Immigrant Rights Groups Petition DOJ for Court-Appointed Counsel in Immigration Cases
By Joe Palazzolo | July 2, 2009 5:54 pm

Five immigrant rights organizations are petitioning the Justice Department to allow immigration judges to appoint counsel under certain circumstances, The BLT reports.

The petition, filed June 29, argues that judges should be permitted to appoint counsel only when doing so preserves the fundamental fairness of the proceedings. The judge should consider eight factors in making such a determination, the groups said. Among them: The alien’s ability to read, write, and comprehend the English language; the complexity of the case; and whether the alien is detained.

The groups want the Justice Department, which oversees the nation’s roughly 50 immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals, to create a new rule.

“The massive increase in the number of immigration detainees, the increased complexity of the immigration law, and the inability of most immigrants to navigate the legal system without counsel all suggest the reconsideration of the appointment of counsel,” the petition states.

The petition was submitted by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.; the National Immigration Forum; the National Immigrant Justice Center; the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project, Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College. Jones Day provided pro bono assistance.

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