What We Know and Need to Know About Immigrant Access to Justice

Report Author: 
Ellinor R. Jordan
Original Date of Publication: 
October, 2016

This article begins by presenting a review of research on the impact of legal representation in removal cases. A consistent finding is that the amount and quality of representation play a marked role in the outcome of hearings. Litigants without representation or with poor representation are much more likely to be removed and moreover, to not fully understand the implications of pleas and agreements they may make. The author suggests that in addition to poor outcomes for litigants, this situation reduces the overall efficiency of the justice system. This arises in part because current law does not mandate representation for those involved in immigration cases unless there is a demonstrable issue with mental capacity. The article also contains a discussion of individuals that engage in the unauthorized practice of immigration law, e.g. non-lawyers who misrepresent themselves and lawyers who go before the court without any information about their clients. The author notes that further research should be done into why these types of scams continue to happen, suggesting that failure to address cultural and linguistic barriers in serving immigrants may be one key factor. Because the author does not believe universal representative is likely to happen anytime soon, she reviews ways that access to quality representation can be expanded. One approach would be to increase support for authorized community-based organization that provide immigration legal services; another would be to expand support for pro bono representation. The article concludes with a brief look at computer programs that claim to help support those involved in immigration cases, suggesting that much more needs to be known before they can be recommended. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

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Report File: 

Jordan, E. (2017). What We Know and Need to Know About Immigrant Access to Justice. South Carolina Law Review, 67(295), 33.

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