Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – US Newswire)–April 14, 2005–Making legal counsel more widely available to immigrants in removal (deportation) proceedings could increase efficiency, speed and fairness in America’s court system, as well as save the government money, concludes a report released today by the Migration Policy Institute.
The report by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank finds striking discrepancies in the outcomes of immigration proceedings, including more favorable outcomes for immigrants who secure legal counsel.
Among the key findings of “Revisiting the Need for Appointed Counsel,” by Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), are statistics from the Executive Office for Immigration Review showing:
— In 2003, more than half of non-citizens facing deportation (52 percent) lacked legal counsel.
— Represented, non-detained immigrants secured relief in more than a third of their cases (34 percent) in contrast with less than one-fourth (23 percent) of unrepresented immigrants.
Disparities in outcomes are more pronounced in political asylum cases.
— While 39 percent of non-detained asylum seekers who were represented received asylum, only 14 percent of those who were not represented did.
— For asylum seekers who were detained, 18 percent of those represented were granted asylum, compared with only three percent of those who did not have counsel.
The MPI report makes the case for increasing legal representation for immigrants who cannot afford it, observing that this would not only benefit immigrants in deportation proceedings (particularly those in detention), but would also promote consistent legal decision-making by the courts.
Kerwin highlights three models that the government could adopt or expand to increase legal representation:
1. a public defender-like system;
2. a pro bono legal representation model; and
3. a “legal orientation” program for detainees that could be modified for immigrants not in detention.
The report also identifies five ways that legal representation could be increased without significant federal funding, including changes in federal law and greater state and private support:
— Legislation could be enacted to remove the fee restriction on nonprofits who represent immigrants.
— Agencies funded by the Legal Services Corporation could be required and funded to provide representation in deportation proceedings.
— The Equal Access to Justice Act could be amended to award attorney’s fees and costs in removal proceedings in which immigrants and asylum-seekers are the “prevailing party.”
— States could provide representation to people in deportation proceedings.
— U.S. foundations and bar associations could increase their support for immigration legal services.
The report, the latest in MPI’s Insight series, is available on the Migration Policy Institute website at http://www.migrationpolicy.org.
To arrange an interview with Donald Kerwin, please contact him directly at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC). He can be reached at 202-635-5811.
For inquiries about the Migration Policy Institute, please contact Colleen Coffey at 202-266-1910.
Migration Policy Institute