AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Welcomes Biden Administration Expansion of Access to Justice and Legal Representation

5/19/21 AILA Doc. No. 21051901. Removal & Relief
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed news that President Biden will renew the Department of Justice’s efforts to expand access to justice and legal representation.

AILA President Jennifer Minear stated, “By refocusing on the urgent need for legal assistance, the Biden administration is reaffirming its understanding that people in immigration proceedings deserve legal representation, and recognizing that for many, that legal assistance is far out of reach without government assistance. Having legal representation is the most important factor in ensuring fair and just proceedings, and that’s why increased access to counsel was one of AILA’s key recommendations to the Biden administration.”

AILA Senior Director of Government Relations Greg Chen added, “This announcement is the first step in restoring the federal government’s commitment to legal access for the thousands of people facing removal who cannot afford legal counsel. Next, the President should request, and Congress should provide, a major increase in appropriations to ensure representation for all individuals appearing in immigration courts across the country. So far the President has concentrated on child asylum seekers—an unquestionably vulnerable group. In addition, the President should also provide counsel for adult asylum seekers, people in detention, and others who are at risk. We stand ready to work with the President to give everyone a fair day in court.”

According to a 2016 study by the American Immigration Council, people were five times more likely to obtain legal relief if they were represented by counsel and people who were detained were ten-and-a-half times more likely to succeed in gaining relief. In the absence of a universal right to counsel, a significant portion of people in removal proceedings—40 percent—are unrepresented by counsel.