Right to Counsel

The enforcement of immigration laws is a complex and hotly-debated topic. Learn more about the costs of immigration enforcement and the ways in which the U.S. can enforce our immigration laws humanely and in a manner that ensures due process.

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This FOIA lawsuit sought information from the EOIR on the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), which it runs jointly with ICE and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
This case stems from Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) decision to bar Caroline Perris, a full-time legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP), from entering the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.
May 25, 2017
This petition, jointly filed by the Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, seeks to provide access to legal counsel for the following individuals.
January 29, 2015
The Council submitted comments in response to a request by DHS and the Department of State (DOS) for input on streamlining and improving the U.S. immigrant and nonimmigrant visa systems. In the comments, the Council recommended that DHS amend 8 C.F.R. § 292.5(b) to ensure that individuals in secondary inspection are provided with a regulatory right to counsel during their examinations, and that DOS promulgate regulations in 22 C.F.R. Part 40 to provide for meaningful access to counsel during interviews at consular posts.
October 1, 2014
The synopsis provides a summary of CBP policies related to access to counsel, based on documents obtained through the Council’s FOIA request and litigation. The summary addresses access to counsel in inspections and CBP detention, and policies on advisals of rights and the treatment of children.
This lawsuits seeks recognition of a right to appointed counsel for unrepresented children in immigration proceedings nationwide.
February 14, 2012
The Council and AILA submitted comments on the USCIS Interim Memo “The Role of Private Attorneys and Other Representatives; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapters 12 and 15; AFM Update AD11-42.” The comments recommended, among other things, that USCIS take additional steps to clarify the role of attorneys and the treatment of attorneys’ written submissions; to address continued limitations on attorney seating; to expand the requirements related to waivers of representation; and to improve the complaint process.

The American Immigration Council, with co-counsel Dorsey & Whitney LLP, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel.

August 8, 2011
In this letter, the Council and AILA urged ICE to address reports of restrictions on access to counsel in a range of interview settings. These restrictions, documented in a nation-wide survey of immigration attorneys, included complete bars to attorney presence during ICE interviews and limits on participation when attorneys are permitted to be present. Attorneys also reported that ICE officers often were antagonistic toward attorneys.
June 14, 2011
The Council and AILA provided recommendations for changes to the USCIS Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) to better safeguard the attorney's role in USCIS interviews. These recommendations were in response to a request from USCIS to present specific recommendations for changes to USCIS guidance on access to counsel.
October 11, 2019

People in immigration detention who are represented by an attorney are more likely to receive a positive outcome in immigration court than those that face judges alone. Unfortunately, people who...

August 6, 2019

The Trump administration recently announced it would start applying a fast-tracked deportation process known as “expedited removal” to hundreds of thousands more people than ever before. People...

January 7, 2019

As the Trump administration continues to strip away due process in immigration courts, the recent creation of two “Immigration Adjudication Centers” is cause for concern. The two new facilities...

December 10, 2018

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in C.J.L.G. v. Whitaker, a case that addresses whether children facing deportation have the right to a court-appointed attorney....

September 7, 2018

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released “Phase I” of its review of the federally-funded Legal Orientation Program (LOP) this week. The review came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted...

April 25, 2018

Just two weeks after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a suspension of the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified today that DOJ will reverse course and...

April 11, 2018

In its latest attack on due process and access to counsel in the immigration court system, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has decided to suspend its Legal Orientation Program (...

February 28, 2018

Indefinitely detained immigrants facing possible deportation lost ground in their fight for the right to a bond hearing following a Supreme Court decision on Tuesday. Their sole remaining weapon...

October 20, 2017

Immigrants facing deportation fare far better if they have a competent attorney representing them. For example, studies show that for asylum seekers, representation generally doubles the...

October 13, 2017

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly intending to implement numerical quotas on Immigration Judges as a way of evaluating their performance. This move would undermine judicial...

April 8, 2020
Immigration groups moved for an emergency temporary restraining order against the Executive Office for Immigration Review and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in order to protect the health of immigration attorneys, immigrants, and the public from the impact of dangerous and unconstitutional policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 30, 2020
This lawsuit demands the government take immediate actions to prioritize the health and safety of attorneys and clients at risk in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 23, 2020
In a letter calling for prioritizing the health and safety of government employees, detained individuals, and their legal representatives amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, together with the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and more than 100 other organizations, urged the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately authorize the robust and automatic use of remote options for immigration court appearances and attorney-client meetings.
October 24, 2019
Media reports today indicate that the government has initiated a new pilot program in El Paso, Texas to rush the review of sensitive asylum cases. The reported program, called “Prompt Asylum Case Review,” forces families to navigate the asylum process while detained in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
August 6, 2019
The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s new rule that massively expands fast-track deportations without a fair legal process such as a court hearing or access to an attorney.
July 22, 2019
Expanding expedited removal in this manner will create a 'show me your papers' regime of immigration enforcement where individuals—including any U.S. citizens they encounter—will be forced to prove they should not be deported. The American Immigration Council will not stand by idly as the Trump administration continues its unlawful attacks on our communities. We will see the Trump administration in court
July 19, 2019
The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Immigrant Defense Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court to compel the government to release records and data about the Department of Justice’s Institutional Hearing Program, an obscure program that expedites the deportation of immigrants who are serving time for criminal offenses. The lawsuit seeks to understand how the IHP operates, where it operates, and who it targets.
November 21, 2018
The American Immigration Council announced today that it will focus on the critical need for access to an attorney when navigating the immigration system during its #GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising campaign starting November 27.
August 16, 2017
The parties in Dilley Pro Bono Project v. ICE have reached a settlement that ensures access to mental health evaluations for certain detained mothers and children seeking asylum.
June 2, 2017
Access to legal counsel is a core American value and is the cornerstone of our justice system. Yet, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has severely limited access to legal assistance for asylum-seeking women and children held in family detention facilities.
May 9, 2022
The Council and AILA stand in support of the Texas State Bar Foundation in response to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s investigation of the Foundation for supporting organizations that provide legal representation, citizenship classes, and other legal needs to the immigrant community in Texas.
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November 29, 2021
The Institutional Hearing Program permits immigration judges to conduct removal proceedings for noncitizens serving criminal sentences in certain correctional facilities.
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November 18, 2021
The American Immigration Council joined a coalition letter asking Congress to support funding for appointed counsel for immigration proceedings for Fiscal Year 2022.
November 11, 2021

Research has long shown that access to a lawyer is one of the most important factors that determines whether an immigrant in removal proceedings will be able to remain in the United States. A new...

This FOIA suit seeks to compel ICE to release information about conditions, treatment, and outcomes in eight immigration detention facilities in the U.S. South.
Publication Date: 
October 29, 2021
The American Immigration Council and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocated for attorney access in immigration detention facilities in a letter sent a letter to DHS and ICE.
September 2, 2021

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law in August that would allow the Cook County Public Defender to represent immigrants in the Chicago immigration court. The law is part of a movement to...

August 17, 2021
As the Biden administration begins crafting next year's budget, 131 organizations published a statement for the Biden administration outlining the top immigration priorities that must be included in the country’s budget for Fiscal Year 2023.
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August 17, 2021
The Council and more than 130 organizations urged the Biden administration to redirect government funding for fiscal year 2023 away from draconian enforcement measures and invest in legal services...
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July 16, 2021
The Council responded to ICE's Request for Information for a National Case Management Program, expressing concern that ICE's management of the program would be a conflict of interest.

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