How the Immigration System Makes Legal Representation Difficult

How the Immigration System Makes Legal Representation Difficult

A recent Slate article illustrates the fact that one of the most problematic aspects of providing legal representation for an immigrant in deportation proceedings is simply locating him or her. As it is currently designed, the immigration system is not designed to be user-friendly, transparent, or fair; rather, it makes legal representation as difficult and confusing as possible. Therefore, it is not hard to see why only about 14% of the almost 300,000 cases involving detained immigrants have legal representation each year. Individuals facing immigration court proceedings have no right to counsel, despite the almost certain gravity of these proceedings and the fact that they may be children or even infants brought to the U.S. by their parents. These immigrants are left to hire their own attorneys, despite the fact that they almost always are unable to hire counsel. Volunteer lawyers for this population are scarce, and it is an extremely lucky immigrant who receives free or low-cost legal help in immigration court. To make matters worse, the individual is likely to be terrified of appearing in court and unable to speak the language. Although the court does provide a translator, it can still be difficult to truly understand what’s happening. Other barriers to legal representation are inherent in the immigration system. Immigration officials take detainees to detention centers that are often hours away from their homes. They have no right to make a telephone call, even to his or her attorney, without first making an appointment, which can be changed at will, often without notice. Visitation restrictions also are severe and detainees are allowed a maximum of 45 minutes per week. Some detainees receive “reasonable fear” interviews if they have grounds for humanitarian relief; however, some detainees who theoretically are entitled to such an interview don’t receive one and don’t even know when or if one is scheduled. Lawyers for detainees tend to fare no better in attempting to contact their clients or find out important elements of the case. The only way to determine if there is a bond for the lawyer is to talk to the responsible Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, but the agent will only speak with the lawyer if he or she faxes paperwork signed by the client to ICE. Even then, repeated phone calls to ICE often go unanswered, and ICE will transfer detainees from one facility to the other without giving lawyers notice of the whereabouts of their clients. The transfer often has no rhyme or reason, and may even be a facility that is farther away or that bears no relation to the location of any immigration court proceedings. Although a website is available to help individuals determine where an immigrant has transferred, it is not updated in a timely fashion, and, at times, has no correct information. In many cases, a detainee will become so frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation that he or she will sign a voluntary deportation order, which will result in the individual’s immediate removal from the country. Although legal representation is crucial for immigrants facing deportation, it is not always easy to obtain. Nonetheless, we are dedicated to providing you with the essential legal representation that you need in this type of situation. We devote all of our efforts to advocating on behalf of you and your family before the immigration court. Don’t hesitate to contact the Bay Area immigration lawyers of Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C., and set up your legal consultation today. We are here to help.
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