Department of Justice Halts Vera Institute Legal Services Program that Aids Undocumented Immigrants, Reported by Washington Post

Posted on April 11, 2018

Justice Dept. to halt legal-advice program for immigrants in detention

Originally Posted in the Washington Post on April 10, 2018
Written by Maria Sacchetti

(Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

The U.S. immigration courts will temporarily halt a program that offers legal assistance to detained foreign nationals facing deportation while it audits the program’s cost-effectiveness, a federal official said Tuesday.

Officials informed the Vera Institute of Justice that starting this month it will pause the nonprofit’s Legal Orientation Program, which last year held information sessions for 53,000 immigrants in more than a dozen states, including California and Texas.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the Justice Department’s immigration courts, said the government wants to “conduct efficiency reviews which have not taken place in six years.” An immigration court official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the audit has not been formally announced, said the review will examine the cost-effectiveness of the federally funded programs and whether they duplicate efforts within the court system. He noted, for example, that immigration judges are already required to inform immigrants of their rights before a hearing, including their right to find a lawyer at their own expense.

But advocates said the programs administered by Vera and a network of 18 other nonprofits are a legal lifeline for undocumented immigrants.

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