News

Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Voter I.D. Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Arizona's requirement that would-be voters submit proof of citizenship, the ABA Journal reports. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the law conflicted with the federal "motor voter" law, which allows individuals to register to vote without supplying proof of citizenship. The court also was unconvinced that the federal voter registration form needs to be changed to include additional information, which the state said it needed to determine a voter’s eligibility. But Scalia said the state could petition the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the form and then appeal any decision not to make changes.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented from the decision arguing that it interprets “an ambiguous federal statute in a way that brushes aside the constitutional authority of the states" since "under the Constitution, the states, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for members of Congress." Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU applauded the ruling saying it invalidated a burdensome requirement that restricted citizens' ability to register to vote." Writing at SCOTUSblog, however, one law professor warned the ruling should not be read too broadly as the case “involved a question of statutory construction, not a constitutional challenge."

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Tenn. Lawmakers Looking at Immigration Bill

Tennessee lawmakers are voicing varied opinions on Senate Bill 744 during debate on comprehensive immigration reform, the Tennessean reports. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander have questioned the border-security provisions, while Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, says the bill looks “promising.” Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, and Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, say they are skeptical of the Senate bill.

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Educators Push for Immigration Reform

Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent letters to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, urging their support for a bipartisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in the U.S. have a clear path to work in this country after graduation. The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

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Attorney’s Police Aspirations Evolved into Legal Career

Memphis native Shayla Purifoy had planned to become a police officer before deciding that the legal profession was the right fit for her. She began working on domestic violence cases through a general civil litigation clinic after taking a social welfare and policy course at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Now with Memphis Area Legal Services, Purifoy works with immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. “I just enjoy helping people,” she told the Memphis Daily News.

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Appeals Court: Jury Should Have Heard Shackled Pregnant Inmate Case

The case of a pregnant Nashville inmate who was shackled during labor is headed back to district court to be heard by a jury after a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that summary judgment granted in the case was inappropriate because there were disputed facts that needed to be decided by a jury. While the appeals court found that “shackling of pregnant detainees while in labor” violates the Constitution’s prohibition against “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” it said there are exceptions when a prisoner poses a danger or a flight risk. The court concluded that determining whether Juana Villegas posed a flight risk should have been decided by a jury not by a judge, Knoxnews reports.

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Education, Jobs, TennCare Top Chamber’s Priority List

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its 2013 state legislative agenda yesterday, identifying its top priorities for Tennessee lawmakers. The Nashville Business Journal reports that improving primary and secondary education topped the list in terms of importance, followed by job creation, support for the federally funded TennCare/Medicaid expansion, workers’ compensation reform and immigration reform.

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Immigration Attorney Finds Ideal Job with CLC

Johnna Bailey began working as immigration attorney for the Community Legal Center (CLC) in January, an ideal job for her given her nonprofit background. “It’s what I dreamed of returning to after law school,” she told the Memphis Daily News. After college, Bailey worked as a program coordinator for the family literacy program at a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. That inspired her to go to law school where she then served as an associate in a private immigration group. Now at the CLC, Bailey represents clients and trains lawyers to take on pro bono immigration cases. She said the Memphis legal community has been willing and eager to help when called.

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Senators Announce Principles to Guide Immigration Overhaul

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has reached agreement on principles that could serve as the basis for sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. The outline calls for creating a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants in the country, securing the border, establishing a better tracking system for visa holders, creating a more secure employment verification system, reforming the green card program, and creating an agricultural worker program. Knoxnews.com has more on the proposal.

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Memphis Lawyer Sees Hope for Immigration Reform

Political and economic trends are telling Memphis immigration lawyer Greg Siskind that the likelihood of immigration reform is better than it has been in some time. The leader of the Siskind Susser law firm and national commentator on immigration law, Siskind told The Memphis Daily News that the role Latinos played in the recent election and the need for skilled immigrants in some areas of the economy make this a politically ideal time to pursue immigration reform.

