Through legislative advocacy, litigation and public awareness campaigns, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has promoted fair and humane immigration policies since its founding in 1913. ADL has helped expose anti-immigrant hate that too often has been a fixture of the immigration debate, and has called for a responsible public debate that will honor America’s history as a nation of immigrants. ADL has been actively pressing Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform.
ADL supports a comprehensive approach to reform that includes (1) a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, (2) fair treatment and equal access to human services for immigrants, and (3) a sound border security strategy. ADL submitted testimony to a congressional hearing on immigration reform calling for reform that includes a real pathway to citizenship, keeps immigration enforcement duties at the federal government level, prioritizes family reunification for all families, including LGBT families, and rejects any worker verification system that would foster discrimination. ADL also works to stave off legislation and legislative amendments that would deny basic benefits, like Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), to immigrants.
ADL has consistently supported passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would allow eligible undocumented youth to apply for legal status. ADL welcomed the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to defer the deportation of some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and allow them to work legally. ADL spoke out against efforts at the state level to deny DACA recipients public benefits.
In June, ADL welcomed the Senate’s passage of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, calling it “a very important step” toward fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. Although an imperfect compromise, the bipartisan bill includes key elements, such as a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already contributing to American society, expanded border security, and reforms to the legal immigration system.
It now falls to the House of Representatives to follow the example of the Senate by passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill. ADL opposes the current enforcement-only approach being advanced in the House, which is considering a series of narrow measures, without proposals to address the systemic flaws in the current policy or the undocumented immigrants already living here.
ADL regions across the country have mobilized advocates via a national social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook, writing letters to their Members of Congress vis-à-vis ADL’s Action Center, and joining with coalition partners at local town halls.
In the absence of reform, states have enacted a patchwork of immigration bills, many of which infringe on the civil rights of immigrant communities and those perceived to be immigrants. In 2010 Arizona passed SB 1070, one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws in the United States to date. Arizona called the law an “attrition through enforcement” policy, seeking to make life so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they would “self-deport.”
ADL filed an amicus brief supporting the government’s Supreme Court challenge to SB 1070 in Arizona v. U.S. The brief argued that the “papers please” provision of the law puts minority communities at risk by instilling fear of police. This provision requires police officers to verify the immigration status of a person they stop if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is an undocumented immigrant. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security ADL reiterated concern that SB 1070 would unwisely compel local law enforcement to implement federal immigration law. In June 2012, the Supreme Court struck down three of the four main provisions of SB 1070, but upheld the “papers please” provision while leaving the door open to a future challenge. In the wake of Arizona’s passage of SB 1070, in 2011 five states (Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah) enacted copycat laws. ADL filed several amicus briefs urging courts to strike down such laws. Courts have consistently struck down all portions of the laws, except the papers please provisions.
In addition to amicus briefs, public statements, and Congressional testimony, ADL submitted testimony to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) in September 2012 about the effects of these laws on individuals’ civil rights. ADL argued that requiring police officers to check individuals’ immigration status undermines immigrant communities’ trust in law enforcement, discourages people from reporting crimes and creates an underclass of individuals uniquely vulnerable to hate crimes. ADL will continue to oppose provisions that place immigration enforcement in the hands of local law enforcement if they appear in other states, or Federal legislation during the course of the comprehensive immigration reform debate.
In 2012 and 2013, by contrast, states began passing positive immigration laws. ADL has advocated around the country for passage of laws that limit local law enforcement’s entanglement with federal immigration law, extend in-state tuition to undocumented students, and provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, allowing them to drive to work and to school while simultaneously making the streets safer.
ADL is particularly mindful of the role that anti-immigrant rhetoric has played in hindering progress toward sound policy solutions. The climate of bias and hostility against immigrants that pervades the immigration debate demonizes communities and hurts our country by obstructing the reform Americans seek to fix the broken immigration system.
ADL has taken a lead role in exposing the virulent anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric that has risen to the surface and is promoted by anti-immigration groups and extremists. In particular, ADL exposes the crossover that exists between mainstream and extreme groups that are behind anti-immigrant rhetoric and activity in various locales around the country.
ADL also analyzes information and trends regarding anti-immigrant activity and bias on a national and local level. ADL informs the public, policymakers and the media about its research through blog posts, reports, and articles.
As a leading nongovernmental organization that trains law enforcement on hate crimes and extremism, and collaborates with law enforcement on combatting hate crimes, ADL is particularly sensitive to the importance of positive relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities. ADL has had singular reach and impact in training Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel. Over the past three years, more than 700 senior ICE personnel have participated in Law Enforcement and Society (LEAS): Lessons of the Holocaust, a training focusing on the core values of American law enforcement, run by ADL and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The program emphasizes the unique role law enforcement play in protecting the Constitution and individual rights. The entire command staff of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has participated in the program, including the head of HSI and all his senior leadership.