Archive for the ‘Immigrant Advocacy’ Category

New Immigration Clinic at GMU

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: August 27, 2019
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Corcoran
kcorcoran6@gmu.edu
(703)993-8332

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg
simon@justice4all.org
(703) 778-3450

The Legal Aid Justice Center and George Masin University’s Antonin Scalia Law School Announce New Immigration Clinic

Arlington, VA — The Legal Aid Justice Center (LACJ) today announced a new immigration litigation clinic at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. The clinic, which launches this fall offers students the opportunity to gain translatable skills and valuable perspectives on immigration law, specifically the deportation process and habeas corpus litigation.

The Immigration Litigation Clinic director is Becky Wolozin, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who started her career at LAJC in the JustChildren program, focusing on the intersection of child advocacy and immigration.

“I am thrilled this clinic will be offered at Scalia Law School.  Clinical work represents such a formative experience in law school, and it is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of that for young law students at the beginning of their legal careers,” said Ms. Wolozin.  “Not only will the students in this clinic get incredible legal experience, they will also gain important and profound human experience helping those fighting for the right to exist and to be together with their families.”

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy program at LAJC and co-teacher of the clinic, said “Through this clinic, law students will have the opportunity to represent clients, hone their litigation skills, learn a complicated area of law, and have an impact on some of the most important issues affecting millions of people across the nation.”

This clinic is made possible through a gift from Leonard A. Bennett, a 1989 graduate of George Mason University and a 1994 graduate of the George Mason School of Law.  A trial attorney and consumer advocate since 1994, Bennett works for Consumer Litigation Associates in Newport News, Virginia, and is often quoted in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

“I am so grateful to Len Bennett for his generous gift, making the new Immigration Litigation Clinic possible, said Dean Henry N. Butler.  “Len’s philanthropy will profoundly impact our students and the clients they serve.”

“I also want to thank the Legal Aid Justice Center for partnering with Scalia Law to give our students first-hand experience advocating for immigrant families.  We are proud to educate students who will become lawyer committed to justice for all,” Dean Butler concluded.

About George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School
In July 2016, the George Mason University School of Law was renamed Antonin Scalia Law School in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice.  Scalia Law is renowned for its academic emphasis on the the intersection of law and economics, with some of the nation’s top law and economic scholars on the faculty.  National Jurist ranks Scalia Law as a Top 20 Law School for students pursuing careers in government.  A relatively young law school, Scalia Law School has been ranked a US News Top 50 Law School for 18 years, and recently ranked #4 for its part-time program.  Scalia Law School is ranked #19 by Shanghai’s Global Rankings for Law.  National Jurist ranks Washington DC, across the Potomac from Scalia Law School, the best city in the nation for young attorneys.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty.  LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.  LAJC also offers clinics at the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Richmond Law School.

Rally to Protect Immigrant Children

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RALLY TO PROTECT IMMIGRANT CHILDREN – STOP THE ABUSES AND DEATHS!

WHAT: Are you outraged at the recent reports of abuses and deaths of immigrant children detained in President Trump’s camps and looking for a way to fight back?  Come join us at our Rally to Protect Immigrant Children where we will demand that this administration provide safe and sanitary housing and care for all immigrants detained by DHS, respect the Flores Decree, and stop the devastating family separations.  Come out and make your voice heard in defense of immigrants’ rights.  These children need all of us to act.  We must not remain silent.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 2nd from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

WHERE: 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
For more information, please contact novaintern@justice4all.org

Organized by: Centreville Immigration Forum (CIF), International Mayan League, Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).

Know Your Rights Training in Case of ICE Raids

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Know Your Rights Training in Case of ICE Raids for Service Providers

WHAT: The Legal Aid Justice Center is organizing a “Know your Rights” presentation for service providers in Northern Virginia in response to a recent announcement of large-scale ICE raids in the DMV region. Although President Trump cancelled the raids hours before they were set to begin, we don’t know if it is a permanent cancellation. He has suggested in media interviews that he will reinstitute them in two weeks if Congress is unable to agree on a deal to handle the humanitarian crisis at the border.

