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New toolkit sheds light on lesser known immigration remedies

Private bills and deferred action covered by leading law firms and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights

Today, Duane Morris LLP, Maggio + Kattar, and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights released a toolkit for practitioners on two significant but lesser known immigration remedies, private bills and deferred action. 

Every year, thousands of noncitizens with compelling circumstances are deported from the U.S. because the immigration law provides them with no opportunity to seek relief from deportation. These cases include individuals who are green card holders and/or who live with U.S. citizen family members, those who have been gainfully employed inside the United States, those serving as a primary caretaker or breadwinner for their family, those serving in the military, and those who may suffer from a serious medical condition. Congress' tightening of the immigration laws in 1996 has created this situation where deserving immigrants cannot get a hearing on the merits of their worth to their U.S. citizen family or community. Even well-meaning officials and immigration judges are often powerless to help people who they view as meritorious. For this population, the only options left are to venture beyond traditional forms of relief and to seek extraordinary measures such as passing a private bill through Congress or imploring the immigration agency to grant deferred action or some other form of prosecutorial discretion. Currently, there is a dearth of materials and information about the process and general eligibility requirements for obtaining such relief.

Tools included in the kit

Developed to help immigration judges, lawyers, public officials, and nonprofit groups navigate what has become a last-resort option for those facing deportation, the toolkit includes the following: 1) “Best Practices” from attorneys around the country; 2) summary of the laws and procedures governing deferred action and private bills; 3) sample letters of support, exhibit lists and legal briefs; and 4) a resource page. Under the supervision of the Center’s director, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, law students Linnea Ignatius and Nicole Comstock reviewed and researched legal standards and policies pertaining to private bills and deferred action, and also collected and analyzed related information from private attorneys.

“Having served as an immigration attorney for more than 30 years, I have witnessed and represented a breathtaking number of hardworking fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and soldiers who have been deported and exiled forever from their families and communities because they have no legal options. This toolkit is a must-use resource for helping families stay together,” said Denyse Sabagh, a partner at Duane Morris, LLP.

“The students did a great job in mining a difficult area of immigration law and producing a comprehensive work product that can be used by practitioners and advocates around the nation. The importance of this toolkit is even more pronounced in light of a legislative stalemate in Congress to advance broad immigration reforms, and the renewed pressure on the executive branch to exercise its prosecutorial discretion in a more robust and consistent manner,” said Wadhia.

“We are excited to release this very important resource for advocates, immigrants, and others seeking justice for their clients, neighbors, families, and friends who have compelling reasons for remaining in the United States. There has been such little information on private bills since the release of my book in 2008 and the toolkit will be invaluable to persons seeking Congressional assistance in passing a private bill," said Anna Gallagher, a shareholder at Maggio & Kattar.

“Creating this toolkit was a very rewarding experience. It afforded me the opportunity to speak with professionals in the field about the challenges they face and the chance to offer assistance to others who will face similar challenges. Participating in this project also provided me with insight into the lives of individuals who could benefit from substantial changes in immigration policy and has inspired me to pursue a career in the field of immigration law,” said Comstock.

View Private Bills and Deferred Action Toolkit 
View Toolkit Appendix A through K
View Toolkit Appendix L through R 
Toolkit Sample Documents

About the Law School

With a $150 million investment in new faculty appointments, signature facilities, and exciting new clinics, Penn State University Dickinson School of Law is preparing its students to engage in a lifetime of advocacy, counseling, and service on both the national and international stages. Penn State Law was formed from a merger in 2000 of the Dickinson School of Law - founded in 1834 in Carlisle, PA - and one of the world's great research institutions, Penn State University.

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