ACLU to Argue Crucial Immigrants' Rights Case Before Supreme Court Tomorrow

April 23, 2001 12:00 am


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WASHINGTON–The fate of thousands of legal immigrants facing deportation is to be determined by two closely watched cases being argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow morning by the American Civil Liberties Union.

At stake is whether the federal courts have the power to review executive branch decisions regarding deportation of legal immigrants. In 1996, Congress adopted legislation that, the Attorney General argues, strips federal courts of their review powers. The ACLU has successfully challenged the law in more than two dozen federal appeals courts.

“These cases present fundamental questions about the rule of law under our system of government, and the answer to those questions will affect the lives of immigrant families who have been living here peacefully for years,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who will be arguing both cases, Calcano-Martinez v. INS, No. 00-1011, and INS v. St. Cyr, No. 00-767. the law to be retroactive, yet the government takes the extraordinary position that no court can review the Attorney General’s interpretation of what this complex immigration law means,” said Guttentag. “Throughout our nation’s history, even in times of hostility against immigrants based on their race or political beliefs, the Supreme Court has never permitted deportation of immigrants without access to the courts.”

Today, thousands of similarly situated legal permanent residents and their families anxiously await the outcome of these cases. Many of them are members of Citizens and Immigrants for Equal Justice (CIEJ), a coalition of American and legal resident families facing permanent separation due to the law, including:

* Charlie Jaramillo, 35, a construction contractor in West Chester, PA, who has lived here since he was 8 months old. His wife and two teenage children are United States citizens. He was handcuffed and arrested by the INS while applying for citizenship and now faces deportation to Colombia for pleading guilty in 1989 to a minor drug charge. He does not read or speak Spanish.

* Rick Siridavong, 25, of Springfield, VA, who has been a permanent legal resident since arriving here as a refugee from Laos in 1981. Both his parents and all seven siblings live here. He pleaded guilty to stealing a car radio with high school friends in 1995. He served probation and did 50 hours of community service, but was arrested after applying for citizenship in 1999 and spent five months in INS detention. He faces deportation to Laos.

* Danny Kozuba, 47, of Mesquite, TX, is a U.S. veteran, a commercial kitchen installation specialist, and a legal permanent resident since 1958. He served three years for possession of controlled substance and has been drug-free for a decade. He now faces deportation to Canada. His wife Laurie Kozuba founded CIEJ in response to the 1996 immigration laws.

In addition to Guttentag, attorneys in the case are Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinovitz, Jayashri Srikantiah, Ahilan Arulanantham and Liliana M. Garces of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project; Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU Legal Director; Paul A. Engelmayer and Christopher J. Meade of the law firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering; Kerry W. Bretz, Jules E. Coven and Alan Michael Strauss of the law firm Bretz & Coven; and Michael G. Moore of Springfield, MA.

Friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the ACLU’s position were filed by the American Bar Association, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a group of legal historians, among others.

The ACLU’s legal briefs in the cases are online at http://archive.aclu.org/court/calcano-martinez.pdf and http://archive.aclu.org/court/cyr.pdf.

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