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Dear Editor:
The following press release was submitted by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Texas.

Texas immigrants who have won their lawful permanent resident status in Immigration Court are being deterred from working, going to school, or traveling abroad by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In response, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law of Texas (Texas Lawyers' Committee), together with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), has filed a class action lawsuit against the DHS on behalf of lawful permanent residents whose rights are violated when they are refused temporary proof of their lawful status. The lawsuit, filed today in federal court in McAllen, Texas, claims that the DHS has consistently rejected lawful permanent residents' requests for processing and documentation of their lawful status. The DHS has told lawful permanent residents represented in this lawsuit that they would be advised by mail of a return date to complete processing. DHS' delay in processing, which has lasted for months and years in some cases, has created hardships for these and other lawful permanent residents. Without proof of their legal status, lawful permanent residents cannot legally secure employment, enroll in school, or travel abroad. They also live in fear of not being able to demonstrate that they are lawfully in the U.S. if they are stopped and questioned by state or federal officials. "The law is clear: the moment an Immigration Court grants lawful permanent resident status, an individual acquires the right to work, go to school and travel abroad," said Javier N. Maldonado, Executive Director of the Texas Lawyers' Committee. "So why is DHS withholding documentation of legal status from these Texas residents?" Immigrants seeking lawful status provide all necessary documentation prior to an Immigration Judge issuing an order on their immigration status. The DHS takes an applicant's fingerprints and is able to perform all the necessary background and name checks while the immigrant is in legal proceedings. There is no reason to delay giving them their documentation once a judge's order becomes final. "The DHS must give legal permanent residents proof of their lawful status so that they can take care of their families and contribute to society," said Joe Berra, staff attorney for MALDEF. "Without their ‘papers', their hard won freedoms are meaningless." While the lawsuit seeks relief for all persons who were or will be granted legal permanent resident status in the Harlingen, Houston and San Antonio immigration districts, below are several summaries of plaintiffs in the case. · Teresa P. is a mother of four in Eagle Pass, TX who was the victim of domestic abuse. She was granted legal permanent resident (LPR) status because her deportation would have been a hardship for her U.S. citizen children. She went to the San Antonio immigration office to acquire temporary proof of her lawful status. She was told she would be notified by mail of a return date for processing. Over six months have passed. Now, because she cannot prove her LPR status, she is in danger of losing her job. Her lack of documentation also prohibits her from visiting her dying brother in Piedras Negras, Mexico. · Jose Luis and Maria Eva G. are lawful permanent residents with a U.S. citizen daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy. Their daughter is severely mentally retarded, confined to a wheelchair, and legally blind. The parents would like to travel outside of the Houston area to attend trainings which would help them to provide better care for their daughter. They are afraid to travel outside of Houston because they have been denied papers showing adequate evidence of their legal status and fear being stopped by state or federal officials. · Anita D. is a single mother of two. Both her children have severe kidney problems and need dialysis on a daily basis. She is an LPR, but has not been able to acquire the employment authorization needed for her to work and support her sick children. Shortly after winning her immigration case, she requested documentation from DHS of her legal status. Six months have elapsed and DHS has not responded to her request. · Divyeshbai B. is a native of India and has lived in the U.S. for nine years. Because of his marriage to a U.S. citizen he was able to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident. Background checks revealed no arrests and no other derogatory information that prevented him from adjusting his status. He was accorded LPR status, but was not given proof. As a result, he has not been able to secure employment to support his wife and two children. The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to certify the case as a class action, declare DHS' policies unlawful, prohibit DHS from denying documentation of LPR status to the plaintiffs, and order the agency to immediately issue temporary documentation to the plaintiffs. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law of Texas (Texas Lawyers' Committee) is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to defending the rights of immigrants and refugees throughout the state of Texas. Please visit for more information about the Texas Lawyers' Committee. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the nation's premier Latino civil rights organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, higher education scholarships and when necessary, through the legal system.

Ali Hakeem
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Texas

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