IDP Letter to Supporters

In these tumultuous times, we turn to our movement – a movement rooted in the principles of fairness and justice – to stand up for the rights of all immigrants. This past year, we continued to see record-breaking numbers of deportations tear apart families, communities, and loved ones. We are thankful to have attorneys and advocates like you alongside us, fighting tirelessly to ensure that our current immigration laws, as well as potential reforms, uphold due process and recognize the full humanity of those caught at the brutal intersection of the mass deportation and criminal legal systems.

Because of your generous support, we at the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) are able to zealously litigate and advocate for policy reforms that support the rights of immigrants accused or convicted of crimes while providing the resources that advocates and directly-impacted communities need to protect against detention and deportation.

We know that we cannot afford to advocate for less than the full rights of all immigrants.

That is why we seek to create new legal precedents, new policies, and new ways of communicating about the changes this country needs to strengthen an immigrant rights movement that is inclusive of all immigrants. In 2013, we made significant progress in meeting these goals. On behalf of all of us here at IDP, I would like to extend my deep gratitude to you for your partnership. In 2014, we hope to build on this work even more: in the courts, in the halls of Congress, in our statehouses and in communities across the country. Can we continue to count on your support?

This past year, your thoughtful contribution allowed us to:

  • Coordinate a major victory in the Supreme Court in Moncrieffe v. Holder. IDP coordinated the submission of a range of amicus briefs and provided extensive strategic and legal analysis to those leading the case. This April decision was a stinging rebuke to the government’s repeated attempts to expand the drug trafficking deportation grounds to reach minor drug offenses. More broadly, the Court’s decision will arm advocates to scale back government overreaching in other deportation contexts as well.
  • Challenge collaboration between ICE and police and offer trainings for immigrants and advocates on protection from deportation. We educated legislators, staffers and organizations across New York City on the impact of mass deportation programs on local immigrant communities. We conducted monthly bilingual workshops to immigrant detainees at Rikers Island jail on how to navigate the immigration detention and deportation systems and how to fight their cases. We conducted Know-Your-Rights workshops to train immigrant communities on how to protect rights when snared in the criminal legal system. We worked in coalitions with a variety of organizations, including LGBTQ, domestic violence, racial justice, and immigrant rights advocates, to fight against discriminatory policing and police collaboration with ICE. Our work helped lay the groundwork for the New York City Council’s February 2013 passage of a more protective detainer discretion law that applies to both the NYPD and the Department of Correction.
  • Implement Padilla v. Kentucky more broadly. At IDP, we take seriously our duty to uphold the Supreme Court mandate in Padilla to ensure that immigrants accused of crimes are fully advised of the potentially devastating immigration consequences of their criminal cases. IDP trained hundreds of defense attorneys and judges across the country; helped defender offices in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida institutionalize Padilla advisals; and strengthened the Defending Immigrants Partnership (DIP), our national collaboration with National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) and Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).
  • Contribute to three high-impact victories in New York appellate courts on the scope and reach of Padilla v. Kentucky. IDP provided technical and amicus support in three cases – Baret, Picca, and Chacko – that significantly advanced defendants’ ability to vacate pleas entered in ignorance of immigration consequences. We are using these victories as a model for efforts in state courts across the country.
  • Field over 2,000 inquiries on our free, national criminal-immigration hotline. We provide detailed analyses to criminal defense attorneys, immigration advocates, and immigrants and their loved ones on their cases. In 2013, we will break our record for the most calls in a single year – and the phone keeps ringing.
  • Stand up for the rights of immigrants with criminal convictions in federal immigration reform efforts. Early this year, IDP seized an incredible moment of opportunity, along with our partners in the Immigrant Justice Network – NIPNLG and ILRC – to restore the rights for immigrants accused or convicted of crimes through national immigration reform. We provided expert analysis to educate lawmakers about how the current immigration laws and aspects of the federal immigration bill harm or otherwise negatively impact immigrants with criminal convictions. We helped organizations build an analysis of the immigration consequences of criminal offenses so that they can work to encourage the protection of immigrants with convictions in their ongoing efforts. And in all of our communications work, we aim to reflect the full humanity of all immigrants in the language we use to move the national debate forward.

In our federal reform efforts, we are leading a communications campaign to disrupt dominant narratives about immigrants convicted of crimes and lift up the voices of our unlikely allies – including prosecutors, immigration judges, and criminal justice advocates. A focal point of the campaign is a new series of infographics that tell the stories of real people who have faced or will face mandatory deportation due to harsh and inflexible immigration laws. These compelling infographics, through powerful words and images, expose this injustice to a broad audience.

Available on our IJN website is one of these infographics that tells the story of Roland Sylvain. IDP worked with Roland to secure counsel and is currently seeking post-conviction relief for him. We have worked to share his story with legislators and are working with Human Rights Watch to include his family in a photo essay in Time Magazine.

Roland came here from Haiti in 1985 when he was 7 years old. Now a father of four children, he is facing mandatory deportation due to a 2001 traffic stop. In a moment of panic, Roland signed his cousin’s name to a speeding ticket. He immediately told the police officer and was subsequently arrested for forging a public document.  At the advice of his lawyer, Roland pled guilty to the charge, which he was not told would lead to his mandatory deportation (his conviction is considered an “aggravated felony” under immigration law). Over 10 years later, Roland is now facing imminent deportation because harsh and inflexible immigration laws dictate that his immigration judge cannot weigh Roland’s individual circumstances in his ruling.  Roland faces permanent exile, despite this being his only offense, and despite being the sole breadwinner of his family, an active member of his community, and the son, husband and father of U.S. citizens.

IDP is proud of our and our colleagues’ many achievements over the past year, yet we are humbled and troubled by the challenges that lie ahead. The US has seen a staggering 2 million people deported in the past 5 years alone – we can’t tolerate the exile of more people like Roland. IDP is redoubling its efforts in the fight for basic fairness in our criminal and immigration systems in 2014, and we hope we can count on your continued partnership once again. To face the uphill battle that lies ahead, we need you to help us grow our movement that is inclusive of all immigrants – on the federal, state and local fronts. We know that it will take the full force of our community behind us to enact our vision for a more just, humane and fair system for immigrants accused and convicted of crimes.  We hope you will continue to be a vital part of it.

As 2013 draws to a close, we embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and look forward to welcoming in a new era of leadership at IDP. We honor the vision of Manny Vargas that led to the founding of IDP 16 years ago, and the fearless leadership of Marianne Yang, Joanne Macri, Benita Jain, and Michelle Fei. We eagerly await the next chapter in IDP’s history.

Your continued partnership, now more than ever, will ensure that the consequences of criminal convictions for immigrants do not result in a double, and disproportionately harsh, penalty. We must continue our ambitious work to keep immigrant families and communities whole. Please consider making a year-end donation now to IDP so that, together, we can continue this critical fight.

With very best wishes to you, your family and your community this New Year,

Alisa Wellek

Interim Executive Director

On behalf of Mizue Aizeki · Benita Jain ·  Dawn Seibert ·  Manny Vargas  ·  Isaac Wheeler

P.S. One great way to maximize your tax-deductible donation is to become a monthly sustainer.  Your thoughtful gift will fund our work every month to ensure fairness for all immigrants. 

P.P.S. To contribute by check, please send to a check payable to “Fund for the City of NY – IDP” to Immigrant Defense Project, 28 W. 39th Street #501, New York NY 10018