Rep. Hanabusa Urges Restoration of Legal Assistance Programs for Immigrants
Hanabusa signed onto a letter led by House Appropriators, Congressmen Mike Quigley and José E. Serrano, and Ranking Member Congresswoman Nita Lowey. The lawmakers expressed serious concern about the termination of the programs and questioned the motivation of President Donald Trump’s administration.
The DOJ suspended the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Immigration Court Help Desk program, while the department performs an audit. Previous audits did not interrupt operations. The most recent audit found that the program saved the government about $18 million over a 12 month period.
In addition, these actions directly contradict the express direction of Congress.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration have taken a series of actions that strongly suggest a disdain for due process and the Constitution. Unfortunately, this latest action is part of a pattern of policies and rhetoric employed by the President and his Attorney General, that have diminished our reputation as a land of opportunity, open to those who work hard and obey our laws,” said Congresswoman Hanabusa. “These programs must be reinstated and allowed to operate while the audit continues.”
“The LOP program provides individuals in detention with in-person briefings on immigration court procedures, as well as basic legal information and resources. Studies have shown that these programs save our immigration courts time and money,” wrote the Members. “Recent efforts at the Department with regard to U.S. immigration courts raise serious concerns about the Department’s commitment to fairness, due process, and constitutional requirements.”
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is challenged to provide timely immigration hearings while affording due process in an overwhelmed court system. Help desks can assist in these efforts by providing time-sensitive information and legal screenings to pro se respondents on the day of their immigration court hearing.