The uncertainty created by these announcements has resulted in widespread fear among the immigrant communities that we serve. We are working to ensure that our community members and neighbors know their rights when interacting with law enforcement/ICE agents in order to combat their fear and help them ensure their rights are respected. We hope you will be able to attend this upcoming training so that you can assist us with this effort. 

We will be updating attendees on the proposed public charge rule change and the and Dream and Promise Act as well.

WHEN: Thursday, June 27th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm

WHERE: 2110 Washington Blvd. 2nd FL Arlington, VA 22204 (Syphax Education Center)

REGISTRATION required: Please fill out this link:https://forms.gle/ieSsnUkffdD8gNkx8

For more information, please contact novaintern@justice4all.org  

Organized by Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program in collaboration with VACOLAO 

4th Circuit: No Remedy for ICE Abuses

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Hallie Ryan, Managing Attorney, 703-226-3426, hallie@justice4all.org
Tim Wallace, Dir. of Development, 434-529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org

Fourth Circuit: If ICE agents break into your house illegally, you have no remedy

Falls Church, Va., April 26, 2019 — Today a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that ICE agents may violate clearly-established constitutional rights, and that the victims – U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike – have no legal remedy. Tun-Cos et al. v. Perrotte et al. is a case challenging unconstitutional, warrantless home raids by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“The decision flies in the face of established Supreme Court precedent providing that victims of unconstitutional home raids by law enforcement can sue,” says Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program. “The effect of this decision is to treat ICE agents differently from FBI agents and other federal officers, granting ICE agents complete impunity if they commit egregious constitutional violations – a troubling result that should alarm all of us.”

The Tun-Cos case involved so-called “Bivens” claims, which are claims for damages against federal officials for violations of constitutional rights. The ability to recover damages for harms suffered at the hands of government officials when they violate clearly established constitutional rights deters illegal conduct and serves as a critical protection for all those living in America. Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that such lawsuits may be brought against federal law enforcement officers who commit unconstitutional searches and seizures, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit found that immigration enforcement presented a “new context” and that the plaintiffs had no right to bring a Bivens claim against the agents.

“This decision allows ICE agents to go from door to door, invading U.S. citizens’ homes without a warrant or probable cause, based instead on racial profiling, and those citizens will have no ability to hold them accountable, no matter how flagrant the conduct,” says Sandoval-Moshenberg. “This decision affects every single person, citizen and noncitizen alike.”

The Legal Aid Justice Center and pro bono co-counsel at Covington & Burling are reviewing the decision and all options for further review, including a petition to the full Fourth Circuit to rehear the case en banc. “This case strikes at the heart of protections granted by the Bill of Rights – can the government invade your home without probable cause and without a warrant, and leave you without a remedy?” said Hallie Ryan, Managing Attorney at Legal Aid Justice Center. “An issue of this importance should be decided by the entire Fourth Circuit.” 

Fourth Circuit Opinion (PDF)

Background on the Case
Tun-Cos et al. v. Perrotte et al. is a lawsuit which alleges that at 5 a.m. on February 8, 2017, a team of ICE agents coerced entry into the northern Virginia home of Jose Carcamo without a warrant, purportedly searching for a suspect. Once inside, the team of agents went from door-to-door in the home, rounded up all the male residents and detained them in the living rooms, and demanded they produce proof of U.S. citizenship. When some could not, the ICE agents arrested them. The plaintiffs alleged that mid-raid, one ICE agent asked the U.S. citizen homeowner “are there any other Spanish families on this street?”  A few days later, the plaintiffs allege that the same team of ICE agents invaded a second home just a few miles away. In this incident, the ICE agents boxed in the car of two men as they were leaving for work, marched them to the door of their homes and demanded entry. Once inside, the agents again went from door-to-door, detained all the male residents and arrested those who could not produce proof of immigration status on-demand. The U.S. citizen homeowner, his family members, and those arrested all sued the ICE agents in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, demanding they be held accountable for the egregious constitutional violations.

In April 2018, the district court allowed the lawsuit to go forward after the ICE agents attempted to dismiss the case. The court found that the plaintiffs had alleged violations of clearly established constitutional rights and had the right to hold the agents accountable.

