Home » Legal representation matters: Program’s pro bono volunteers have won relief for 71% of immigrants

Legal representation matters: Program’s pro bono volunteers have won relief for 71% of immigrants

As previously discussed at Daily Kos, there’s a reason why federal immigration officials frequently block detained immigrant from legal help. When they’re able to access an attorney (which isn’t guaranteed in immigration court, by the way) they’re more likely to be released and win their case. “Detained immigrants without an attorney have only had about a 16% chance of winning relief and 13% chance of winning release this year,” AIC said.

AIC said that 200 volunteers have aided more than 550 immigrants across the nation. Three-hundred-and-thirty-five cases have been for non-detained individuals, while 221 cases have been for detained individuals across more than a dozen detention facilities.

“This small example of Justice Campaign clients and volunteers shows the immediate impact that pro bono work has on clients’ lives,” AIC said. “Without the dedication of our pro bono volunteers, many of these individuals would have had to move forward alone. Statistically speaking, that means most probably would have lost.”

Findings from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this past summer say Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials “have systematically restricted basic modes of communication between attorneys and detained immigrants,” in many cases by simply refusing to answer the phone.

“At least 58 ICE detention facilities do not allow attorneys to schedule phone calls with a detained client at a certain date and time,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Attorneys at nearly half of the 44 facilities for which we received attorney survey responses reported arbitrary delays or denial of access to their clients at the facility.”

When immigrants and attorneys are in theory allowed to meet, “respondents at several facilities reported that in-person visits do not take place in confidential settings, destroying attorney-client privilege.”

“Not only are these barriers to legal representation unconstitutional—they also increase the likelihood that people will be unlawfully held in prolonged detention or deported,” said ACLU’s National Prison Project Borchard Fellow and report author Aditi Shah. “In that regard, access to counsel can literally be a matter of life or death for people, either by virtue of being held in dangerous conditions for extensive periods or returned to the violence they fled.”


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November 2022