This federal suit, filed in Miami District Court, sought to compel CBP to produce comprehensive documents regarding detention conditions at all short-term holding stations located in the Rio Grande Valley and resulted in the production of thousands of pages of substantive information over a period of several years. Additionally, AI Justice negotiated compensation for attorney fees and costs. A recent American Immigration Council report, "Hieleras (Iceboxes) in the Rio Grande Valley Sector: Lengthy Detention, Deplorable Conditions, and Abuse in CBP Holding Cells," was based in large part on the quantitative data obtained through this litigation.
In February 2016 AI Justice, along with co-counsel Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt, P.A., settled a landmark Federal Tort Claims Act case on behalf of Alba Quiñonez Flores challenging the inhumane conditions of her detention in multiple holding stations operated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southern Texas border. The holding cells are called hieleras (ice-boxes) because they are deliberately kept at low temperatures and are maintained in deplorable conditions. Ms. Quiñonez, like thousands of other immigrants detained by CBP every year, was held for several days in dirty, overcrowded cells with no mattress and denied access to proper medical care, clean drinking water, and basic hygiene products. AI Justice obtained a substantial monetary settlement of $80,000.00 on behalf of Ms. Quiñonez to compensate her for the damages suffered during her time in CBP custody. The suit, filed in New York District Court, also resulted in two precedent setting rulings regarding venue, which in the future should be instrumental in preventing the Government from forcing non-citizens to unnecessarily litigate cases far away from where they live.
AI Justice and fellow advocates mounted a successful 2013 campaign to end the use of the Immigration and Custom's Enforcement's Secure Communities program in Miami-Dade County. In October 2013, Miami-Dade became the first county in Florida to end its participation in the S-Comm program by refusing to allocate funding for the program.
The Secure Communities program has been the subject of AI Justice’s scrutiny since its inception. Through this program, biometric data of all persons arrested in the county is passed on to ICE, which runs the data through its databases and issues "detainers" for persons it wishes to take in to custody. Detainers routinely are issued prior to resolution of any criminal charges.
AI Justice was instrumental in the Obama Administration’s adoption in June 2012 of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to work and reside, at least temporarily, without fear of deportation. In April, Cheryl Little published an Op-Ed in The Miami Herald, Rubio proposal offers way toward Dream Act, arguing that the Executive branch had the authority to provide relief from deportation for the Dreamers. Shortly thereafter, she wrote a legal memorandum on the topic. She was among a small group that met with White House officials to explain their existing power to act just three weeks before DACA was announced.
Leader in fight for passage of DREAM Act. Represented the Trail of Dreams students who marched 1,500 miles to Washington, D.C. in 2010.
Partnered with Harvard University Law School to file a successful legal action before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect asylum applicants who flee by boat.
Testified on immigration issues before numerous national and international bodies, including the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration; the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights; The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission; The Organization of American States; and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Exposed deplorable conditions of Immigration detention in Florida’s Jackson County jail, which prompted a Justice Department investigation, a scathing report confirming detainee allegations, and the removal of all detainees from the jail.
Leader in Advocacy for Haitians. At the forefront of the fight for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, meeting with White House Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council members. Achieved the release of traumatized Haitian earthquake survivors in 2010 who had been detained by Immigration on arrival here though deportations were suspended at the time. Following a front-page story in The New York Times on their plight, some 60 Haitians nationwide were released that day.
Co-counseled one of the first lawsuits — National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders et al. v. Arizona — challenging Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law. Led the legal team prepared to sue the state of Florida had an anti-immigrant bill been approved in 2011.