AILA comments on DOJ Legal Orientation Program

Citing pushback from Congressional leaders, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), will continue the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) while the department undergoes a review of the program, rather than halt it immediately, as planned.

AILA and the Council responded with the following statement:

AILA and its partners are glad the program remains intact for now, however, we are wary of further investigation into the program’s effectiveness,” said Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director. “The Legal Orientation Program should never have been in danger of elimination at all. As an independent evaluation found, this program not only assists indigent immigrants but also saves the government money by providing presentations, workshops, and pro bono referral services to people who are detained awaiting removal proceedings. That report confirmed previously disclosed reports by DOJ and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that LOP saved the government millions of dollars each year in court and detention costs. Through our vigilance and the steadfast commitment of Congress, the administration now has to rethink its plans to erode due process.”

“Common sense prevailed today,” said Karen Lucas, Director of the Immigration Justice Campaign, a project of the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Leaders at both the national and local levels support this longstanding program. Doing away with the LOP would have made the immigration court system even less efficient and less fair. With individuals detained in remote locations and asked to navigate a complex immigration court process that does not include government-provided counsel, the LOP is a critical resource for detained immigrants. Ending it would have put people at greater risk of wrongful deportation to perilous situations in their home countries.

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