Politics House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court
More people than ever need legal aid services. But legal aid groups are hurting for funds.
During Covid, requests for aid, particularly on housing and unemployment issues, have skyrocketed. Legal aid groups are stretched to the breaking point.Merrick and Otani were among thousands of people the legal aid group helped in the first few months of the pandemic. With so much of its economy dependent on tourism, Hawaii saw the largest increase in unemployment of any state last year and its unemployment system was plagued with phone backlogs and other delays, some still happening even a year into the pandemic.
A group of 48 House Democrats called on leaders in the Appropriations Committee to assign $75 million in funding to pay for legal representation for immigrants facing potential removal proceedings in immigration court.
In a letter led by Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), the lawmakers called on Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the panel, to fund expansion of a pilot program that provides legal representation to some unaccompanied minors and individuals with mental disabilities.
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For the most part, immigrants facing any kind of action in immigration court do not get any kind of government-funded legal representation, as immigration proceedings are not criminal proceedings.
But the consequences of judgements in immigration court can be devastating, separating families, as well as individuals from their work, businesses and possessions in the United States.
According to the American Immigration Council, detained immigrants with counsel are four times more likely to be released from detention, and only 37 percent of immigrants secure counsel.
"Legal representation is the most determinative factor in ensuring people facing removal have a fair day in immigration court. If represented by counsel, people are five times more likely to obtain legal relief compared to those who are unrepresented," wrote Torres.
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Torres added that representation has been shown to make cases flow more smoothly, which could help reduce the backlog in immigration courts - among other reasons because immigrants who secure representation are more likely to appear for their court dates.
"Studies of immigration court data over the past decade have found that people represented by counsel appear in court over 96 percent of the time," wrote Torres.
Immigration courts are not part of the judiciary, rather they are run by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review, through which the added funding would be funneled under Torres's plan.
"We support additional funding for the Executive Office for Immigration Review to expand legal representation programs to other vulnerable populations including, but not limited to, asylum seekers, families, people who speak rare languages, and those deprived of their liberty while awaiting their court hearings," wrote Torres.
In new Electoral College map, shifting battleground dynamics .
ATLANTA (AP) — The 2020 census is shifting states' clout in presidential politics. And while the changes won't upend Democrats' or Republicans' basic strategies for securing the votes needed to win the White House, they do hint at new paths emerging. The 2020 census population counts announced this week will result in 13 states seeing a change in their number of votes in the Electoral College, the body that formally elects the president. The overall pattern was clear: Rust Belt and upper Midwestern states will hand some of their votes to Sun Belt and Western states in 2024 and 2028.