Professor Eagly of Epstein Program Publishes Report on Access to Council in Immigration Court

September 28, 2016—Professor Ingrid Eagly, faculty director of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, has co-authored “Access to Counsel in Immigration Court,” the first nationwide study to examine how immigrants fare in securing representation in U.S. Immigration courts. Published by the American Immigration Council, the report draws on data from over 1.2 million deportation cases decided between 2007 and 2012.

The report provides much-needed information about the scope and impact of attorney representation in U.S. immigration courts.  Because deportation is classified as a civil rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants facing removal are not afforded the constitutional protections under the Sixth Amendment that are provided to criminal defendants, and the lack of appointed counsel may have a profound impact on immigrants’ ability to receive a fair hearing.

Key findings of the study include:

Access to counsel is scarce and unevenly distributed across the United States. Nationally, only 37 percent of all immigrants secured legal representation in their removal cases, and representation rates vary widely by court jurisdiction. Immigrants of different nationalities had very different representation and detention rates. 

Immigrants with attorneys fare better at every stage of the court process; represented immigrants in detention who had a custody hearing were four times more likely to be released from detention (44 percent with counsel, versus 11 percent without). Represented immigrants were much more likely to apply for relief from deportation, and represented immigrants were more likely to obtain the immigration relief they sought. 

The report provides a data-driven context for future discussion of the pivotal issue of access to counsel in U.S. immigration courts.

UCLA Law alumnus Steven Shafer, ’15 co-authored the report with Professor Eagly. 

A copy of the full report is available here