Immigrants' Rights

chklt_immi_100: Immigrant Rights

Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a 'person' . . . Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as 'persons' guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

— U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Plyer v. Doe

Americans are not a narrow tribe. Our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one.

— Herman Melville

The United States is in the midst of a major debate over immigrants and their place in our economic and political life. As during other times in our history, immigrants are being blamed for causing or contributing to the social, economic and political ills of our society. Politicians from both major parties, at both the national and state levels, are promoting a range of punitive legislative proposals that single out immigrants for adverse treatment by the government. Many violate basic civil liberties principles.

The Bill of Rights does not grant foreigners the right to enter the United States, but once here, immigrants are entitled to certain broad constitutional protections. Due Process — the right to be treated fairly, whether in a deportation hearing or a criminal court proceeding — applies to every person within U.S. borders. And Equal Protection prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin. An alien's rights to free speech and religious freedom are protected under the First Amendment. The Refugee Act of 1980 gives certain aliens the right to political asylum in the U.S.

New immigrants to our country are not a scourge as some politicians claim. In fact, they can help solve many of our economic and social problems.

Legal Cases

  • Juan R. v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
    Challenge to mass transfers of individuals in ICE custody with existing attorney-client relationships to distant detention facilities
  • State v. Molchor, State v. Rios
    Amicus brief addressing whether under the Criminal Justice Reform Act, a defendant’s immigration status can form the basis for the court’s pretrial detention decision?
  • Arriaga Reyes, et al. v. Decker, et al.
    Habeas corpus petition seeking release from ICE custody on behalf of five individuals held at the Hudson County and Bergen County Jails based on their medical vulnerabilities to COVID-19.
  • Salazar, et al. v. Tsoukaris, et al.
    Habeas corpus petition seeking release from ICE custody on behalf of two individuals held at the Essex County Correctional Facility based on their medical vulnerabilities to COVID-19.
  • U.S. v. State of New Jersey et al.
    Amicus brief supporting the State of New Jersey’s motion to dismiss the United States’ lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive.
  • Ocean County v. Grewal
    Amicus brief in support of the Attorney General’s power to implement the Immigrant Trust Directive
  • State v. A.M.
    Can police obtain a Miranda waiver by asking someone to read if they have not established the person can read?
  • Guerrero-Sanchez v. Warden York County Prison
    Appeal of federal court decision granting a day in court for a man whom ICE detained without a bond hearing for nearly two years while he was seeking protection from removal to Mexico.
  • Martinez v. Nielsen
    Federal lawsuit challenging the detention and deportation of a man picked up by ICE at his scheduled green card interview.
  • Pangemanan et al. v. Tsoukaris et al.
    The ACLU-NJ filed a federal class action lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order halting the deportations of Indonesian Christian residents of Central Jersey.

Legislative Efforts

  • Democracy Act
    Establishes Automatic Voter Registration through MVC; expands in-person early voting; modernizes electronic voter registration; expands vote-by-mail; expands voting access for military and overseas voters; enhances access to the polls for people with disabilities; enhances language access at polling places with significant population of non-English speakers.
  • Expanding Access to Driver’s Licenses
    Expands access to driver’s licenses to eligible undocumented drivers; expands list of documents needed to establish 6-point MVC identity and residency requirements for license; protects privacy of MVC data; limits use of card to non-federal purposes.
  • Financial Aid Equality
    Allows certain students, including undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria, to qualify for State student financial aid programs.
  • Tuition Equality
    Makes undocumented students who studied for three or more years at and graduated from NJ high schools, or obtained GED, eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid at NJ state colleges and universities.



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