Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 05083163 (posted Aug. 31, 2005)"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 25, 2005
Cooley Godward LLP
Emily Foley, (650) 843-5383, email@example.com
Texas Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
Javier N. Maldonado, (210) 277-1603 x307
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Marisol Perez, (210) 224-5476, firstname.lastname@example.org<
Immigrants Win Right to Proof of Lawful Status
Court Grants Judgment for Thousands of Lawful Permanent Residents Kept from Work, School, Family
SAN FRANCISCO, August 25, 2005 - A federal court granted summary judgment in favor of a nationwide class of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who to date have been denied documentary proof of their lawful status (or "green cards"). In a decision issued yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) policy of withholding documentation from persons already determined to be lawful permanent residents by Immigration Courts was arbitrary and capricious, and violated the DHS's nondiscretionary duty to issue documentation in a timely manner. The plaintiffs in the litigation are represented by Cooley Godward LLP, the Texas Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).
"This ruling recognizes that thousands of lawful permanent residents nationwide have been wrongfully denied their proof of status," said Javier N. Maldonado, Executive Director of the Texas Lawyers' Committee. "The Department of Homeland Security can no longer deprive thousands of lawful permanent residents of the essential documentation that enables them to work legally, obtain identification documents, and visit their families abroad," said Mr. Maldonado. The DHS had acknowledged that as many as 12,539 persons determined to be lawful residents since October 1, 2000, had not yet received documentation of their lawful status. The DHS and Department of Justice had argued that their policies were justified by the need to conduct additional background checks on these individuals before issuing documentation.
The federal court specifically found that the national security rationale did not support a blanket policy of withholding temporary documentation of lawful status from class members. The court noted that the government had failed to establish an actual connection between any class members and a national security threat, and had failed to adequately consider existing alternate mechanisms for addressing national security objectives. The court also found that prolonged delays were not justified in view of the admitted speed with which the majority of background checks could be performed. The court concluded that, absent any particularized showing of a national security threat, "defendants' national security argument cannot excuse the various permutations of bureaucratic errors, administrative backlogs, and inter-agency communication lapses that have caused the delays at issue in this lawsuit."
John C. Dwyer, a partner at Cooley Godward, which is handling the suit on a pro bono basis, applauded the ruling. Mr. Dwyer said, "It is important to realize that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration Courts have already determined that each of the class members is legally entitled to remain in the United States. All that we have been asking in this litigation is that the government provide to them the documentation consistent with those determinations, documentation that will allow them to be productive members of our society. We believe the Court got it just right."
The lawsuit, Santillan, et al. v. Gonzales, et al., was filed in federal district court in San Francisco in July 2004. The class action suit charged that DHS offices nationwide are consistently rejecting and delaying lawful permanent residents' requests for documentation of their LPR status. Green card delays, which have lasted from months to years, have created serious hardships for immigrants and their families.
"We feel vindicated by the court's conclusion that these green card delays were unreasonable and hurtful to many hard-working families across the U.S.," said Ricardo G. Cedillo, Board Chair of the Texas Lawyers' Committee. "This victory reminds us that the fight for freedom begins at home."
In the next stage of the lawsuit, the court has required the government to submit a proposal for timely issuing evidence of status to lawful permanent residents.
The pubic (sic.) interest litigation partnership of Cooley Godward's Pro Bono practice and the non-profit Texas Lawyers' Committee was facilitated by the Litigation Assistance Partnership Project (LAPP) of the American Bar Association (ABA).
You can receive a full copy of the summary judgment order by going to www.cooley.com/LPR or www.txlawyerscommittee.org.
About Cooley Godward LLP
Cooley Godward is an established provider of strategic litigation and business transaction services and a recognized leader in the representation of high-growth private and public companies, financial institutions, venture capital firms and nonprofit organizations. Our singular focus on providing the highest quality legal services has enabled our clients to achieve their stratiegic business objectives and garnered for Cooley recognition as one of the country's leading law firms. Cooley Godward is also nationally known for its award-winning Pro Bono practice. Last year, more than 300 Cooley attorneys contributed over 28,000 hours to non-profit organizations, disadvantaged communities and low-income families. For more information, visit www.cooley.com.
The Texas Lawyers' Committee is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and defending the rights of immigrants and refugees throughout the state of Texas. For more information, visit www.txlawyerscommittee.org.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) is the leading nonprofit Latino litigation, advocacy and educational outreach institution in the United States. MALDEF's mission is to foster sound public policies, laws and programs to safeguard the civil rights of the 40 million Latinos living in the United States and to empower the Latino community to fully participate in our society. For more information, visit www.maldef.org.
The Litigation Assistance Partnership Project (LAPP) is a program of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation that links the pro bono resources of private firms with legal service and public interest programs across the country. Please visit www.abanet.org/litigation/lapp/home.html.