ZZZ Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law



Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those  

            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

   photo    photo


Welcome to the young_girlCenter for Human Rights & Constitutional Law. The Center is a non-profit, public interest legal foundation dedicated to furthering and protecting the civil, constitutional, and human rights of immigrants, refugees, children, prisoners, and the poor.

Since its incorporation in 1980, under the leadership of a board of directors comprising civil rights attorneys, community advocates and religious leaders, the Center has provided a wide range of legal services to vulnerable low-income victims of human and civil rights violations and technical support and training to hundreds of legal aid attorneys and paralegals in the areas of immigration law, constitutional law, and complex and class action litigation.

The Center has achieved major victories in numerous major cases in the courts of the United States and before international bodies that have directly benefited hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged persons.



  • Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Children Detained by DHS - July 7, 2016

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Flores v. Lynch, a class action case in which a nationwide settlement was reached in 1997, which set national guidelines for the conditions in which immigrant children can be detained in the United States. The Settlement also set standards and conditions of release for these children, including how they will be promptly reunified with family members, friends, or even group homes licensed for the care of children in the event that the former are not available. Yesterday, July 6, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals issued a ruling requiring that US immigration officials must take immediate and ongoing steps to release detained minors “as expeditiously as possible,” including all children whether accompanied or unaccompanied, to available family members, other responsible adults or licensed group homes. The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which serves as class counsel for all immigrant children in Government detention, is urging the Obama Administration to reassess its inhumane and extortionate practices. In responding to the Court's ruling CHRCL Executive Director, Peter Schey said, "We hope this decision by the Federal Court of Appeals convinces the Obama Administration that its policy of detaining immigrant mothers and children is inhumane and illegal and must come to an end. During the past two years this Administration has wasted over one hundred million dollars unnecessarily detaining thousands of refugee children commingled with unrelated adults in unlicensed secure facilities in violation of well-established child detention standards. This disgraceful policy should now be brought to an end by President Obama."

You can read the Ninth Circuit's full Opinion here.

  • U.S. must release child migrants held in family detention, Court says - July 6, 2016

    President Obama’s immigration policy was dealt another blow Wednesday when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s opinion that child migrants who are accompanied by a parent and currently in family detention should be quickly released.

    It left the fate of the parents up in the air, however.

    The case centers on a 1997 legal settlement — known as the Flores agreement — that set legal requirements for the housing of children seeking asylum or in the country illegally. In July 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles found the government had violated key provisions of the court settlement that put restrictions on the detention of migrant children.

Read the full LA Times article here.


Los Angeles (May 19, 2016) - Claiming that the conditions of their detention are "deplorable" and "inhumane," and that they are being illegally held in remote detention centers commingled with hundreds of unrelated adults, children seeking asylum in the United States today asked a federal court in Los Angeles to order their prompt release and the release of their detained mothers.
The request was presented to federal district court Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles. Judge Gee is presiding over a class action case dealing with the conditions of detention of immigrant children and the process for releasing them. In a nationwide settlement reached in 1997, the government agreed that children taken in to custody would immediately be held in humane conditions and “without unnecessary delay” would be released in order of first preference to a parent – even if the parent was apprehended with the child. The settlement also requires that if a parent or other relatives or suitable custodians are unavailable, children must be promptly placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children. Lawyers for the children claim that in response to a temporary surge in apprehensions of children along the US-Mexico border in the spring of 2014, the Obama administration stopped complying with the 1997 settlement and started holding children for weeks or months in sometimes dangerous and unhealthy secure detention facilities comingled with hundreds of unrelated adults.   

You can view the full press release by the Center for Human rights and Constitutional Law here.

To access the filed court documents in Flores v. Lynch please use the following links:

Motion to Enforce Settlement and for Appointment of Special Master


Proposed Order Appointing Special Master


Proposed Order Enforcing Settlement 

Exhibits in Support of Motion to Enforce

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Bill Clinton dealt a major setback to rational immigration policy in 1996 when he signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act for the first time in history adopting "bars" that would block millions of immigrants from legalizing their status even though they qualified for immigrant visas through their U.S. citizen or lawful resident spouses, parents or children.

