While immigrants certainly have a right to be represented by counsel in immigration court, it is at their own cost. Since immigration proceedings are civil in nature, rather than criminal, immigrants have no Sixth Amendment right to court-appointed counsel if they are unable to afford to hire their own lawyers. In contrast, if a defendant in a criminal case is facing a sentence of even one day, he or she is entitled to an attorney at no cost. The situation becomes even more difficult due to the fact that those immigrants who are detained have an even harder time accessing counsel, especially when housed in those detention centers that are in remote locations. Despite these barriers for the immigrant, the government is represented by an attorney in every case that is heard in immigration court, which puts unrepresented immigrants at a distinct disadvantage. The American Immigration Council has released the first comprehensive report on access to counsel in American immigration courts. Based on data gathered from over 1.2 million deportation decisions that immigration courts issued between 2007 and 2012, this report contained a number of main findings, none of which are surprising to immigration defense attorneys and other immigrant advocates:
- On a national basis, only 37% of immigrants had legal counsel representing them in deportation cases, although legal representation rates vary widely from one jurisdiction to another.
- Immigrants of different nationalities had varying rates of detention and legal representation; Mexican immigrants had the highest detention rate (78%), but the lowest legal representation rate (21%), whereas Chinese immigrants had the lowest detention rate (4%) and the highest legal representation rate (92%).
- Immigrants were four times more likely to be released from detention when represented by counsel (44% versus 11%).
- Represented detained immigrants were 11 times as likely to apply for relief from deportation, whereas represented non-detained immigrants were five times as likely to apply for relief.
- Represented detained immigrants were twice as likely to obtain relief in immigration court as unrepresented immigrants, and represented non-detained immigrants were almost five times as likely to obtain relief as unrepresented immigrants.
As these findings illustrate, being represented by legal counsel in your deportation case can be essential to your ultimate success in avoiding deportation. Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. is an Oakland immigration law firm who has dedicated its resources to protecting the interests of immigrants who are seeking to remain in the U.S. and facing potential deportation. We are prepared to build the strongest case possible in order to defend you against deportation. Contact us today to set up your consultation and discover what assistance we can offer to you and your family.