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Program’s pro bono volunteers have won relief for 71% of immigrants

As previously discussed at Daily Kos, there’s a reason why federal immigration officials routinely block detained immigrants from legal aid. When they have access to a lawyer (which is not guaranteed in immigration court, by the way), they are more likely to be released and win their case. “Detained immigrants without a lawyer only had about a 16% chance of winning relief and a 13% chance of winning release this year,” AIC said.

AIC said that 200 volunteers helped more than 550 immigrants across the country. Three hundred and thirty-five cases were for non-detained individuals, while 221 cases were for detained individuals across more than a dozen detention facilities.

“This small sample of Justice Campaign clients and volunteers demonstrates the immediate impact pro bono work has on clients’ lives,” AIC said. “Without the dedication of our pro bono volunteers, many of these individuals would have to move forward alone. Statistically speaking, that means it would most likely have lost.”

Findings from the The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said last summer that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials “systematically restricted basic methods of communication between lawyers and detained immigrants,” in many cases by simply refusing to answer the phone.

“At least 58 ICE detention facilities do not allow attorneys to schedule phone calls with a detained client at a certain date and time,” the ACLU said said in a statement. “Attorneys at nearly half of the 44 facilities for which we received attorney survey responses reported arbitrary delays or denials of access to their clients at the facility.”

When immigrants and attorneys are in theory allowed to meet, “respondents at several facilities reported that in-person visits do not occur in confidential settings, destroying attorney-client privilege.”

“Not only are these barriers to legal representation unconstitutional – they also increase the likelihood that people will be unlawfully held in prolonged detention or deported,” said ACLU’s National Prison Project Borchard Fellow and report author Aditi Shah. “In that respect, access to counsel can literally be a matter of life or death for people, either by being detained for long periods in dangerous conditions or being returned to the violence they fled.”

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