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Immigration Top Priority for Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee will dedicate most of its time this spring to comprehensive immigration reform including changes for technology companies and agricultural businesses, committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said Wednesday. The Blog of the Legal Times reports that the committee will begin public hearings next month. Leahy also stated the committee will continue oversight of the nation's counterterrism efforts and protecting civil liberties, including the administration’s use of drones abroad as well as in the U.S.

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Williamson Sheriff Settles Immigrant Detention Suit

A federal suit accusing the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office of illegally holding suspects while deputies determined their immigration status has settled after the judge overseeing the case ruled that the county was obligated to hold the suspects on a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With that opinion, the Tennessean reports, the city opted to make a small settlement rather than pursue a jury trial. Six plaintiffs will receive $2,500 in damages, while an additional $7,000 in attorney’s fees will be paid.

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Court: Sheriff Can Perform Immigration Duties

The Davidson County Sheriff’s office did not violate Metro Charter or other state laws when it contracted with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to perform immigration enforcement duties, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today. The court ruled against plaintiffs Daniel Renteria- Villegas, David Gutierrez-Turcios and Rosa Landaverde, who challenged the agreement arguing that only the Chief of Police has authority under the Charter to provide immigration enforcement. Read the full opinion.

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Feds Step Up Effort to Combat Crime Against Memphis Area Hispanics

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton joined Latino leaders in Memphis Monday to announce a partnership to attack crime against the Hispanic community, the Commercial Appeal reports. Regional Mexican Consul David Manuel Preciado Juarez came from Little Rock to express his support for strengthening relations between law enforcement and the region's more than 700,000 Hispanic residents.

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Judge Orders Legal Fees in Shackling Case

U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. issued an order today demanding that the Nashville government pay $1.1 million in fees and other expenses to Juana Villegas, who, in 2008, was shackled to a hospital bed hours before giving birth. Last August, a jury awarded Villegas $200,000 for having her rights violated. Metro government appealed the award and there is a hearing on the case next month. The order today is limited to legal fees and expenses. Haynes also certified Villegas' application for a special visa created to protect undocumented residents who are crime victims. The Tennessean has more.

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MTSU Constitution Day Celebration Includes Naturalization Ceremony

About 300 people took the oath to become Untied States citizens yesterday at Middle Tennessee State University during a Constitution Day celebration, News Channel 5 reports. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe B. Brown held court session in the university gymnasium, while Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade served as guest speaker.

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Immigration Law Leads to Spike in Records Requests

The recent change in federal immigration policy is causing a surge in transcript requests from Metro Nashville schools, officials believe. Undocumented immigrants need to prove their school record as part of new rules that allow those who entered the country illegally as children to remain and work without fear of deportation for at least two years, WPLN reports. “We expected some requests, but we really had no idea of the volume that was going to take place," Taffy Marsh, director of Metro’s records center said. "So we have hired five temporary employees to help us process that volume. … We have a 10-day turnaround time right now, and we are barely managing that."

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Judge OKs Arizona Immigration Law

A federal judge has ruled that Arizona authorities can enforce the most contentious part of the state’s immigration law, which has been dubbed the "show me your papers" provision. The ruling clears the way for police, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally. The requirement has been at the center of a two-year legal battle that culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June upholding it. According to WDEF News Channel 12, opponents then filed another suit to block the law, arguing it would lead to racial profiling. The governor's office says the law will go into effect shortly.

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An Immigrant Lawyer’s Story

By Mohammad A. Syed*

There are many immigrant attorneys in the U.S. like myself.   After almost 12 years of law practice with private law firms in both D.C. and Nashville, I have recently started my law firm and focus, in part, on immigration matters.  As I write this, I am still feeling the joy of my very own recently filed application for U.S. citizenship.  This is an important milestone in my life and a good time to share my own immigration journey.

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Knoxville Considers 287(g) Program Amid Protests

On the heels of Nashville law enforcement deciding to withdraw from the federal 287(g) program, Knoxville Sheriff J.J. Jones reportedly is considering adopting the program, which checks the immigration status of those booked into local jails. Jones said he would meet with a group opposed to the program before making a final decision about whether to adopt it. WBIR.com reports on the program and protest that took place there this week.

