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Comprehensive immigration reform must protect the human rights of asylum seekers and immigrants

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center welcomes the White House announcement that President Obama will take up comprehensive immigration reform this year. A longtime supporter of fair and humane immigration policies, President Obama has kept his campaign pledge to begin to fix our nation's broken system.

In addition to resolving the complex issues surrounding the undocumented population, the National Immigrant Justice Center urges the White House and Congress to modify current punitive laws and policies that deprive immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers of due process and fair treatment. Any comprehensive immigration reform must ensure that:

  • All immigrants who face deportation have the opportunity to speak with a judge
  • Asylum seekers who come to this country are not detained while seeking protection
  • The immigration detention system is reformed to ensure it is transparent, humane, and used only when necessary, relying to a much greater extent on non-custodial alternatives to incarceration.

“A comprehensive immigration reform package must protect the human rights of asylum seekers and immigrants, who all too often endure substandard or even deadly conditions in detention,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center.

The broad outlines of an Obama plan that have been discussed publicly thus far signify a commitment to address some of the most pressing issues, including a program to bring undocumented immigrants into regular status. Such a program would increase national security, preserve family unity, and restore the historical role of the United States as a nation that welcomes immigrants and their entrepreneurial spirit. This program also would yield significant economic benefits: while many immigrants without documentation pay payroll taxes, they do not pay federal or state income taxes. Providing a path to legalization for these men and women would yield additional revenue through these income taxes.

The Obama Administration has demonstrated its commitment to work toward these due process and detention reforms. The National Immigrant Justice Center looks forward to working with the White House and Congress as they debate future policy and develop legislation.

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit