The head of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review and a federal appeals court judge both support providing attorneys to illegal immigrants, often for free, greatly lowering their chances of being deported.
Juan Osuna, the DOJ official, and Robert Katzmann, chief judge for the second circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, discussed the divisive issue at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, the ABA Journal reports.
The moderator of the event, al-Jazeera America reporter Ray Suarez, framed the conversation.
“We know that you are many times more likely to be deported if you have no counsel,” Suarez said, according to the ABA Journal. “We know that the conditions under which you are held, the likelihood of access to outside help, and the reception of your petition gets variable treatment from sector to sector and courtroom to courtroom.”
Federal statistics back the moderator’s claim.
According to Syracuse University’s Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks immigration court statistics, between 2005 and 2014, 47 percent of unaccompanied children with legal representation were allowed to remain in the U.S. In only 10 percent of cases in which a child was not represented by counsel did a judge allow them to stay.
“It’s not just good for the people appearing before the courts to have counsel, it’s good for the system,” Osuna said, according to the ABA Journal. “Any judge will tell you they’d much rather have a lawyer involved from beginning of a case so it can move forward in an efficient and effective manner.”
Osuna cited a recent move by the Obama administration to provide unaccompanied children access to 100 attorneys and paralegals contracted through AmeriCorps.
As part of a $3.7 billion proposal to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children, the Obama administration called for $15 million to fund direct representation of unaccompanied children.
Over 60,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America, have been apprehended at the U.S. border this year. The unprecedented wave has left federal immigration agencies and immigration courts scrambling to keep up. The increased case load can be traced to a 2008 law the prohibits the immediate removal of unaccompanied children from countries that do not border the U.S. Instead, they must be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services while they await deportation proceedings. Some critics, however, say the president’s pro-amnesty rhetoric six years after that law was passed is the real reason the wave of minors hit so suddenly.
“In case after case, I could see the carnage that results when families and individuals don’t have adequate counsel,” Katzmann said.
“I always had a sense that if there had been a good lawyer involved from the beginning, then the outcome might have been different, and the family might not have been torn asunder,” Katzmann added, while providing his own statistics which showed the benefits of legal representation.
Some disagree with the idea of placing a priority on providing services to illegal immigrants over border enforcement.
“Instead of seeking money for lawyers for illegal aliens, the administration and Congress should be providing funding for enforcement officers to actually carry out the deportation orders that are issued by the judges and reduce the number of unexecuted orders of removal, which now number more than 800,000,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told The Daily Caller.
TheDC’s request for comment from the Executive Office of Immigration Review was not immediately returned.