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Nashville Will Stop 287(g)

Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall said today that he will not renew the 287(g) program when it expires in October. The program became an issue for the courts when Nashville attorney Elliott Ozment sued Hall's office on behalf of three legal residents who were screened and detained, claiming it does not have the authority to participate in that program under the Metro Nashville government charter. The Tennessee Supreme Court has heard arguments, and both sides are awaiting a decision in the lawsuit. Hall said today he will replace 287(g) with a program, Secure Communities, in which the fingerprints of detainees are sent electronically to federal agents who can check immigration status. WSMV has video

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Immigrants Line Up for Permits; Tenn. Training Set

Immigration attorneys across the country and in Nashville say their offices are overflowing with young undocumented residents, who, starting today can apply for a two year work permit. According to WPLN, immigrants who were brought across the border by their parents can apply for temporary legal status if they can show they have stayed out of legal trouble, lived in the U.S. continuously and earned a high school diploma or GED.

TRAINING FOR LAWYERS: Attorneys in Tennessee who would like to help these individuals apply for relief can take advantage of two upcoming training sessions. Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors (JFON), in cooperation with Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will offer training on Aug. 22 and 23. At the urging of its Immigration Law Section, the TBA is hosting the Aug. 23 session and will videotape the program for JFON to use in future training. For more information about the training or subsequent clinics contact Adrienne Kittos at adrienne-tnjfon@gmail.com or (615) 788-0774. Download a brochure to learn more

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Training Offered for Immigration Clinic Volunteers

Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors (JFON), in cooperation with Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will offer training for volunteers who would like to help young immigrants apply for relief under the so-called “deferred action” program implemented by the Obama Administration. The program offers two years of protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and who meet specific requirements. Training will be held Aug. 22 and 23. At the urging of its Immigration Law Section, the TBA is hosting the Aug. 23 session and will videotape the program for JFON to use in future training. For more information about the training or subsequent clinics contact Adrienne Kittos at adrienne-tnjfon@gmail.com or (615) 788-0774. Download a brochure

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Pennsylvania Judge Gives Boost to Voter ID Law

A Pennsylvania judge today rejected a preliminary injunction request over a state voter-identification law, saying opponents would likely fail to show that the measure violates the state constitution. His ruling sets the stage for an expected appeal to the state Supreme Court, according to the Wall Street Journal. The law in question requires Pennsylvania voters to present a state-approved photo ID, such as a driver's license, at the polls on Nov. 6. Opponents of the law say it would disproportionately impact poor urban voters. Supporters say it is necessary to combat voter fraud.

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ABA House Tackles Range of Issues

The ABA House of Delegates considered a range of issues during its meeting yesterday and today in Chicago. Topping the agenda was changes to model ethics rules recommended by the Commission on Ethics 20/20. Among those proposals were changes to help younger lawyers facing a tough job market, rules for online client communications and rules for dealing with electronic files and metadata. The commission did not take a position on nonlawyer ownership of law firms, and delegates voted to postpone that issue indefinitely. Other action items included approving stricter standards on law school marketing, opposing laws that prevent physicians from talking to patients about gun ownership and safety, calling for a ban on religious profiling, calling on lawmakers to extend the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse crimes, calling for criminal defense lawyers to help clients with civil and nonlegal problems, adoption of rules governing conflicts checks when law firms merge or lawyers move to new employment, and adoption of new civil immigration detention standards.

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ACLU Launches Immigrants Rights Campaign

In response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, the ACLU of Tennessee has launched an initiative designed to help immigrants understand their rights in the justice system. The centerpiece of the effort is an online “Immigrant Rights Resource Center,” with bilingual information on how to prepare for interactions with law enforcement. ACLU-TN is publicizing the center with the distribution of posters in Spanish and English to social service agencies, businesses and churches across the state. Read more from the group

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