Demand grows for non-profit lawyers for immigrants

Wooden gavel from the court on white backgroundNetworks of lawyers working for religious groups or non-profit organizations have helped to save many immigrants from deportation from the United States. Demand for such services is set to continue to grow after the recent influx of undocumented immigrants to the US border and President Obama’s decision to take executive action over immigration reform. Many immigrants do not get as far as searching for legal representation, with 83% of the 400,000+ immigrants deported during 2013 not getting a hearing; instead, their fates were decided by officers from Customs and Border Protection, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The presence of a lawyer can be the difference between being allowed to remain in the United States and being deported. “We’ve long known that results in immigration court, in particular, vary widely depending on whether you have legal representation or not,” says the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Crystal Williams. “Now, what we are seeing quite honestly is the people who are getting asylum and are getting bonded out of [the immigration detention center in] Artesia, had the attorneys not been there, they would have been removed already. They would be back in their home countries and facing the danger they were running from.”

Williams says that the AILA is attempting to free as many immigrants as possible from deportation, noting that many are granted a bond but are simply unable to pay for it.