The DKT Liberty Project is partnering with a law firm, Jenner & Block, on a new project aimed at providing crucial legal representation to detained immigrants. Throughout the United States, more than 40,000 immigrants are jailed while facing deportation proceedings, and the clear majority – approximately 86% of them — do not have a lawyer.
Most of these immigrants have no criminal history, and thousands may have legitimate claims for political asylum or other immigration relief. However, because there is no “public defender” system for immigrants, most detained immigrants are denied access to counsel and, as a result, do not even attempt to make an application for relief from deportation. Having a lawyer in these cases makes a tremendous difference: immigrants in detention are twice as likely to obtain relief if they are represented by a lawyer.
Accordingly, the DKT Liberty Project and Jenner & Block are partnering to pilot a project at a detention center in Michigan. The project, led by attorney Lindsay Harrison, will screen immigrants at the facility to find out whether they may have claims for relief, and will provide lawyers at no charge in eligible cases.
This facility was specifically chosen because the immigrants detained there presently have very little access to counsel. The goal of this program is to provide a lawyer to every immigrant at the detention facility who needs one.
A further long-term goal of this project is to establish a working model that can be replicated by other firms and organizations at detention facilities throughout the country.