FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2022
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NATIONWIDE – This week, leaders of migrant communities are meeting with congressional representatives and senators across the U.S., asking that they support funding in the 2023 fiscal year budget that would guarantee everyone a fair shot in immigration courts.
Under federal law, those facing deportation have the right to an attorney — but the law does not guarantee that the government will pay for an attorney for people who cannot afford one. Without an attorney, it is nearly impossible for people to navigate complex immigration laws by themselves. Nationwide, 56 percent of all people appearing in immigration court lack legal counsel — even though those who have an attorney are five times as likely to obtain relief.
“People deserve to have an attorney defending them in court, and an interpreter in the language they best understand, regardless of their income, race, language, or migration status,” said Luis López Reséndiz of CIELO, an LA-based non-profit that advocates for local Indigenous communities. “No one should have to show up in court, frightened and confused, without access to legal counsel and a fair shot at arguing their case.”
Activists met with eight congressional representatives and senators in Maryland, Minnesota, California, and Illinois, asking that they support including $400 million in the Justice Department’s FY2023 budget, to fund legal representation for people facing deportation. Another 20 senators expressed support for this funding in a letter published earlier this week; signatories included Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), and others.
“We need Congress to commit to providing the Justice Department with no less than $400 million, in order to guarantee that anyone facing deportation will have access to legal defense,” said Giselle Rodriguez of Illinois Workers in Action (IWA). “Our courts should uphold due process and fairness for all, not just for those who can afford to pay for an attorney.”
The migrant-led activist groups leading this week of action include: Association of Guatemalans Without Frontiers (Asociación Guatemaltecos sin Fronteras) of Maryland; COPAL of Minnesota; CIELO and CARECEN-LA of California; and the Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), Illinois Workers in Action, the Center for Immigrant Progress, and Centro Romero of Illinois.
“The stakes are high for those in immigration court: they risk being separated from their families and forced to return to dangerous conditions,” said Carlos Lam of Association of Guatemalans Without Borders. “No one should be deported simply because they don’t have the money to hire legal defense. If Members of Congress are committing to making our justice system more equitable, they should approve at least $400 million in Justice Department funds to guarantee legal representation for those facing immigration proceedings.”
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