Legal Aid Justice Center brought the case with the support of Covington & Burling pro bono counsel.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare, workers’ rights, and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.  www.justice4all.org 

Mixed 4th Circuit Decision on ICE Transfers

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Becky Wolozin, Attorney, 703-720-5606, becky@justice4all.org
Tim Wallace, Dir. of Development, 434-529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org

4th Circuit decision on ICE transfers upholds court oversight but fails families

Falls Church, Va., April 16, 2019 — Today the 4th Circuit issued a decision in Reyna v. Hott, a case challenging ICE’s practice of transferring detained parents across the country and far away from their children and families. In an important win for immigration advocates, the Court unequivocally held that it had the power to hear cases challenging the way ICE transfers detainees to different detention centers. This important holding will allow advocates to continue to challenge unlawful and harmful ICE practices.

However, the Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case, failing to recognize a right to family unity for detained immigrants and their U.S. citizen children. In Virginia, the majority of immigrants that are detained by ICE have been living in the United States and many have families and US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident children who also live in Virginia. Nonetheless, ICE transfers these detained parents across the country with no consideration of the needs of their children to visit their parents, or their own rights as parents to provide care and nurture to their children through in-person visits during the traumatic period of detention.

“While we are happy the court recognized its power to hold the government accountable for its arbitrary and punitive transfer practices, we are disappointed that the 4th circuit failed to recognize the importance of family unity in the context of detainee transfers. The parent-child relationship is not an on-off switch, and being able to visit their parents in person while their parents are detained is important to mitigate the harm done by the fact of detention,” says Becky Wolozin, attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “Instead, the 4th Circuit declined to provide relief for parents detained at great distances from their children, making in person visitation impossible causing exponential harm to the child and to the parent-child relationship.”

Fourth Circuit Opinion (PDF)

Background:
Reyna v. Hott was a lawsuit attempting to require ICE to consider the interests of the parent and the child in providing care and nurture through in-person visits before transferring parents far away from their families. The claim was based on a violation of due process because the government is unlawfully infringing on the liberty interest in family unity (held by both the parent and the child in the 4th circuit). The Plaintiffs contended that ICE was infringing on this interest because they did not provide notice or an opportunity for the parent or child to be heard regarding the harm that transfer of the parent would cause the child or the parent-child relationship.

The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss because the judge found that the harm was done by the fact of detention, and that there was no further harm done by transferring parents great distances from where there children live, thereby essentially preventing visitation between parents and children.

Legal Aid Justice Center brought the case with the support of CapitalOne pro bono counsel.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare, workers’ rights, and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.  www.justice4all.org

About CaptialOne
Capital One Financial Corporation is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. Its subsidiaries, Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. We apply the same principles of innovation, collaboration and empowerment in our commitment to our communities across the country that we do in our business. We recognize that helping to build strong and healthy communities – good places to work, good places to do business and good places to raise families – benefits us all and we are proud to support this and other community initiatives. www.capitaloneinvestingforgood.com

ICE on the Harbor

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Norfolk City Jail helps ICE arrest and deport Virginia immigrants.

In August 2017, the Norfolk City Jail entered a modified Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to allow immigrants in ICE custody to be temporarily held by the Jail.  Since then an estimated 1,200 immigrants in ICE custody have been held at the Jail, most of whom have not had a hearing before a judge and many with no criminal history. 

Read full report: ICE ON THE HARBOR

Press Coverage: Virginian Pilot

Join LAJC and local organizations for a community discussion on Norfolk Jail’s partnership with ICE.

 

New Va Laws Help Immigrant Children Seek Safety

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For Immediate Release

Contact:            Amy Woolard, (434) 529-1846, amy@justice4all.org

                        Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, (703) 720-5605, simon@justice4all.org

NEW VIRGINIA LAWS HELP IMMIGRANT CHILDREN SEEK PROTECTION FROM ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND ABANDONMENT

RICHMOND: On Friday, February 22, the Virginia General Assembly passed SB 1758 and HB 2679, identical bills that will aid immigrant children fleeing abuse, neglect, and abandonment in their home countries in seeking protection from deportation in Virginia.

