March 2008 • Vol. 28 No. 3 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Trustees Support Proposed ABA Recommendations on Immigration Issues

The board of trustees voted unanimously at its January 2008 meeting to cosponsor two ABA Commission on Immigration recommendations to the ABA House of Delegates.

Recommendation as to fee levels, fee waivers, and passing of unfair security costs on to immigration applicants. The new immigration and naturalization benefit application and petition fee schedule, which took effect on July 30, 2007, imposes higher application and petition fees that are intended to cover the full cost of USCIS operations, including activities that benefit the general public such as those related to national security and antifraud efforts.

The new fees may place naturalization and other immigration benefits out of reach of many low-income immigrants. Application fees should not be so excessive as to prevent otherwise eligible individuals from accessing benefits, and USCIS initiatives that benefit the public as a whole should be funded through federal appropriations rather than application fees.

The ABA urges Congress to appropriate funds for USCIS activities that benefit the general public as opposed to requiring the agency to support these activities through filing fees. In addition, the ABA supports reasonable fees for immigration and naturalization benefits that ensure their general accessibility, a clearly defined waiver policy to ensure that waivers are reasonably available to those who are unable to pay the fees, and application fee exemptions for certain humanitarian forms of relief.

Recommendation as to codification and oversight of Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement National Detention Standards. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained more than 283,000 noncitizens in 2006, and the number is increasing. The ABA has repeatedly expressed concern about poor conditions at detention facilities, conditions that persist despite the existence of detention standards. Noncitizens including families continue to be detained and housed in criminal settings even though they are civil detainees. The recommendation supports the issuance of federal regulations that codify standards and supports improvement, periodic review, and increased oversight of detention standards and implementation to ensure that detained noncitizens and their families are treated humanely and have meaningful access to counsel and to the legal process.

The recommendation supports enforcing the detention standards at all facilities where noncitizens are detained for immigration purposes and placing immigration detainees in the least restrictive detention setting and not housed with criminal inmates.

The recommendation supports specific improvements based on reports from detained noncitizens, attorneys, and advocates, including legal materials and computer assistance, contact visits with family and friends, reasonable and equitable telephone access, and medical care. The recommendation also provides for two means of ensuring appropriate detention standards implementation: a DHS oversight office that will provide reports to the public at least twice per year, and indepth training for all individuals who come into regular contact with detainees.

The executive committees of LACBA’s Immigration Section and Individual Rights Section recommended that the LACBA Board of Trustees support and cosponsor both resolutions.

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