Trump administration suspends immigrant legal advice program

The Trump administration is suspending a program that provides legal advice for undocumented immigrants, a Justice De...

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 5:20 AM
Updated: Apr 12, 2018 5:20 AM

The Trump administration is suspending a program that provides legal advice for undocumented immigrants, a Justice Department official confirmed Wednesday.

Immigrant advocacy groups immediately were concerned that the move could be an attempt to undercut the rights of immigrants pursuing the ability to stay in the US.

According to an official with DOJ's Executive Office for Immigration Review, the body that runs the immigration courts, the agency has "paused" the General Legal Orientation Program, which advises detained immigrants of their rights, and an immigration court help desk program that non-detained aliens can call into. The programs receive about $8 million annually, the official said.

The Legal Orientation program was created under President George W. Bush in 2003. Unlike in the criminal justice system, immigrants are allowed to have legal counsel but the government is not obligated to provide it, so many undocumented immigrants have no legal help as they argue their case to stay in the US.

A 2012 audit by the Justice Department found, consistent with previous studies, that the program actually reduced the length of immigration court cases and detention, saving the government nearly $18 million.

The Washington Post first reported the decision to pause the program.

The program is administered through outside groups and works with nonprofit organizations to provide immigrants with presentations, workshop sessions and referrals to potential pro bono legal services.

Advocates and those who work to represent immigrants immediately decried the move as a threat to due process rights.

"The Department of Justice's decision to lapse the Executive Office of Immigration Review's Legal Orientation Program is a shockingly bad decision that will harm our country," Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, and Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said in a statement.

The move follows other recent efforts by the Justice Department to, in their words, expedite the proceedings in the immigration courts to cut down on the extensive backlog of cases, which result in some immigrants living in the US for years while they await their fate.

Most recently, the Justice Department announced it expected immigration judges, who are not independently appointed but rather selected and overseen by the attorney general, to complete a set number of cases each year, the equivalent of roughly three to five cases per day.

"The termination of this vital program is the latest in series of new policies and announcements from DOJ that are nothing less than an assault on due process and fundamental fairness," said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The American Bar Association also criticized the move, saying the group is "deeply disturbed" by it and said it seemed the decision to suspend the funding was made "arbitrarily."

The General Legal Orientation Program is the largest of five Legal Orientation Programs that DOJ runs. Three are still in place.

"They're both being paused in order to conduct an internal audit and review of their effectiveness," the Justice Department official said. "The General Legal Orientation Program has not had one of these done in six years. The other is a newer program so a general review has never been done."

The official said that immigration judges already are required to provide some information to immigrants about their rights and that they can possibly find pro bono legal service providers during proceedings.

The three programs not affected by the audit-related suspension are a program for custodians of unaccompanied minors, a different national call center and a program that offers assistance to people that EOIR has determined are legally incompetent, the official said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307094

Reported Deaths: 7086
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20729248
Hinds19851407
Harrison17465302
Rankin13297275
Jackson13090243
Madison9876210
Lee9849169
Jones8288160
Forrest7511146
Lauderdale7170237
Lowndes6256144
Lamar609684
Lafayette6020117
Washington5278132
Bolivar4768129
Oktibbeha455097
Panola4430103
Pearl River4414139
Warren4277118
Marshall4262100
Pontotoc416372
Monroe4055131
Union403275
Neshoba3979176
Lincoln3870107
Hancock371584
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329289
Tate322181
Pike3170104
Scott310172
Yazoo304168
Alcorn297464
Itawamba296576
Copiah292463
Coahoma289277
Simpson287384
Tippah284568
Prentiss275259
Marion265479
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Covington254380
Grenada254382
Adams245882
Newton244659
George237646
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186371
Clay182354
Stone178631
Clarke176475
Tallahatchie175140
Calhoun163130
Smith158534
Yalobusha158536
Walthall130443
Greene129333
Lawrence126123
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120726
Amite119940
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102425
Claiborne101230
Benton97225
Kemper95026
Humphreys94332
Franklin81523
Quitman78516
Choctaw72816
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64427
Sharkey49517
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518234

Reported Deaths: 10686
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson752631485
Mobile37687797
Madison33784490
Tuscaloosa25231442
Montgomery23928563
Shelby23088237
Baldwin20600300
Lee15491165
Calhoun14270311
Morgan14135268
Etowah13657344
Marshall11941219
Houston10373277
Elmore9979200
Limestone9797146
Cullman9458188
St. Clair9419234
Lauderdale9196227
DeKalb8733181
Talladega8035168
Walker7083275
Jackson6751110
Autauga6710103
Blount6475134
Colbert6199129
Coffee5394112
Dale4764110
Russell426837
Franklin419782
Chilton4076109
Covington4054113
Tallapoosa3895147
Escambia387374
Dallas3523149
Chambers3496122
Clarke346160
Marion3064100
Pike305375
Lawrence295095
Winston272271
Bibb256158
Marengo248560
Geneva245875
Pickens232958
Barbour224555
Hale218775
Butler211866
Fayette208860
Henry187744
Cherokee181843
Randolph176341
Monroe171140
Washington163838
Macon154548
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124326
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter103032
Coosa98827
Greene90834
Choctaw58624
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