Immigrants have a right to counsel in immigration court but, because deportation is classified as a civil rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants are not afforded the constitutional protections under the Sixth Amendment of being provided with an attorney if they cannot afford one. Detained immigrants face additional obstacles of accessing counsel from behind bars.
In every immigration case, the government is represented by a trained attorney who can argue for deportation, yet only 14% of detained immigrants receive legal representation, and the lack of appointed counsel has a profound impact on immigrants’ ability to receive a fair hearing. Only 2% of detainees without council are able to receive a favorable ruling. According to the American Immigration Council:
- Immigration detainees with representation are ELEVEN TIMES more likely to seek relief (32% with counsel vs 3% without).
- Immigration detainees with representation are FOUR TIMES more likely to be released (44% with counsel vs 11%without).
- Immigration detainees with representation are TWO TIMES more likely to obtain the immigration relief they sought (49 % with counsel vs 23% without).
The increase in detentions and new threats to DACA are having a profound effect on immigrant families, as well as communities; causing economic hardship, emotional distress, and family separation; leaving children without one or both parents in some cases. Providing legal counsel is the single most effective way to assure that Human Rights are protected and that Justice is served.
The DDLN connects unrepresented immigration detainees with desperately needed legal services. Attorneys who join the Network are asked to accept a max of 1-2 pro bono cases per year. Free CLE training is provided, so no prior immigration experience is required. The DDLN is a public service that receives no compensation from detainees, their families, attorneys, or anyone else.