Immigration Snapshot: The Right to Counsel

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that deportation can deprive one of “life, or of all that makes life worth living.”

Joey playing the Hangin' Judge

Yet the Supreme Court says that deportation or removal proceedings are “civil”, not “criminal”, and therefore that expulsion from the U.S. is not “punishment”. That’s why accused criminals facing a few days in jail get free lawyers, but immigrants facing lifelong exile from the U.S. do not. Without a volunteer lawyer or money to hire counsel, the foreigner facing “removal” (makes foreigners sound like tumors, doesn’t it?) goes to court alone.

Imagine conducting your own defense in a Hungarian or Chinese court, where the rules are a mystery and nothing is translated into English except what the judge and prosecutor say directly to you.

Justice?  No.  It’s a nightmare.

Human Rights First trains and supports thousands of volunteer lawyers to represent refugees who otherwise would be crushed by a system where the cards are stacked against them from the start.  That is reason enough to support Human Rights First.