Across the country, many immigrant children and DREAMers facing deportation proceedings seek a form of immigration relief called “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” (SIJS). SIJS is unique in that it requires a state court to issue a certain type of order before the child may even attempt to seek SIJS relief from the federal government. In a 2017 case called Canales v. Torres-Orellana, brought by the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Virginia Court of Appeals sharply restricted state judges’ ability to issue these orders, leaving hundreds of Virginia immigrant children without protection. Virginia became one of the most difficult states in the nation to obtain SIJS.

During this year’s General Assembly session, Legal Aid Justice Center worked closely with legislators and the Governor’s office to pass these bills, which would overturn the Canales case and restore Virginia immigrant children’s ability to apply for SIJS. The bills also address the needs of other children before the juvenile courts, easing the way for any Virginia child to seek a state court’s assistance in proving eligibility for other benefits such as adoption assistance, TANF assistance, and timely public school enrollment.

SB 1758 was introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon). HB 2679 was introduced by Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church). The bills initially took different approaches to fixing this issue, and each passed their respective chambers with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of votes. The bills were then placed into committees of conference in an attempt to gain consensus, and identical bills emerged that combined the approach of both; they garnered unanimous support in the House, and only two dissenting votes in the Senate. The bills now go to Governor Northam’s desk for his signature; once signed, they will take effect on July 1 of this year. The conference report with bill text is available at: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?191+ful+SB1758S1+pdf

“Immigrant children in Virginia can breathe a little more easily now,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program. “Our agency has represented over 150 children fleeing truly horrific situations of abuse or neglect in their home countries. Fairness dictates that they be afforded the same rights as immigrant children in any other state. Now these new DREAMers will be able to seek protection and apply to remain in the United States with green cards.”

“This excellent result could not have come about without the leadership and hard work of Senator Surovell and Delegate Simon, and the support of Governor Northam’s administration,” said Amy Woolard, Legal Aid Justice Center Attorney and Policy Coordinator. “Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts should exist to protect the best interests of all children in the Commonwealth, and these bills will now make clear that is true for immigrant children seeking safety through SIJS, as well.”

“The United States has a long history of protecting abused, neglected, and abandoned children, and the Commonwealth will continue to play its part,” said Sen. Surovell. “These bills will clarify and restore Virginia courts’ authority to make factual findings necessary to protect children fleeing abuse, neglect, and abandonment from abroad, and I appreciate the broad bipartisan support of legislators who saw this as consistent with Virginia’s longstanding values.”

“I’m so pleased we were able to pass this important legislation to give our courts the authority they need to be able help some of the most vulnerable and powerless people in our Commonwealth,” said Del. Simon. “It is so important that we not let victims of abuse, neglect, and often abandonment fall through the cracks because of a technical deficiency in our code. Those are the common sense problems we are elected to come down here and fix.”

A downloadable PDF of this statement may be accessed here.

# # #

Legal Aid Justice Center is a statewide Virginia nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen the voices of low-income communities and root out the inequities that keep people in poverty. We provide legal support to immigrant communities facing legal crises and use advocacy and impact litigation to fight back against ICE enforcement and detention abuses. More information is available at http://www.justice4all.org/.

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of 10K Detained Children

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Aid Justice Center, simon@justice4all.org, 703-720-5605
Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, 202-557-0430, marionsteinfels@gmail.com
  
Trump Administration’s Policy between ORR, ICE Violates Due Process Rights of Immigrant Children, Sponsors
Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of 10,000 Children Detained by Trump Administration

Alexandria, Va. — The Legal Aid Justice Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of over 10,000 children currently being held by the Trump administration in over 100 detention centers across the country.

The lawsuit, originally filed last August in the federal district court in Alexandria, Va. on behalf of a group of youth being held in Virginia, reveals that the alarming number of children that continue to be held for long periods of time is now at a crisis level. The lawsuit charges this situation is primarily the result of the ongoing cooperation between the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which, hand-in-hand with family separation, is a deliberate strategy to deter vulnerable migrants from traveling to the U.S.  A memo drafted in late 2017 and obtained January 17, 2019 reveals the Administration intended the very result this policy has caused: the prolonged detention of children. 

