Founded in 1987 as the American Immigration Law Foundation, the American Immigration Council (AIC), is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group whose mission is to “strengthen America by honoring our immigrant history and shaping how Americans think and act towards immigration now and in the future.” Toward that end, AIC devotes its energies to: “educating citizens about the enduring contributions of America’s immigrants”; “standing up for sensible and humane immigration policies that reflect American values”; ”insisting that our immigration laws be enacted and implemented in a way that honors fundamental constitutional and human rights”; and “working tirelessly to achieve justice and fairness for immigrants under the law.”
AIC pursues these immigration-related agendas via four major programs:
1. The Immigration Policy Center is AIC’s research and policy arm. It produces reports and disseminates press releases in an effort to influence the opinions of lawmakers, the media, and private citizens vis à vis “the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society.”
2. The Legal Action Center (LAC) seeks to promote “fundamental fairness in U.S. immigration law” by engaging in impact litigation; making amicus curiae (friend of the court) appearances before administrative tribunals and federal courts in significant immigration cases; and providing resources to lawyers who litigate immigration cases.
Moreover, the LAC’s Litigation Institute serves as a training program (developed in partnership with the American Immigration Lawyers Association) for lawyers to develop their litigation skills. And the Center’s Litigation Clearinghouse is a forum where lawyers involved in immigration cases can brainstorm, share expertise and resources, and coordinate their respective efforts.
3. The Community Education Center provides classroom teachers with educational resources that “highligh[t] the positive contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to American society.” This Center also offers workshops that teach educators and community leaders how to effectively “integrate the subject of immigration into their communities, professional and educational spheres”; sponsors creative writing contests wherein participants seek to “educate the public about the benefits of immigration”; and awards bi-annual grants of $100 to $500 apiece to fund educational projects about immigrants and immigration.
4. The International Exchange Center acts as a conduit to facilitate the entry of foreign students and workers into the United States, and periodically organizes study tours to various cities around the world.
Post-9/11, AIC has characterized most of the U.S. government’s newly instituted immigration restrictions and anti-terrorism measures as xenophobic assaults on civil liberties. Claiming that contrary to “popular stereotypes” that have been exacerbated “in a post-9/11 climate of fear and ignorance where terrorism and undocumented immigration often are mentioned in the same breath,” AIC asserts that immigrants collectively commit crimes at lower rates than do native-born Americans. By logical extension, says the Council, higher levels of immigration tend to be associated with safer streets. In making this claim, AIC draws no distinction between immigrants from one country versus another, or between legal and illegal immigrants.
In 2010, AIC condemned the Arizona legislature’s passage of SB 1070, a bill deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects whose behavior or circumstances seemed to suggest that they might be in the United States illegally. By AIC’s reckoning, this “hate legislation” would be disastrous for Arizona’s economy because it would allegedly cost millions of dollars per year to enforce.
In January 2014, AIC lamented “the extent to which immigration enforcement resources are still devoted to apprehending, detaining, and deporting individuals who represent no conceivable threat to public safety or national security.” Specifically, the Council objected to the fact that “the overwhelming majority of people” deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement either had “no prior criminal record” or were guilty only of “misdemeanors punishable by less than one year in prison, [including] criminal convictions for immigration offenses.”
AIC is a member organization of the Immigration Advocates Network, along with such groups as the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.