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$125,000 Judgment Entered Against Laurel Police Officer in Public Strip Search Case

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The Committee Submits Written Testimony in Support of Sense of the Council Regarding Federal Immigration Raids Resolution of 2016 PR21-0617

Testimony of
Matthew K. Handley, Director of Litigation
Dennis Corkery, Senior Staff Attorney
Evelyn Nùñez, Paralegal

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in support of
Sense of the Council Regarding Federal Immigration Raids Resolution of 2016 

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (the “WLC”) thanks the council for its leadership in responding to the escalating fear felt by the DC immigrant community, who have been directly targeted by the pervasive nativist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has characterized political debates and policy over this past year.

Since 1978, the WLC’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project has assisted hundreds of immigrants enforce their civil rights in areas such as employment, housing, and interaction with law enforcement.  Many of the D.C. residents that we serve have previously fled violence in their home countries, seeking refuge and an opportunity to pursue a stable and calm life for themselves and their families. However, we all too often see those pursuits thwarted by discrimination and exploitation within the workplace, denial of payment for work performed, discrimination in accessing vital government benefits, racial profiling in interacting with local police, and more. Sadly, many members of our community believe that they can take advantage of individuals in our immigrant community because so many people in that community are unwilling or unable to speak out against such abuses out of fear of reprisal.  The WLC has fought to change this attitude through litigation and other advocacy aimed at rectifying these injustices.

One of the many challenges we already face in our work at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee is hesitation from clients and potential clients to come forward to report civil rights violations, whether that be from employers, landlords, or police. A large part of our work is spent affirming our clients that their civil rights are equally protected by the law, regardless of their national origin or documentation status. Any unduly aggressive intrusion by immigration authorities into our communities means that more immigrant residents will feel less inclined to come forward when their rights have been violated, and will only empower those who seek to violate their civil rights.  Unwarranted raids or increased unnecessary collaboration between immigration authorities and local law enforcement will only lead to a heightened sense of insecurity by the immigrant community that threatens not only the safety and well-being of migrant youth and families, but also our collective health as a city. Deterring unfair immigration enforcement strategies will also safeguard the mental and physical health of individuals who are fleeing circumstances of extreme and dire violence, and who would only be further traumatized by raids.

D.C. voters have made it unmistakably clear that they reject divisive and hateful policies of fear.  Previous mayors have made their position very clear in passing directives to prohibit police from asking about immigration status and limiting collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement in the Anti-Detainer Act of 2011. Following this history, it is very important the council take action to denounce raids and ensure D.C. continues fostering an atmosphere of security and sanctuary for immigrants.

Apart from taking these initial steps, we urge the Council to move forward with passing key legislation that would provider stronger protection to immigrant residents, including the D.C. Language Access for Education Act of 2015. Passage of this bill would provide a further safeguard for equal access to government agencies and educational opportunities for immigrant residents and their families.  Our city’s commitment to enforcing language access rights has been a great symbol of DC’s dedication to immigrant rights, and it is more important than ever that we ensure all limited English and non-English proficient immigrants have access to services they are entitled to receive. To that end, the Council should also resist calls for overly burdensome document requirements that deter immigrants from seeking such services.

There is much work that remains to be done to ensure all residents of D.C. can go through their daily lives free from harassment, free from being racially profiled, and free from being wrongfully detained or arrested. In the weeks following the election, we have already seen a dramatic spike in harassment of members of our Black, Muslim, and immigrant communities, and it is essential that we be poised as a city to publicly affirm we will not tolerate hate and discrimination. Moreover, this resolution makes it clear that we will not tolerate families being torn apart or valued members of our community being violently and forcibly displaced from a city they have chosen to call home. The WLC will continue to work to safeguard the civil rights of all members of the District and to enable our clients to emerge from the shadows. We support the Council’s efforts to do the same, and we look forward to more discussions on concrete actions the city can take to make D.C. a safe place to live and work for our immigrant communities.


Matthew K. Handley, Director of Litigation 
Dennis Corkery, Senior Staff Attorney
Evelyn Nùñez, Paralegal


Dennis Corkery, Senior Staff Attorney                                Matthew K. Handley, Director of Litigation

Evelyn Nùñez, Paralegal

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