There is no right to government-funded counsel in immigration court proceedings, and people may not be aware of what legal rights they have in court or otherwise. The Legal Orientation Program (LOP), a program of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, offers one of the few ways in which the federal government helps immigrants to understand their due process rights.U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review, “Legal Orientation Program.”
The LOP, which is administered by the Vera Institute of Justice in conjunction with a network of 17 nonprofit legal service providers and 38 detention facilities across the country, provides support to approximately 50,000 immigrants every year by helping them understand their rights.Vera Institute of Justice, Embracing Human Dignity: Annual Report 2018 (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2018), 18.
In April, just as the administration began instituting its zero tolerance policy, the Department of Justice under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an attempt to terminate the LOP.Vanessa Romo, “Justice Department Will Pause a Legal Advice Program for Detained Immigrants,” NPR, April 12, 2018. Based on strong bipartisan support for LOP from Congress and pushback from advocacy groups, two weeks later Sessions reversed himself and refunded the LOP for another year.For Sessions’s statement reversing his position, see DOJ, “Opening Statement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies” (Washington, DC: DOJ, April 25, 2018). For discussion of the support for the Legal Orientation Program and days leading to the new decision, see Alfonso Serrano, “Department of Justice Rescinds Plan to Halt Legal Aid for Immigrants Facing Deportation,” ColorLines, April 26, 2018.