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The End of Counsel for Immigrants

With the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) recent decision to cut out the Legal Orientation Program detained immigrants no longer have access to legal counsel, severely limiting the already limited rights they have.


Beginning in 2003 during the presidency of George W. Bush, the Legal Orientation Program was created by the Executive Office for Immigration Review—a branch of the Department of Justice. This program served 84% of detained individuals each year, helping individuals at 38 different detention centers every year (Vera Institute of Justice). Recently, however, the EOIR has decided to pull the funding for the Legal Orientation Program, rendering many immigrants helpless. These detained immigrants facing removal proceedings no longer have the legal counsel necessary for them to understand their rights. Making the Legal Orientation Program obsolete is representative of the current president’s agenda on anti-immigration reform.


The rationale of the EOIR’s decision to terminate the program was to essentially evaluate the cost-to-benefit ratio of the program. But by doing so, there are some foreseeable consequences in the near future; these include, but are by no means limited to court proceedings for immigrants becoming less fair as they are stripped of more constitutional rights, influx in capacity within detention centers due to trials being drawn out longer, and more strain placed on immigration judges as well as the courts. For many immigrants, the discontinuation of the Legal Orientation Program only serves to be a major problem. Without its educational resources and guidance, incarcerated immigrants are left in the dark, confused by the many legal complexities of the U.S. judicial system, and unable to return to their respective communities.

Consequences and Remedies

These new changes affect immigrants everywhere—most significantly hindering those who are incarcerated or facing pending removal orders. These individuals now lack the previously gratuitous legal assistance so when they are forced to represent themselves at their hearings, they might not know what to do or if there are any other options, ultimately digging them into a deeper hole. For instance, people who go into court without legal counsel do not necessarily know they might get the benefit of a merit-based hearing—a hearing that allows the immigrant to explain themselves and potentially succeed in justifying their case to stay in the U.S. Additionally, an immigrant without legal help might not know how detrimental a criminal record might be for their hearing, something that a qualified attorney can help circumvent. These examples are only a few cases of all the pitfalls that an immigrant might face if they do not seek help from an attorney. That is why it is crucial for any immigrant who is facing deportation or removal struggles to contact an attorney immediately. The Legal Orientation Program may no longer be useful; however, anyone can still seek help from an attorney who can help navigate the immigrant out of potential hazards.

Take Immediate Action

While the loss of the Legal Orientation Program is a major blow to the immigrant society, detainees aren’t necessarily stuck in a rut. While the convenience and gratuitous nature of the program is no longer available, anyone can still seek legal counsel. The Shan Potts Law Offices offers such services, for instance. We offer legal analysis for any situation, no matter how small or big; we can help you file an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals if you face a removal order, and we can help you or your loved ones be released from detention centers.

Contact Shan Potts Law Offices at 323-803-7147 if you or someone you know requires legal assistance.


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