This law now accounts for about two million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. with Government-issued "approved" visa petitions, but unable to legalize their status. Hillary Clinton could endorse an easy solution to legalize these immigrants with no change in existing law.

Read the full analysis by the Center’s Executive Director, Peter Schey, here.

Before walking out of jail a free man in February, Albert Woodfox spent 43 years almost without pause in an isolation cell, becoming the longest standing solitary confinement prisoner in America. He had no view of the sky from inside his 6ft by 9ft concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.

As a member of the “Angola Three” – former Black Panther activists who were all subject to decades of solitary confinement in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison – Woodfox was put into CCR ostensibly for the murder of a prison guard, for which he has always insisted he was framed. His conviction was twice overturned by a federal court on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and he walked out of custody an innocent man.

Read the full story here.

  • CHRCL files International Law Petition Denouncing U.S. Support for Mexico’s “Plan Fontera Sur” - April 15, 2016


    Yesterday, April 14, over 35 faith-based groups and human rights organizations filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States denouncing the joint campaign of the United States and Mexico--the infamous Plan Frontera Sur--to interdict and summarily deport persons fleeing rampant violence in Central America's "northern triangle": Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

    The Petition, Adolescentes en el Camino, et al. (United States and Mexico), Case P-652-16, marshals extensive evidence that the two governments are deporting tens of thousands of men, women and children to jurisdictions in which they run a clear risk of persecution and death, in violation of the long-standing international prohibition against refoulement of refugees. Petitioners ask the Inter-American Commission to rule, inter alia, that interdicted refugees are entitled to a full and fair process by which their eligibility for international protection in Mexico may be determined.

    The Petition is available for viewing and downloading here.

Israeli security forces are abusing Palestinian children detained in the West Bank. The number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces has more than doubled since October 2015. Interviews with children who have been detained, video footage, and reports from lawyers reveal that Israeli security forces are using unnecessary force in arresting and detaining children, in some cases beating them, and holding them in unsafe and abusive conditions.


Read more here.

  • Judge Strikes Down Scott Walker’s ‘Right To Work’ Law - April 9, 2016


    A judge declared late Friday that Wisconsin’s controversial “right-to-work” law violated the state’s constitution. The law had become a centerpiece in the state’s contentious battles over the role of unions and the conservative war on labor unions.


    “Right-to-work” laws prevent unions from reaching agreements with employer that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. So a worker can opt out of paying union fees even if they are represented by one in their workplace — meaning they gain the benefits of being in a union (such as collective bargaining for higher wages) without paying to support such efforts.


    Read more here.
  • Federal Court Blocks Mississippi 'Unconstitutional' Ban On Gay Adoptions - March 31, 2016

    A federal judge has just blocked Mississippi's ban on gay people and same-sex couples adopting children. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, citing the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and barred the Mississippi Department of Human Services and its director from enforcing that ban.

    Judge Jordan wrote that it seems "highly unlikely that the same court that held a state cannot ban gay marriage because it would deny benefits—expressly including the right to adopt—would then conclude that married gay couples can be denied that very same benefit."

    Read more here.

  • The Center’s General Counsel, Carlos Holguin, featured in ABA Journal - February 1, 2016


    At first, Carlos Holguín was skeptical. A well-known actor in Hollywood called seeking help for his housekeeper's daughter after immigration authorities arrested and detained the girl for being in the country illegally.


    That wasn’t unusual. Holguín represented such people often as an attorney at the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. And it was 1984, a time when migrants from El Salvador, like this 15-year-old girl, were coming to the U.S. in droves to escape their country’s brutal civil war. What was unusual was the caller’s concern: The Immigration and Naturalization Service wouldn’t release the girl to anyone but a parent or guardian. The problem was that parents without legal status, like the girl’s mother, would be arrested and deported if they came for their children. Civil rights attorneys were starting to believe the policy’s real purpose was to use the kids as bait.


