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Federal government halts legal assistance program

There are many changes taking place in the US immigration system right now, in both enforcement and new policies and procedures. Last week, the Justice Department halted the Legal Orientation Program, a service that gives legal counsel to detained immigrants facing deportation. It also operates help centers for non-detainees, including two Baton Rouge facilities.

The main purpose of the Legal Orientation Program is to inform detainees of their rights. The government put it on hiatus to review its cost-effectiveness amid many changes being made in the immigration system.

The need for legal counsel

According to the Legal Orientation Program’s parent organization, the Vera Institute, 8 in 10 detainees face prosecution without an attorney, even though it is within their rights to do so. The program doesn’t just give advice, reviews have shown that it speeds up the legal process. The Justice Department will evaluate those findings.

As the Vera Institute’s 8-in-10 number shows, many people approach immigration court on their own. The stakes of going to court on your own are very high. Immigration court relies on your knowledge of US law, both how it’s written but also how court decisions have shaped those laws. Everyone has the right to legal counsel and it’s a vital way to defend your right to live and work in the US.

A system in flux

The closing of the Legal Orientation Program is part of a larger initiative by the Justice Department to streamline immigration court among a backlog of cases. In a related move, the department issued case quotas in an effort to reduce the federal burden.

Anyone facing court, whether that means immigration court, a traffic ticket or something else, has the right to legal defense. The US court system is complex and a single detail be the difference in your case. While the future of the Legal Orientation Program is up in the air, there are other legal resources to help you protect your status in the country. An experienced immigration attorney can help you understand your situation and decide the next steps in your journey.

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