Our Stories

Public Counsel Denounces DOJ's Decision to End Crucial Informational Services for Immigrants

LOP Letter

April, 2018

The Department of Justice recently announced it would suspend two key programs that provide essential information to immigrants who are navigating the United States' complex system of immigration laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a subcommittee hearing on this issue, and Public Counsel submitted a public comment letter to express our outrage at the Administration’s action and our support for the programs. An excerpt of the letter is below:

“Public Counsel writes to express our shock and concern at the sudden suspension of the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Immigration Court Help Desk (ICHD). Over the past decade, Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project has served thousands of immigrants detained in the Los Angeles area, as well as scores of pro se immigrants in non-detained removal proceedings. We have seen firsthand the acute need for legal assistance, where the vast majority of people face complex immigration court proceedings without counsel. LOP and the ICHD provide critical services to these individuals: informing them of their rights, educating them about their legal options, and in some cases connecting them to pro bono attorneys. Without these essential programs, both our communities and our courts will suffer irreparable harm.

The vast majority of immigrants facing deportation lack legal counsel. In California, 68% of detained immigrants have no lawyer. Yet immigration law is notoriously complex. And its consequences are severe: banishment from the country, permanent family separation, loss of access to medical treatment and educational opportunities, to name a few. For that reason, the immigration court system has been compared—by its own judges—as akin to trying death penalty cases in traffic court. See CNN: Death penalty cases in a traffic court setting 

LOP is one of the few bulwarks of due process in our troubled immigration detention system. At the 38 detention facilities where it operates, LOP helps tens of thousands of people a year. LOP can take the form of structured group classes that explain what to expect in immigration courts and the most common forms of relief. It may also take the form of individual orientations. In many instances, LOP gives those detained their only contact with someone who is not responsible for detaining or deporting them. As a result, detained immigrants who would otherwise have no access to counsel are able to make informed decisions about their legal cases."

Read the full letter HERE.