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Access to Justice: Ensuring Counsel for Immigrants Facing Deportation in the D.C. Metropolitan Area

Every year, thousands of immigrant community members in the D.C. metropolitan area face detention and deportation because they cannot afford a lawyer. Many of these individuals have legal claims they could assert for their right to remain in the United States. However, without the assistance of legal counsel to help navigate the extremely complex area of immigration law, they are unable to articulate those claims to an immigration judge. Even though deportation is one of the most serious legal consequences that a person can face, and despite the fact that immigrants may be jailed for the duration of the their immigration court proceedings, immigrants facing deportation have no established constitutional right to appointed counsel. As this report illustrates, individuals without lawyers face significant challenges and rarely receive favorable immigration court outcomes. Among detained immigrants without lawyers in the D.C. metropolitan area, people in Arlington were only successful in their cases 11 percent of the time and unrepresented people in Baltimore were only successful 7 percent of the time. In stark contrast, having a lawyer in Arlington more than doubled a person’s chances of being able to remain in the U.S. and quadrupled a person’s chance of obtaining relief in Baltimore.