Press Release

AALDEF Launches New Initiative to Challenge State and Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws


New York—The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 31-year old civil rights organization, announced today a new initiative to defend against local and state enforcement of immigration laws and released a new legal rights pamphlet for immigrants and their families, which will be available on the organizations website at

After September 11th and especially in recent months, many state and local entities in New York City and around the country have been drawn into the enforcement of immigration laws, departing from longstanding policies of deferring to the federal government on such issues. Recent examples include the passage of the Real ID Act by Congress, which requires states to take immigration laws into account as they issue drivers licenses; Mayor Bloomberg’s acknowledgment that New York City police officers erred by disclosing the immigration status of a crime victim, in violation of the privacy requirements of Executive Order 41; and testimony by NYPD officials before the New York City Council, admitting that officers routinely question non-citizens about their immigration status when they are arrested and disclose that information to federal immigration officials.

Local enforcement has been implemented in various ways, including direct cooperation between local government agencies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, questioning of immigrants regarding their status by state and local agencies in the provision of services and, in many instances, barring immigrants from accessing these services, and increased questioning of immigration status by police departments and other law enforcement authorities.

As a result of these policies, immigrants are deterred from accessing city and state services and cooperating with government agencies, such as police and fire departments, for fear of immigration consequences. Over the long term, such a lack of trust will inevitably lead to unsafe communities that are unable to participate effectively in civic life.

AALDEF will defend the rights of immigrants against local and state enforcement of immigration laws by doing community education and outreach, conducting advocacy at the federal, state and local level, and offering legal representation to individuals whose rights have been violated.

Organizations that would like to schedule a know your rights training, conduct outreach on this issue, or refer individuals in need of legal representation should contact AALDEF at 212.966.5932 for assistance.

This new initiative is supported by the Open Society Institute and is part of AALDEF’s Immigrant Access to Justice Project, which does organizing and outreach in partnership with community organizations and provides legal services to community residents affected by 9.11 in such areas as special interest detention, special registration, voluntary interviews by the government, the 9.11 absconder initiative, and post-9.11 detention and deportation.