The lawsuit is asking for the release of children who have sponsors available to take them into their homes and to reform this system that has resulted in prolonged detention for thousands of children around the nation.

“If the President is really interested in taking on a crisis in regard to the immigration situation – this is one he has the power to solve, since his Administration created it,” said Mary Bauer, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “We have over 10,000 children in custody right now because this administration is using them as bait. This deplorable, deliberate policy means that these children are languishing in detention for months at a time.”

In April 2018, ORR entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whereby ORR agreed to share with ICE the information it gathered during the family reunification petition process about sponsors and others living in the household. This policy, an effort to facilitate DHS’s efforts to arrest and remove possible sponsors who may be undocumented, has led to far fewer individuals coming forward on behalf of the children in detention. 

This scheme is laid out in internal documents provided by a whistleblower that were made public last Thursday. The documents demonstrate that this policy is a part of the same strategy as the infamous family separation policy, and that the government knew it would result in fewer sponsors coming forward and children remaining in custody for longer periods of time.

“Children belong in homes with families, not warehoused in government detention centers,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program and the Legal Aid Justice Center. “But the government is still using sponsors’ information for ICE immigration arrests.  They’re still targeting the sponsors themselves, and as a result over 10,000 immigrant children are still stuck in detention for longer than ever before.”

Despite the Administration announcing in mid-December the policy would be altered to only apply to sponsors and not family or household members, little has changed. The partnership between ORR and ICE remains in place and continues to have an enormously chilling effect on potential sponsors coming forward on behalf of these children. 

The lawsuit also outlines the completely disorganized and arbitrary sponsorship process, which has created an impenetrable maze for potential sponsors. Together these unlawful and abhorrent policies are having an incredibly negative impact on these already vulnerable immigrant children including:

  • C.L., 14 years old, fled Mexico last fall. She was forced to leave her home after a series of events involving a group of violent men. They killed three of her uncles, broke into her family’s home, and threatened her at gunpoint. The teen hoped to rejoin her mother in San Francisco. Instead, she was taken to a shelter in Florida, a 2,350-capacity facility not subject to state licensure and corresponding child welfare inspections. 
  • Y.S.R. will turn 18 in three months at the Crittenton facility in Orange County. After a terrifying odyssey from El Salvador where she was routinely sexually abused by a relative, a high-ranking member of a Salvadoran gang, A.Y.S.R. and her 1-year-old son presented themselves at a port of entry in Arizona in September 2018. When immigration officials tried to separate them, she resisted and was sent to a Border Patrol holding facility commonly known as the “icebox” for its freezing temperatures and lack of adequate facilities to care for children.

The plaintiffs include a dozen immigrant children who are currently detained and their sponsors, as well as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), organizations that assist immigrant youth and their family members as well as nonprofits to navigate the immigration system, including the ORR sponsorship process.

“When a government agency takes custody of a child, it should always be looking out for the child’s best interests. But the Trump Administration has instead seen children as a way to go after their parents or relatives,” said Jorge Baron, Executive Director for NWIRP.  “We hope this court case will lead to families being reunified as soon as possible.”

 “CLINIC’s mission is to welcome the stranger and provide support for the most vulnerable among us. Implementing a policy that intentionally keeps children apart from their families is antithetical to CLINIC’s mission,” said Jeanne M. Atkinson, Executive Director of CLINIC.

Please find the complaint and key attachments at the following links: LAWSUIT, ORR/ICE MOU and LEAKED MEMO.

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About Legal Aid Justice Center
Legal Aid Justice Center is a statewide Virginia nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen the voices of low-income communities and root out the inequities that keep people in poverty. We provide legal support to immigrant communities facing legal crises and use advocacy and impact litigation to fight back against ICE enforcement and detention abuses.  More information is available at http://www.justice4all.org/current-initiatives/fighting-family-separation/.

