A Right to Government Funded Counsel: A Proposal to Address Unrepresented Immigrants in Deportation Proceedings
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Earlier this year in January, in another blow to immigrant rights, the Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security could implement their new “public charge” ground of inadmissibility rule. This decision came at a time when US immigration policy is increasingly more punitive enforcement centered, with thousands of detained immigrants awaiting their day in court, without legal representation. The goal of this policy proposal is to eliminate the number of unrepresented immigrants in immigration court deportation proceedings and provide them with legal representation to adequately present their cases. The secondary goal is to as a result lower the overall rates of immigrants in detention and those that are deported nationwide. This objective will be accomplished through an amendment to Section 292 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Title 8 – Aliens and Nationality, U.S.C. 1362, Right to Counsel. In amending the section, the proposal will also allow for the creation of a new body, the federal New American Representation Office (NARO) to oversee and carry out this program. Versions of the present proposal have been successful at the local level in cities like New York, through the collaborative efforts of the municipality, non-profit organizations and pro bono attorneys. Despite political and legislative obstacles, it is imperative that policymakers recognize the importance of affording immigrants in detention government funded right to counsel, in the interest of family unity, due process and in an effort to cut insurmountable detention costs.