    For the full article follow this link.

  • Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons - January 2016



    In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.


    In 2013, Kalief was released, having never stood trial. He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old.


    In January 2016 President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences.


    Read more here.

  • Obama’s deportation raids to continue, despite outcry - January 8, 2016


    ATLANTA — It is quiet now, a little too quiet, along the suburban avenues lined with Salvadoran pupusa shops and Guatemalan bakeries. The stores are emptier than usual, and some of the waitresses and clerks are not showing up at work. Everyone seems to know about last weekend’s raids, when immigration agents pounded on doors before dawn and took mothers and children away.

    The deportations have brought the divisive issue of illegal immigration once again to the political forefront. The raids were the first large-scale effort to deport families who had fled violence and poverty in Central America in 2014 and 2015. More than 100,000 families with adults and children crossed the southwestern border.


    Read the full story here.

  • How For-Profit Companies Are Driving Immigration Detention Policies - December 18, 2015

Surprisingly, the largest detention and supervised release program in the country is not operated by the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, but by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, which oversees the nation’s immigration detention program. According to the DOJ, its Federal Bureau of Prisons had nearly 200,000 individuals in custody as of December 2015. On the other hand, DHS’s immigration detention program detains around 400,000 people each year.

The immigration detention system has grown exponentially over the past 20 years from fewer than 7,500 beds in 1995 to the 34,000 beds today. These beds are spread across a network of more than 250 detention facilities nationwide, including facilities run by for-profit corporations. A key factor underlying the explosion in the number of immigrants in custody is the expanded role of for-profit prison companies in the U.S. immigration detention system.

Read more here.

A full report on the subject by the Center for American Progress can be read here.

  • DAPA/Expanded DACA Programs Blocked: A New Strategy for President Obama and immigrant communities - November 11, 2015 

There are several critically important steps President Obama could take to better protect immigrants and at the same time address head-on the federal court's blocking of his efforts at immigration reform.

Implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA has been blocked by the U.S. District Court and now by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. While the White House has vowed to appeal further to the U.S. Supreme Court, as explained below, the appeal will have little chance of success. Simply put, the Supreme Court is likely to agree that the DAPA/ Expanded DACA program should have been issued as formal regulations, not just as a "policy" of the Department of Homeland Security. President Obama should promptly issue a policy or adopt regulations allowing all immigrants eligible for family or employment-based visas under existing law to apply for and be granted "advance parole" (permission to travel abroad and return to the U.S. through a port of entry) for personal or business purposes.

This is a sensible “border enforcement” proposal. It is well known that undocumented immigrants, including immigrants with pending or approved visa applications, who are playing by the rules and are “in the system,” travel abroad to see family and for other personal reasons. When they return to their residences in the U.S., they do so without inspection, crossing mountains and deserts with the help of human smugglers. The journey is dangerous and diverts the limited resources of the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP). Allowing these immigrants to return through normal ports of entry can be accomplished with “advance parole.” This would remove the dangers of returning illegally and preserve CBP’s limited enforcement resources. Simply put, these immigrants would return through a normal inspection process rather than traveling across the Southern border entering with the help of human traffickers.

After returning to the U.S. with regular border inspections, thousands of immigrants with already approved visa petitions would immediately become eligible to apply for lawful permanent status. These immigrants cannot adjust their status now solely because of their unlawful initial entries many years ago. We urge advocates to begin providing assistance to visa applicants and those with approved visas to apply for "advance parole." The Center is available to assist and guide advocates. We also urge advocacy groups to call on President Obama to authorize DHS to grant advance parole so these immigrants can visit their families, return to the U.S. with inspection, and then apply for lawful permanent resident status.

Read the full analysis by Peter Schey, Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Email advanceparole@centerforhumanrights.org for technical support.