 

About Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox
Based in Washington, D.C. and renown for more than four decades for dedication to the protection, transfer, and enforcement of intellectual property rights, Sterne Kessler is one of the most highly regarded intellectual property specialty law firms in the world. Its team of attorneys, registered patent agents, students, and technical specialists include some of the country’s most respected practitioners of IP law, tackling innovations across a broad spectrum of industries. The firm’s practitioners hold nearly 50 masters and 50+ doctorate degrees in science or engineering and represent Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups, inventors, venture capital firms, and universities in a client service driven environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and intellectually stimulating. The firm also has an award-wining pro bono practice. Visit the firm online at sternekessler.com.

About Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

LAJC’s 2019 Legislative Agenda

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legal Aid Justice Center’s 2019 Legislative Agenda:

Richmond, Virginia, (January 14, 2019) –The 2019 Virginia legislative session is underway! Session began Wednesday, January 9th, as the legislature worked to organize itself for a short 45-day legislative session. The General Assembly alternates between 60-day sessions, during which it completes a full biennial budget, and 45-day “short” sessions, during which they…still do quite a bit of work on the biennial budget.
 
As with last year and for a few years to come, the legislature will complete much of its committee work and have legislative offices in the Pocahontas Building, located at 900 E. Main St in Richmond.
   
Legislators have already filed about 1,950 bills and resolutions for this 45-day session, and more are coming. LAJC staff will be working to educate policymakers and support our partners on a variety of issues. You can access our full LAJC legislative agenda here, and below you will find a brief summary of our primary priorities for this session:
 
JustChildren: Educate Every Child & Juvenile Justice
Legislation

  • Right-Size school counselor caseloads to the nationally-recommended best practice of one counselor for every 250 students.
  • Bring transparency and accountability to disciplinary alternative education through data collection and reporting, disaggregated by race and disability.
  • Decriminalize disorderly conduct for students in school setting.Ensure all School Resource Officers have appropriate training to work with students from all backgrounds.
  • Require schools and law enforcement agencies to enter into memorandums of understanding governing the use of School Resource Officers, and assure staff are trained on these plans.
  • Support efforts to raise the minimum age of eligibility that youth may be tried in adult court.

Budget Amendments:
LAJC will be supporting several budget items in Governor Northam’s introduced budget, as well as legislative budget amendments to make sure our schools are adequately funded and focused on ensuring students have access to support staff, with a priority on school counselors. In the introduced budget, Governor Northam provided funding to “right-size” school counselor caseloads and increase targeted “At-Risk Add-On” funding for economically disadvantaged students. We’ll also be supporting legislative budget amendments that seek to fulfill the Virginia Board of Education’s recommendations on fully funding Virginia schools’ Standards of Quality.

Civil Rights & Racial Justice
Legislation

  • End the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid or delinquent court debt.
  • Codify both the state’s commitment to pretrial liberty for all people and its commitment to transparent public access to the full scope of pretrial outcomes across the Commonwealth.
  • Repeal the antiquated “Interdiction” statute to prevent the unconstitutional criminalization of people who are homeless by legally labeling them as “habitual drunkards” if they buy, possess, or consume alcohol.

Immigrant Advocacy
LAJC will be working in partnership with VACOLAO, immigrant students with DACA status, and the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights to ensure that immigrant communities have equal treatment, equal opportunities, and equal representation in the Commonwealth. Priorities for this session include:

  • Driver’s permit access for all immigrant Virginians; 
  • In-state tuition access for immigrant Virginia students regardless of immigration status; and
  • Preventing the expansion of federal immigration authorities over local and state agency information.

Economic Justice
LAJC will be working in partnership with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to support efforts to reduce evictions in the Commonwealth, expand opportunities for localities to increase the availability of affordable housing, and prevent financial exploitation of low-income Virginians. At the state level, we are also members of the Campaign to Reduce Evictions.

Legislation
: See VPLC’s full legislative agenda here.

Support our legislative advocacy efforts!
You can access our Legal Aid Justice Center legislative agenda here. To get involved with our legislative advocacy, please contact us at info@justice4all.org and let us know if you’re closer to Richmond, Charlottesville, or Northern Virginia.

You can also sign up for email alerts on our website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We will be sharing advocacy materials, updates, blog posts, and calls to action as the session progresses!

While our offices remain closed to walk-ins, we're still here to help. Contact Us