News Archive

Warren Institute Hosts Conference on Policies that Target Immigrants

Aarti Kohli
Aarti Kohli

By Andrew Cohen

Berkeley Law’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity will host a conference entitled “Beyond Arizona: Laws Targeting Immigrants in the U.S. and Europe,” on Monday, October 25 in the Goldberg Room.
The inter-disciplinary event convenes scholars and advocates to examine policies aimed at restricting migration—particularly efforts to criminalize migrants in the U.S. and Europe. Sessions will examine trends in restrictionist movements and policies; the political, cultural, and economic forces that have produced a backlash against immigrants; and responses to anti-immigrant movements such as litigation, boycotts, and government efforts.

Participants will share research information and how different actors are reacting to this trend; identify areas that need further research and analysis; and explore how to collectively protect and enhance immigrant communities’ civil rights amid the current climate. A schedule is available here.

Aarti Kohli, Director of Immigration Policy and Legislative Counsel at the Warren Institute, is one of the featured speakers. During the morning session that focuses on trends in restrictionist policies, she will give a presentation entitled “Good Cop, Bad Cop: Secure Communities and the Federal Role in Immigration Enforcement.” She notes, “Unfortunately, Arizona does not stand alone. There are increasing efforts by national governments to manage migration through their criminal justice systems. We are particularly concerned about how these laws impact the civil rights of people perceived to be immigrants.”

The Warren Institute and several Berkeley Law graduates have been on the front line of recent hot-button immigration issues—including Arizona’s SB 1070, the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in decades.

At the National Immigration Law Center, staff attorney Nora Preciado ’05 has worked with managing attorney Karen Tumlin ’04 and general counsel Linton Joaquin ’76 on the only class action lawsuit to stop SB 1070. “No fewer than five alumni or faculty members are listed on our complaint,” says Preciado, citing Harini Ragupathi ’07 and lecturer Lucas Guttentag, national director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. Those attending Monday’s conference will get a chance to hear Tumlin discuss the Arizona litigation.

Yungsuhn Park ’05, a staff attorney at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), has also engaged in impact litigation and policy advocacy focused on immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, consumer fraud, housing, and other civil rights issues. APALC is part of the diverse coalition of civil rights groups challenging SB 1070.

Park assisted with legal research for the preliminary injunction motion, and attended the oral argument of the motion in Phoenix. “I was able to observe how the passage of SB 1070 was impacting Arizona’s immigrant communities on the ground,” she says.

Tumlin and Park started at their respective organizations as Skadden Fellows, where they were funded to engage in immigrants’ rights and workers’ rights advocacy. “Karen has provided strong leadership for our team,” Park says. “Nora and I graduated in the same class at law school, and continue to support each other in our social justice work both in this case and beyond.”

Park thinks the courts will ultimately find SB 1070 unlawful, and Preciado calls it “an attack on people of color, citizen and non-citizen alike, who live in or travel to Arizona.” In filing the class action suit with other civil rights organizations, she says their collective aim is to end “this vicious attempt to strip immigrants of their basic, protected constitutional rights. The law is riddled with constitutional problems and a dangerous example of the current anti-immigrant sentiment in statehouses across the country.”

The Warren Institute has long tackled immigration issues. Recent projects have included:

• An analysis of arrest data showing that police in Irving, Texas began arresting Hispanics in far greater numbers for petty offenses once they had round-the-clock access to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as part of that organization’s program to deport serious criminal offenders. 

• A report on a Department of Homeland Security program that requires the federal criminal prosecution and imprisonment of all unlawful border crossers. The program, Operation Streamline, mainly targets migrant workers with no criminal history—and has resulted in skyrocketing caseloads in many federal district courts along the border.

• Working with the California Immigrant Policy Center and other organizations to understand the impact of enforcement issues in the state. That partnership created a survey of community-based groups to identify law enforcement practices that target suspected undocumented immigrants.

The institute will soon release a policy brief examining the impact of a proposed biometric identification card for all Americans.  In addition to examining whether this future national id will deter undocumented workers, the brief will include an empirical analysis of the enormous costs of creating this system.