In the summer of 1981, the U.S. government implemented a policy to detain all undocumented Haitians in the United States in detention centers in six states and in Puerto Rico. In a national class action suit filed by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, U.S. District Judge Eugene P. Spellman held that the governmental policy was not adopted in accordance with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. The court then invalidated the detention policy [Louis, et. al. v. Nelson, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service, et al., Case No. 81-1260-CIV-EPS (S.D. Fla. 1982)]. The approximately 2,000 Haitian refugees who were held in detention centers were then released. While the government announced it would appeal the decision, human rights and refugee rights groups – including the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for International Human Rights — organized a campaign to secure pro bono legal representation for the refugees. Lawyers helped at three stages of the process: to prepare asylum requests, to prepare and conduct hearings, and to prepare appeals. The Haitian Refugee/Alien Rights collection documents this significant collective effort. Publicly available materials include newspaper articles, reports, memos, as well as pleadings, briefs and other documents that were filed with the courts. We are currently working on an inventory of the collection. For access to the collection, please contact the NEJL.
Blog entry prepared by Courtney Snelling, LL.M., and Katharina Hering.