Read the 5th Circuit's decision in Texas v. United States here

"Comprehensive White House Immigration Reform: President Obama is Missing the Boat and Leaving Millions of Immigrants Stranded" available to download here.
  • Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law launches “Advance Parole” effort to legalize 1.5 million immigrants. - November 1, 2015

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law is initiating discussions, trainings and advocacy aimed at securing “advance parole” for immigrants “in the system” who have pending or approved visa petitions. An analysis of the benefits of such a program and its benefits may be read/downloaded at this link. In a nutshell, the Congress and Administration have obviously failed to come close to passing comprehensive immigration reform and it is highly unlikely to do so soon. The consensus for rational reform measures is not present, and, in any event, neither the Congress nor the Administration have even studied the migration issue in any comprehensive way as was done in 1985-86 to lay the foundation for smart immigration reform. In fact, the only real players right now in the immigration “reform” debate are major corporations wheeling and dealing to rake in profits in various enforcement capacities. President Obama, in a last ditch effort to achieve something significant, finally issued the DAPA program promising over a million undocumented immigrants temporary work permits. The DAPA program was quickly blocked by the federal courts because it does not appear to leave sufficient discretion in the hands of officers to grant or deny applications and it was not issued as a formal regulation to protect immigrants but merely as a “policy” subject to change at any time by any Administration. It was clear from the beginning that these flaws in the program could result in the courts blocking the program, the Administration has refused to modify the program, and its therefore now blocked by the court of appeals and its future very uncertain. However, there is one major action the immigrants, their advocates and the White House and DHS could now take to benefit one to two million immigrants while engaging in smart border enforcement.


Read more about “Advance Parole” here

  • Congressman: ‘No Way’ Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Happen, Even After Obama - October 30, 2015

It’s been widely reported that newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t bring immigration reform legislation to the House floor while President Obama remains in office. What’s been mentioned less is what will happen when Obama is gone.

Read more at http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2015/10/30/3717991/paul-ryan-immigration-reform-freedom-caucus/
  • Rodriguez v. Robbins 9th Circuit Opinion - October 28, 2015

Today the 9th Circuit Court of appeals issued a landmark decision for the rights of detained immigrants. The ruling came as result of a class action suit filed on behalf of hundreds of immigrants held in Southern California by the federal government at detention facilities that operate almost seamlessly like prisons. According to Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, detainees “are typically housed in shared cells with no privacy and limited access to larger spaces or the outdoors.”


In their decision of Rodriguez v Robbins the court ruled that immigrants held in civil detention facilities must be given bond hearings every six months. This is in order to shorten the existing wait time for immigrants in detention. Before this order, it is estimated that half of all detainees would spend at least a year in these centers, with a small percentage spending over two years there.


Those challenging their detention were usually able to prevail but in the process they were typically subject to years of confinement as a result. These bond hearings are aimed at preventing such an occurrence.


Read the full decision here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2015/10/28/13-56706.pdf

  • Immigrant family detention centers are prison-like, critics say, despite order to improve - October 23, 2015

Today was the deadline for the federal government to comply with Judge Dolly Gee’s order requiring they improve the conditions and shorten the waiting time that families and children are forced to spend in detention facilities . The order stems from finding that the Obama administration was blatantly disregarding the terms of the 1997 settlement of Flores v. Meese.


While the spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, Jennifer Elzea, alleges that they have worked diligently to ensure DHS is in compliance with the order, no evidence has been submitted to the courts and the number of detainees housed this last month are well over what they were when Judge Gee first ruled her order.


Find out more about the deadline and what it means at http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-immigration-family-detention-20151020-story.html

  • Pennsylvania Warns Family Immigrant Detention Center: Change Policies Or Lose Your License - October 23, 2015

One of the three facilities that detains immigrant families in the United States will not be allowed to expand and could lose its license to operate from the state of Pennsylvania -- a major win for the advocacy groups aiming to shut down family detention.


Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/family-immigrant-detention-berks_562a8fe6e4b0443bb563fcbd

  • US Commission on Civil Rights REPORT- Liberty and Justice for All: The State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities - September 2015