to Border Crisis.” National Review. July 16, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/report-2008-law-not-obstacle-rapid-response-border-crisis-ryan-lovelace/ ^
  31. Chicago Tribune. “Immigrant children who cross border alone find themselves in shelters.” The Tampa Bay Times. March 2, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.tampabay.com/news/nation/immigrant-children-who-cross-border-alone-find-themselves-in-shelters/2315190/ ^
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The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center


Chicago, IL