Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the FAIR Proceedings Act or “Funding Attorneys for Indigent Removal Proceedings Act,” which would require appointed counsel at government expense “if necessary” during removal proceedings for children; people with disabilities; victims of abuse, torture, and violence; and people at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, among other reforms.
“The Vera Institute of Justice welcomes Senator Gillibrand’s FAIR Proceedings Act for advancing crucial protections to address our unfair and dehumanizing immigration system, which has been centered on mass detention and deportation for decades, and immigration policing efforts that sow fear in Black and brown immigrant communities in particular,” said Anne Marie Mulcahy, director, Center on Immigration and Justice. “To create a fair immigration system with equal justice, every immigrant facing deportation should have their case meaningfully heard in court. This requires ensuring every person facing deportation who cannot afford an attorney is represented by a government-funded lawyer regardless of race, national origin, or history with the criminal legal system. Without counsel, immigrants have little chance of successfully fighting deportation.”
Because deportation proceedings are civil, not criminal, matters, immigrants in U.S. immigration courts may hire an attorney, but they are not provided with one if they can’t afford it themselves. Immigrants with attorneys are 3.5 times more likely to be granted bond than those without representation and 10 times more likely to establish their right to remain in the United States. Furthermore, Vera polling found that 2 out of 3 Americans support government-funded attorneys for everyone who cannot afford one, including immigrants facing deportation. Vera and its partners are working to provide legal representation to all immigrants facing deportation and create a more equitable process.