Study Shows Legal Representation Essential to Avoiding Deportation

(ESPAÑOL) It seems obvious that foreign nationals with legal representation will be able to prove their case and avoid deportation easier than those without. But the first formal study on legal representation of foreign nationals in immigration proceedings proves the validity of that theory.

“By reviewing over 1.2 million deportation cases decided across the United States over a six-year period, this report provides an urgent portrait of the lack of counsel in immigration courts,” according to the study issued by the American Immigration Council. “In it, we reveal that 63 percent of all immigrants went to court without an attorney. Detained immigrants were even less likely to obtain counsel — 86 percent attended their court hearings without an attorney. For immigrants held in remote detention centers, access to counsel was even more severely impaired, only 10 percent of immigrants detained in small cities obtained counsel.”

Having a lawyer usually provides positive outcomes for foreign nationals in immigration court trials, according to the AIC study titled Access to Counsel in Immigration Court.

Foreign nationals in immigration court proceedings have a right to counsel, but the court is not required to appoint an attorney to represent the immigrant if he or she cannot afford to pay for legal representation or cannot obtain pro-bono representation.

The AIC study also highlighted the nationalities more likely or less likely to have legal representation.

“Mexican immigrants had the highest detention rate (78 percent) and the lowest representation rate (21 percent) of nationalities examined,” the AIC report said. “In contrast, Chinese immigrants had the lowest detention rate (4 percent) and the highest representation rate (92 percent).”

According to the report, Haitians and immigrants from India also have a high rate of representation with 71 percent for each nationality.

Several factors explain why immigrants of different nationalities are more likely or less likely to obtain representation for proceedings in immigration court, according to the study.

“Economic status certainly plays a role since the scarcity of pro bono resources demands that the majority of immigrants who obtain representation must be able to afford an attorney,” according to the study. “The ability to find an attorney could also be influenced by the strength of the social networks that different immigrant groups have to assist them in finding counsel.”