Monday, October 19, 2009

New Jersey Law Journal Urges Appointed Counsel In Immigration Court

In September 2009, the New Jersey Law Journal's editorial board urged the Attorney General to consider creating a system for offering a competent corps of lawyers to help improverished people defend themselves in immigration court from potential deportation. Immigration law is extremely complex and the consequences of removal are often drastic.

The New Jersey Law Journal correctly focuses on an important issue -- appointing counsel to defend the indigent. There are important related areas that the New Jersey Law Journal did not address in that specific editorial -- whether as a matter of fundamental fairness, the immigration courts have the legal obligation to appoint counsel for some indigent people in immigration court, either as a blanket rule or on a case-by-case basis.

With the immigration laws becoming harsher and more similar to the criminal justice system (with detainees sometimes housed in the same building as criminal prisoners and brought to immigration court in shackles, sometimes held under the mandatory detention program), the need to appoint counsel and for the courts or the government to pay for the representation may be drawing closer to being recognized, perhaps by the courts, perhaps by Congress, or perhaps by the Attorney General.


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