April 20, 2018
San Francisco, CA — On April 10, 2018, the federal Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which manages the national immigration court system, announced plans to end the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) at the end of April and the Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) Program at the end of July 2018. OneJustice vehemently opposes this action, which will have a devastating impact on immigrants and their families across the country trying to understand their rights and access basic fairness in immigration court.
Since its inception in 2003, the LOP has provided critical information and resources to immigrants (both detained and non-detained), including about how the immigration court process works and what recourse they may have to fight deportation. The LOP, managed by the Vera Institute of Justice, operates in 38 detention centers across the United States to reach over 50,000 immigrants – including in Los Angeles and San Diego. The ICH Program similarly provides legal advice to non-detained immigrants in courts in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York City, and San Antonio.
At their core, both programs are designed to ensure greater fairness in the immigration court system. For someone in detention and/or facing deportation, the legal process is often confusing and frightening – even if they may very well have a valid reason to halt their deportation, such as by seeking asylum. Family members seeking justice or answers regarding their loved ones find themselves equally at a loss. Since four out of five immigrants are unable to access legal representation, both programs provide a vital life line for people in detention and deportation proceedings. As the Vera Institute describes, “LOP empowers program participants to represent themselves if they have a valid claim under existing law or to determine that their best course is to accept deportation.”
Julia R. Wilson, OneJustice CEO, condemned the move by the DOJ. She stated: “In seeking to shutdown the LOP and ICH, the Department of Justice has demonstrated its cruel and callous commitment to bolstering the country’s deportation machine at the cost of immigrants’ due process rights.”
Beyond its purpose of ensuring fairness, the LOP has had a track record of increasing efficiency in the country’s overwhelmed immigration courts. It decreases the time people spend in detention, facilitates family unity, and saves the federal government millions of dollars. A 2012 study from the DOJ showed that the LOP created an annual net savings of $17.8 million dollars.
OneJustice stands in solidarity with Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project- Los Angeles and the American Bar Association Immigration Justice Project in condemning this cruel decision. Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project serves thousands of indigent individuals every year at Adelanto Detention Facility and at the help desk at the Los Angeles Immigration Court through both of these programs. The ABA Immigration Justice Project likewise serves clients seeking legal help in San Diego at the Otay Mesa Detention Center and in the Immigration Court in San Diego. (For a full list of LOP facilities in the United States, click here).
The DOJ’s action comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision that detained immigrants have no right to a bond hearing, and the Department of Justice’s newly-mandated quotas for immigration judges to speed up deportations. OneJustice calls on members of Congress to reject the DOJ’s proposed action and support constitutional rights for all people – regardless of immigration status.
We also urge you to call your Member of Congress to ask them to oppose the DOJ’s decision to suspend the LOP and ICH Programs (you can click here to find contact information for your members of Congress).
Immigrants in our community depend on these vital lifelines to information about their due process rights! Call your member of Congress today!
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