Immigration Corner 8/26

No justice in defending yourself in U.S. Immigration Court By Raul Ray, Esq. The biggest challenge for immigrants facing deportation is convincing an immigration judge to let them stay...

No justice in defending yourself in U.S. Immigration Court

By Raul Ray, Esq.

The biggest challenge for immigrants facing deportation is convincing an immigration judge to let them stay in the USA.   Without the representation of an experience deportation defense attorney, immigrants face an uphill battle in winning their case.

According to a new study by the California Coalition for Universal Representation, immigrants detained in California who have an attorney succeed in their cases more than five times as often as those who don’t.  However, only 37 percent of all immigrants and 14 percent of detained immigrants have legal representation in immigration court, according to another study U Penn Law Review Study.

There’s currently a backlog of more than half a million pending cases in U.S. immigration courts throughout the country.  It’s not uncommon to appear in immigration court on any given day and see a packed courtroom of men, women and children appearing without an attorney.

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.   Indigent Immigrants despite being at risk for harm or even death by drug cartels and gang members if they are deported back to their country are not entitled to court-appointed attorneys.

Many immigrants are deported from the USA simply because they ended up representing themselves in deportation proceedings and had no idea how to competently prepare a case in defense of their removal from the USA.

Getting legal representation is vital to immigrants in deportation cases because a skilled and experienced deportation defense attorneys can help secure the release of detained immigrants by bond, challenge the reasons why the government is trying to remove a person from the USA, identify and prepare any applications for relief that may help an immigrant win their case and remain in the USA, gather supporting documents, prepare immigrants and their witnesses to testify at court and the list goes on and on.

So are there any solutions to this dire situation?  With nonprofit agencies having a hard time keeping up with the demands of indigent immigrants desperately seeking legal representation, some local and state governments across the country have step in to help out.   

For example, in 2014, the City of San Francisco funded the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC), which consists of 13 legal service providers partnering to provide representation at the San Francisco Immigration Court to unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in Mexico and the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  The program has been extraordinarily successful according to Avantika Shastri, the SFILDC Legal Director.   To find out more information about this program, visit their website at <>.

So what should immigrants do when appearing in immigration court without an attorney?   First and foremost, ask the immigration judge for more time to look for and retain an immigration attorney. Immigrants in deportation proceedings need to take this task very seriously.  Immigration judges will generally have no problem with affording immigrants extensive time to look for an attorney to represent them.  What they will have a problem with eventually is people continuing to come back to court asking for more time over and over again to look for an attorney when it doesn’t appear that they are sincerely trying to do so.

This will no doubt annoy the immigration judge who may feel that a person is just trying to delay their case from moving forward.  The judge at that point may decide to move the case along and have the immigrant represent themselves. 

The following is a list of local nonprofit organizations providing deportation defense services to the Spanish Speaking community. 

La Raza Centro Legal

               474 Valencia St., Ste. 295

               (415) 575-3500

               May charge nominal fee

               Languages: Spanish

Asylum Program of the San Francisco Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights*

               131 Steuart Street, Ste. 400

               San Francisco, CA 94105

               (415) 543-9697, ext. 202

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Pro Bono or nominal fee ‚ÄĘ Must meet income guidelines

              Languages: Spanish & French

Social Justice Collaborative

               420 3rd Street, Suite 130

               Oakland, CA 94607

               Tel: (510) 992-3964

¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Languages ‚Äď Spanish, Tamil

               Call to inquire about cost or fees for legal services

Bar Association of San Francisco

Necesita Un Abogado? Llamenos al (415) 989-1616, <>

Remember contact ONLY a qualified immigration lawyer or an accredited representative for legal advice or immigration relief concerning your case.  We will continue to keep you apprised on the very latest immigration news around the country

For more information please feel free to contact Raul Ray, Attorney at Law, at Law Offices of Raul Ray, (408) 279-5793, 1671 The Alameda, Suite 200, San Jose, CA  95126.  Email: