What's at Stake

When the government has the power to deny legal rights and due process to one vulnerable group, everyone’s rights are at risk. The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project is dedicated to expanding and enforcing the civil liberties and civil rights of immigrants and to combating public and private discrimination against them.

Using targeted impact litigation, advocacy, and public outreach, the ACLU protects the rights and liberties of immigrants. For more than 25 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of almost every major legal struggle on behalf of immigrants’ rights, focusing on challenging laws that deny immigrants access to the courts, impose indefinite and mandatory detention, and discriminate on the basis of nationality. In addition, we have challenged constitutional abuses that arise from immigration enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels, including anti-immigrant “show me your papers” laws at the state level and unconstitutional enforcement tactics by the federal government and local agencies.

Current Issues

Immigrants' Rights and Detention

Our immigration detention system locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers. Recently, mothers and children, who are mainly asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America, have been detained in family detention centers.

ICE and Border Patrol Abuses

In recent years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained and deported record numbers of people from the United States. Many of ICE’s removal tactics take away even the right to a fair hearing in court, as the government rushes to judgment and tries to ram people through a rubber-stamp system that ignores individual circumstances. These enforcement programs pose a variety of threats to civil liberties: They implicate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the constitutional guarantee of due process, and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and freedom from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.

Road to Citizenship

The ACLU believes that all immigration reform must create a welcoming roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans living in and contributing to the United States. Fundamental fairness as guaranteed by the Constitution requires that these individuals be brought within the legal embrace of U.S. citizenship. The United States must protect the rights of workers vulnerable to abuse, including temporary workers (or guest workers) and unauthorized workers; end state and local intrusions into immigration policy and enforcement; and ban racial profiling at all levels of government.

Deportation and Due Process

The immigration system contains an unnecessary and unconstitutional lack of rights that is unheard of in the criminal justice system. No one should be in immigration detention without a constitutionally adequate bond hearing in which the government bears the burden of showing that detention is necessary—to protect against danger to the community or flight risk—and that no alternative release conditions would suffice.

State and Local Immigration Laws

The ACLU and its partners have prevailed at getting discriminatory laws in states, cities, and towns across the country overturned and will keep fighting to ensure that such laws stay off the books. These laws, inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070, invite rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others presumed to be “foreign” based on how they look or sound. These laws also authorize police to demand papers proving citizenship or immigration status from anyone they stop and suspect of being in the country unlawfully.


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