ADL's Commitment to Meaningful Immigration Reform

  • February 6, 2014

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 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. As the largest nongovernmental trainer of law enforcement in the United States, ADL has been a leading advocate for policies that keep immigration enforcement at the federal level, allowing local law enforcement to establish and foster trust with the communities they have sworn to serve and protect.

ADL continues to press Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform:

  • ADL has submitted testimony to Congress urging passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
  • ADL welcomed the administration’s executive action on immigration reform in November 2014, which followed a 2012 measure to provide relief from deportation for immigrants brought to the United States as children, which ADL also supported. This executive action also focuses enforcement efforts on those who threaten national security and public safety, and brings more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and under the rule of law.
  • ADL works to stave off legislation in the 114th Congress that would repeal or undermine sound and sensible executive action on immigration reform. 
  • In June 2013, 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.
  • ADL 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 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 hall meetings.

Training Immigration and Customs Enforcement Personnel

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 1,000 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.

Resources for Educators, Students and Families

Through its Current Events Classroom and Curriculum Connections programs, which provide original lesson plans and resources to help K-12 educators integrate multicultural, anti-bias, and social justice themes into their curricula, ADL has created lesson plans about immigration and anti-immigrant bias.  Lesson plans include: Who Are the Children at the Border?, a lesson plan for middle and high school students about unaccompanied minors; Huddled Mass or Second Class: Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias in the U.S., a series of lesson plans for elementary through high school students; and What is the DREAM Act and Who Are the DREAMers?, a high school lesson plan about undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.  In addition, ADL has created suggested reading lists for educators and families about immigration and anti-immigrant bias.

Supporting State Legislation that Honors Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants While Opposing Bills that Would Harm Immigrant and Minority Communities

In the absence of meaningful federal reform, states have enacted a patchwork of immigration bills, including laws that pave the way for immigrants who are already working and contributing to society to become even more valuable members of the community. 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, provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and allow undocumented students who have graduated from law school and passed the bar to become practicing attorneys.

Although the majority of state immigration efforts have been positive since 2012, that was not always the case. In 2010 Arizona passed SB 1070, one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws in the United States to date. ADL filed an amicus brief supporting the federal government’s Supreme Court challenge to SB 1070 in U.S. v. Arizona and in other lower-court cases challenging similar laws. The briefs argued that the “papers please” provision, which requires local law enforcement to check people’s immigration status, puts minority communities at risk by instilling fear of police. 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 addition to amicus briefs and public statements, in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, ADL reiterated concern that laws like SB 1070 unwisely compel local law enforcement to implement federal immigration law. ADL also submitted testimony to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) about the effects of these laws on individuals’ civil rights. ADL argued—and continues to argue—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. 

Exposing Extremism in the Anti-Immigrant Movement and Analyzing Anti-Immigrant Trends

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.