ACLU of Maryland Launches Immigrants Rights Project

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
December 10, 2008 12:00 am

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First Action Seeks Information About Local Immigrant Policies


BALTIMORE – With the filing of Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests with local governments across the state to help gather information regarding local laws and policies towards immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today announced the creation of our first Immigrants Rights Project. The new initiative will be headed by Skadden Fellow Ajmel Quereshi, who will spend two years in the ACLU of Maryland’s office to address a broad range of legal issues affecting the rights of all immigrants in the state.

“We are proud to welcome Ajmel and to announce the launch of our Immigrants Right Project,” said Susan Goering, Executive Director for the ACLU of Maryland. “The ACLU believes that the U.S. immigration system is broken and it is the federal government’s responsibility to fix it. That is why our project will fight against local government initiatives that threaten public safety by targeting immigrant communities for dragnet detentions and harassment.”

In the last two years, there has been a rapid upsurge in the number and variety of local anti-immigrant ordinances around the country. In 2007, over 1500 such laws were introduced nationwide. They covered a range of topics: education, employment, identification, drivers’ licenses, law enforcement, legal services, housing, voting, and trafficking. Of these, 240 were passed. Maryland has not been exempt from this trend. Last year, Gaithersburg proposed an anti-loitering ordinance that would have prevented day laborers from seeking work. Frederick entered into a 287(g) agreement by which it agreed to use a number of its law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration law. In addition, in August Anne Arundel County began using local police to enforce an executive order requiring city contractors to comply with federal immigration law.

The ACLU of Maryland is concerned that similar laws may be on the horizon around the state. In addition, we are concerned that many counties already may be enforcing internal policies related to the treatment of immigrants who request social services or who police stop in public. Such policies further isolate and foster discrimination against immigrant communities, while raising serious state and federal constitutional questions. We hope that the MPIAs filed late yesterday will help us shed light on these policies, thereby beginning an examination of their impact and constitutionality.

“Maryland’s immigrant community adds richness and diversity to our state’s social fabric and strength to its economy,” said Quereshi. “Draconian measures which target immigrants not only tear away at immigrant families and communities, but hurt all members of society.”

Bio for Ajmel Quereshi: Ajmel joins the ACLU of Maryland as our brand new Skadden Fellow, focusing on immigrants rights issues. He is fresh from a stint as a judicial clerk to federal Chief Judge James Carr of the Northern District of Ohio, and already has a history in civil rights work and with the ACLU. Before going to law school he was an Investigator Fellow at the Public Defender Service in D.C., worked with the Advancement Project on issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline, defender services for juvenile offenders, and felon disenfranchisement, and worked at Amnesty International in its Domestic Human Rights Program, focusing on racial profiling in the wake of 9/11 and opposing extension of the PATRIOT Act. During his first year of law school, Ajmel was a law clerk at the ACLU of Minnesota, and during his first summer, he worked as a law clerk at the ACLU’s National Legislative Office, focusing on criminal justice issues. During his second summer (and into his third year), he worked with the ACLU’s National Legal Department on issues related to airline racial profiling, illegal wiretapping, and educational discrimination against Native Americans. That summer, he also worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ajmel is a 2007 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where he was Symposium Editor of the Journal of Law and Inequality, active in the Asylum Law Project, and Co-President of the Muslim Law Students Association.

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