Two undocumented immigrants from Connecticut Wednesday dropped their civil rights lawsuit against federal officials in return for being allowed to stay in the U.S.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo.
The negotiated settlement was reached between U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Gabriel Villanueva-Ojanama of Hartford and Sebastian Manuel Castro Largo of Meriden.
As a result of the federal decision to drop deportation proceedings, the two men will be able to stay with their families in Connecticut, according to students from the Worker & Immigration Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. Law students from the clinic represented the men in their federal lawsuit.
Both men were arrested by Connecticut police in separate incidents in 2011 and convicted of motor vehicle offenses in state courts. They were turned over to ICE agents as a result of federal “detainers” under a controversial program called Secure Communities.
Critics of the program charge that tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants have been unfairly deported despite never having committed any serious crimes. The Obama Administration has claimed the Secure Communities deportations were intended to target only felony criminals such as drug dealers and rapists.
The 2013 lawsuit filed by the two Connecticut men charged those federal detainers were administrative notices that failed to meet legal requirements for a warrant, and violated the civil rights of Villanueva-Ojanama, 37, and Castrol Largo, 34.
“I’m grateful that ICE agreed to terminate my case and recognized how serious and difficult my experience was,” Villanueva-Ojanama said in a prepared statement. “I’m glad I can now put this behind me an continue to live here and support my family.”
The U.S. Senate has just given its approval to a major immigration overhaul bill that would beef up border security and give immigrants a way to get legal status in 10 years.
The bill passed 68 to 32, with some Republicans joining Democrats to send the bill forward. Reuters has the full story here.
The bill now goes to the House, where Speaker John Boehner is firm that he won’t let the bill come up. But the Connecticut delegation is already praising the bill and saying it should at least get a chance:
Jorge Ramos is a Mexican journalist and anchor on Univision. Fourth District Congressman Jim Himes relayed his message: “This is one of those wonderful days when America does the right thing and I am so proud. Great day for immigrants. history.”
Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy at an immigration roundtable held earlier this year.
An amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal is among hundreds of proposed changes to the landmark immigration bill, which Blumenthal and other senators on the Judiciary Committee will meet to markup Thursday.
Blumenthal’s measure, the “Little DREAMers” amendment, would entitle undocumented immigrant children who are too young under the current proposal to qualify for the DREAM Act provisions to a five-year path to citizenship.
“The Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation…should not exclude the littlest DREAMers – children brought to this country through no fault of their own who are too young to qualify for the five-year pathway to citizenship that the DREAM Act provides,” said Blumenthal.
The bill’s current provisions for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act – versions of which have been introduced in Congress for over a decade but failed to gain passage – provides a quick path to citizenship for students who entered the country at a young age, if they pursue an education or serve in the military. Youth who have not yet graduated from high school would not be covered under these provisions and would thus be required to follow the same path to citizenship as adults, which involves a much longer wait. The amendment Sen. Blumenthal introduced expands the DREAM Act provisions to include students under the age of 18.