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HIAS Urges Trump Administration to Preserve Due Process in Immigration Courts

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SILVER SPRING, Md.—This week, media reports revealed that the United States immigration courts will suspend a program which offers basic legal information to foreign nationals in detention who are facing deportation. The program in question, the Vera Institute of Justice’s Legal Orientation Program, provides details about the U.S. legal system and the rights entitled to immigrants and to all people in this country, regardless of where they were born.

Through these orientations, immigrants and asylum seekers learn that they have the right to an attorney, receive information about nonprofits who can represent them, and hear about other options for possible defenses in court. The Vera initiative reached 53,000 immigrants last year  through information sessions held together with 18 other nonprofits.

This news follows an April 2 report that immigration judges will now be expected to meet a quota of at least 700 cases a year in order to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating, as well as the ongoing efforts to make it even more difficult for asylum seekers to gain protection in the United States.  

In response to these developments, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield issued the following statement:

“The stripping away of protections for immigrants and asylum seekers unfolding in the U.S. immigration system threatens our most fundamental American values of freedom and due process. The United States has nothing to gain by denying children and their families, who are often fleeing violence in their home countries, access to critical information about the right to counsel and the possible avenues for legal relief.

“This is an attempt to take away the most basic protection available to immigrants: the ability to understand what is happening to them. It is hard enough as it is for immigrants and asylum seekers to assert their right to protection in our system. We must not make it more arduous. HIAS will continue to work every day, along with our supporters in the American Jewish community, to preserve the United States’ proud tradition of welcome.”

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