Friday, February 26, 2021
Vera Institute -- A Federal Defender Service for Immigrants Why: We Need a Universal, Zealous, and Person-Centered Model
As most readers no doubt know, noncitizens -- including lawful permanent residents and minors -- are not guaranteed counsel in removal proceedings. The Vera Institute has released a policy brief arguing for a federal representation program for immigrants. Among other things, the brief notes that 77% of those in immigration court in 2019 did not have counsel, but that those with counsel are 3.5x more likely to be granted bond and 10% more likely to be able to remain in the United States.
Here is the overview of the report:
"The Vera Institute of Justice . . . recommends that the Biden administration draw from time-tested models, data, and knowledge to build a federally funded, universal legal defense service that provides universal, zealous, and person-centered defense to all immigrants. This federal defender service should be modeled on the criminal federal defender system, which is generally regarded as more successful at realizing the values of high-quality, appropriately funded representation than its state counterparts. Vera makes this recommendation based on years of experience building and managing national immigrant legal defense programs. A federal defender service built on these core values is effective and achievable, and it would help ensure that the lives, liberty, and community health of immigrants are given full and equal protection under the law regardless of status. This policy brief highlights that a federal defender service would address systemic inequities of the immigration system and has widespread support in the United States."
A federally funded, universal legal defense service that provides universal, zealous, and person-centered defense to all immigrants would help address systemic inequities within the immigration system, and would represent a safeguard that is already proven, effective, achievable, and has widespread public support.
The Hill covered the release of the report.