5 steps to end the assaults on immigrants in the coming decade

by Ramon Valdez — Posted in blog Uncategorized on December 31, 2019

As this decade comes to a close, it is heartbreaking to review the damage done to immigrant rights and civil liberties. Especially in recent years. U.S. immigration policy has prismed into three prongs that work to deny immigrants from having equal access to justice. 

  1. Increased public stigmatization and criminalization of the human act of migration. 
  2. Expansion of the detention apparatus which cages immigrant children and adults. 
  3. Elimination of meaningful immigrant access to courts and lawyers. 

Refugees are being deported back to danger. Children are torn from the arms of their parents. Entire communities destroyed. 

Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, law, and activism to advance immigrant justice. Together, we can win the fight for immigrant justice and inclusion. 

1. Move lawyers and activists into position at the hotspots.

Where the threat is grave and humans are forced to flee, get lawyers and activists on-the-ground to work (and work hard). Within days of the start of Trump’s horrific “Remain in Mexico” program that intentionally forced those fleeing persecution to live on the streets of some of the most dangerous cities in the world, our team was on-the-ground; lawyers and activists gathering intelligence, offering free legal help, and building a transnational support network for those stuck in perpetual danger. Innovation Law Lab organized volunteers with our regional partners to represent and defend asylum-seekers marooned far from home and on the doorsteps of safety. 

2. Deploy technology that harnesses the power of lawyers & activists

Technology can help lawyers and activists scale their ability to create more just pathways. The situation at the US-Mexico border is hard to fathom. Since October 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have unlawfully prevented thousands of refugees from accessing the U.S. asylum system.  Even though people are fleeing extreme violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with valid claims under international and domestic law, CBP has created a crisis where vital documents are destroyed, children and families are detained in inhumane conditions, and the immigration court system is dysfunctional to the point of collapse. 

As a nonprofit that consists of activists, lawyers, and software engineers, Innovation Law Lab is uniquely positioned to develop tools that empower immigrants and their advocates in moments of crisis. Innovation Law Lab’s new tech tools help migrants better navigate the harrowing journey north and the complex immigration system that awaits them in America.

3. File lawsuits that defend activism in motion.

The courts can channel the power of activists working for just and fair outcomes. After Trump announced a rule that would deny immigrants’ fair access to health insurance (!) while simultaneously shutting down our nation’s long-standing tradition of family reunification, Innovation Law Lab filed a lawsuit in federal court to defend the activists and people in motion like our colleagues Latino Network.

Just hours before the health care ban was scheduled to go into effect, during an emergency Saturday hearing, a federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the government. We were recently granted a preliminary injunction halting the policy from going into effect as we continue to litigate. By litigating strategically, we are able to keep harmful immigration policies from going into effect. 

4. Play the Long Game

We have to play the long game to permanently exit this state of urgency. The President’s unrelenting assaults on immigrant communities have already taken a toll on our communities and economy, both locally and nationwide. Increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement actions have caused many law-abiding residents to fear sending their children to school or even leaving the house to buy groceries.

Since 2017, for example, ICE has executed or planned enforcement actions at state courthouses that serve nearly millions of people  As one school superintendent explained, “[a]lmost everybody in town is impacted” by the fear of immigration raids. Within weeks of Trump’s election, Innovation Law Lab designed and began organizing a long game of developing organizational infrastructure to build permanent pathways to immigrant inclusion. Called the Rights Architecture, it is a holistic system that allows activists to self-organize, identify spaces for collaboration, and rapidly foster innovation. It has successfully created the nation’s first statewide universal representation program for immigrants facing imminent deportation called Equity Corps of Oregon

5. Give to Support the Work

Not only is our small team of lawyers, activists, and software engineers working to defend against Trump’s anti-immigrant attacks, Innovation Law Lab is at the forefront of creating universal representation programs for immigrants facing deportation proceedings. 

Communities around the country and along our nation’s borders are coming together to create an accessible support system for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Innovation Law Lab is here to design the programs, technology, and forward-thinking legal strategies. As a nonprofit organization, we depend on your philanthropic support to continue this important work!