most facing deportation are pro se


A frontpage article in yesterday’s Washington Post describes a worsening situation in immigration courts across the nation.  “Battling Deportation Often a Solitary Journey: Without Legal Assistance, Thousands Are Expelled Unfairly, Critics of System Say” (Jan. 8, 2007)  The Post emphasizes that “a growing number of people in immigration court have no legal counsel: Of more than 314,000 people whose cases ran their course in fiscal 2005, two-thirds went through on their own, or pro se.” It goes on to explain:

“In immigration courts, there are judges and prosecutors, evidence and witnesses. The consequences can be great: banishment, separation from family, perhaps persecution at home. But unlike in criminal courts, the government does not provide free lawyers for the poor.”

“That leaves respondents to navigate byzantine immigration law, the judges to walk them through it and, critics say, the courts to operate sluggishly and deport thousands unfairly.”

liberty  When faced with a respondent who has no counsel, “judges hand immigrants a list of charities that offer free or low-cost legal services.”  Although they can help, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, at the Justice Department has been facilitating and expanding pro bono efforts, “volunteer legal aid services are often overwhelmed and have to turn people away.”  For example, Alberto M. Benitez, a law professor who directs the George Washington University Immigration Law Clinic, “said he and the students he supervises must sometimes temporarily shut down their service, which operates only during the school year, to catch up.” 

Although there seems to be little hope that lawyers will be found for every person or family facing deportation, my quick search this morning did not uncover a lot of materials that might help pro se litigants in immigration courts.   Readers who know of such resources are urged to let us know about them, using the comment feature or by email. 

Here are a few possible sources of immigration help and information:




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