FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Douglas G. Rivlin
Washington - On Tuesday, April 24, 2001 at 10 a.m., the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Calcano and St. Cyr cases, important challenges to restrictions put on immigrants' due process rights. Both cases will be argued by Lucas Guttentag, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrant's Right Project.
On the eve of the oral arguments before the court, Citizens and Immigrants for Equal Justice (CIEJ), a national grassroots organization dedicated to providing immigrants due process of law, will hold a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court. The vigil will be held at 7:00 p.m. on April 23, and CIEJ members will be available to discuss how their personal family situations will be affected if the court rules in favor of the immigrants.
Both the Calcano and St. Cyr cases deal with the constitutionality of provisions of restrictive immigration legislation passed in 1996. At issue is whether immigrants have the right to appeal to the judicial system in deportation proceedings. Secondly, can minor criminal offenses committed sometime in the past (when they had no impact on immigration status) be used against an individual retroactively when the categories of deportable offenses were broadened in 1996?
Please see the attached brief description and profiles of affected families prepared by CIEJ. Laurie Kazuba, CIEJ's Executive Director can be reach at 972-814-6558 (mobile phone) for more information on the candlelight vigil or to arrange an interview with one of the CIEJ representatives affected by the cases.
For more information on the Calcano and St. Cyr cases, contact Emily Whitfield, ACLU-NY at (212) 549-2566, or contact Phil Gutis, ACLU-DC, (202) 675-2312.
Citizens and Immigrants for Equal Justice (CIEJ) is a national grassroots coalition and support network of 1,000 families devastated by the 1996 immigration laws. Our families are comprised of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders), and we seek the fair treatment of legal permanent residents facing deportation for criminal convictions. Though we hail from 64 different countries and 26 different states, we all share a common story: our families are being needlessly torn apart by the 1996 immigration laws. Our loved ones are being taken to detention facilities hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles from their homes. Our parents, children, and spouses are being summarily exiled to countries they left long ago by a system which affords no one a chance to speak up on their behalf. We are Americans who are suffering at the expense of un-American laws.
Why are we holding our vigil?
· Because tomorrow the Supreme Court hears arguments about the preservation of judicial review and abolishment of retroactivity-two issues of great importance to legal permanent residents and their families.
We demand our day in court. Prior to 1996, legal permanent residents facing deportation could go to federal courts to stop illegal INS decisions. Now, that right is in jeopardy. Unless the Supreme Court rules that legal permanent residents retain access to the courts, federal judges will no longer be able to ensure that INS follows the law.
We demand that the government not revoke our rights retroactively. Our government takes the position that the automatic deportation provisions of the 1996 immigration laws apply retroactively. This argument flies in the face of how laws are normally applied-it's akin to voting for a tax increase today and then changing the tax rules to make people pay an additional amount for each of the last five years.
For the families of legal permanent residents with pre-1996 convictions, arbitrarily changing the rules in this fashion costs far more than a few extra dollars out of pocket. Had INS begun deportation proceedings against us before 1996, we could have requested a hearing before an immigration judge. At that hearing we could have introduced factors weighing against deportation-e.g. the type of crime, the sentence actually served, proof of rehabilitation, U.S. military service and evidence of family ties in the United States. Now, because of INS's retroactivity argument, we and our loved ones are being banished from the U.S. without receiving any opportunity to defend ourselves. (See profiles, reverse side.)
· Because Congress must also do its share of fixing the 1996 immigration laws.
Tomorrow, on the five year anniversary of the passage of our unduly harsh immigration laws, the Supreme Court can bring a partial end to our suffering and punishment. However, the Supreme Court is not currently positioned to do anything about other cruel aspects of the 1996 immigration laws. We and our loved ones will still be subject to INS detention. The incoherent system of rules and labels at the heart of the 1996 laws-a regime in which the attempted theft of tire rims leads straight to mandatory deportation-will also remain untouched. We will continue to suffer until Congress acknowledges and repairs the damage it has done.
Whose lives are at stake?
The people described below are all members of CIEJ. In all cases, a legal permanent resident (green card holder) made a mistake and was disciplined accordingly. However, absent a Supreme Court ruling in Calcano/St. Cyr preserving judicial review and abolishing retroactivity, whole families will be punished automatically. Spouses, parents, siblings and children will have no chance to defend themselves before they are torn from each other.
· Charlie and Laura Jaramillo, West Chester, PA. Charlie is 35, a construction contractor, a legal permanent resident since 1965. Entered the U.S. at the age of eight months and entire family is here. Has two teenage children. Plead guilty in 1989 to possession with intent to deliver $40 worth of cocaine. Sentenced to probation and community service. Served no jail time. Handcuffed and arrested by INS while applying for citizenship. Faces deportation to Colombia. Does not read or speak Spanish.
· Zafar and Sherry Iqbal, Carrollton, TX. Zafar is 45, a service station supervisor, a legal permanent resident since 1982. Plead guilty to fraud charge in 1994. Sentenced to six weeks in jail, work release, ten years probation, and restitution payments. Arrested by INS at workplace in 1998. Spent 18 months in INS detention, including son's first birthday. Was not deportable at the time of his fraud conviction. Faces deportation to Pakistan.
· José and Johanna Velasquez, Aldan, PA. José is 52, a deli owner, a legal permanent resident since 1960. Has three U.S. citizen children. Plead guilty in 1980 to minor drug charge. Fined. Sentenced to five years probation. Served no jail time. Arrested by INS while returning from visiting ailing mother. Lost his business while spending four months in INS detention. Faces deportation to Panama.
· Vongphachanh "Rick" Siridavong, Springfield, VA. Rick is 25, a legal permanent resident since arriving as Laotian refugee in 1981. Both parents and all seven siblings live here. Plead guilty to stealing a car radio with high school friends in 1995. Received two-year suspended sentence and probation and 50 hours community service. Arrested by INS at home in 1999 in front of mother shortly after applying for citizenship. Spent five months in INS detention. Was not deportable at the time of his theft conviction. Faces indefinite detention, followed by deportation to Laos.
· Adrían Sanchez, Los Angeles, CA. Adrían is 30, a tree surgeon supervisor, a legal permanent resident since 1980. Has two, U.S. citizen, elementary school-age children. Plead guilty in 1990 to possession and sale of $20 worth of marijuana. Served three days in jail and completed two month work furlough. Arrested by INS in 1998 while returning from a family reunion. Spent five months in INS detention. Faces deportation to Mexico.
· Rosario and Renee Hernandez, Garland, TX. Rosario is 39, a cook and landscaper, a legal permanent resident since 1988. Has two U.S. citizen children-one of them five months old. Convicted of third DWI in 1994. Began attending AA as a term of probation. Has been alcohol free since 1994. Arrested by INS at home, in front of his wife, on a Sunday afternoon. Spent one month in INS detention. Faces deportation to Mexico.
· Laurie and Danny Kozuba, Mesquite TX. Danny is 47, a U.S. veteran, a commercial kitchen installation specialist, a legal permanent resident since 1958. Served from 1990 to 1993 for possession of controlled substance. Has been drug-free for a decade. Applied for and won waiver from deportation in 1993. Had waiver revoked retroactively after Congress passed the 1996 immigration laws. Currently scheduled for a new waiver hearing. Faces deportation to Canada.