An Industry of Misery.

The U.S. deportation and system exploits immigrants and refugees by isolating them from lawyers, locking them without hope in remote detention centers, and separating them from their families and communities. Because deportation is classified as a civil rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants facing removal are not afforded appointed attorneys under the Sixth Amendment. Detained immigrants, particularly those held in remote locations, face the additional obstacle of accessing counsel from behind bars.

Yet, in every immigration case, the government is represented by a trained attorney who can argue for deportation, regardless of whether the immigrant is represented. Nationally, only 37 percent of all immigrants secured legal representation in their removal cases. Immigrants in detention were the least likely to obtain representation. Only 14 percent of detained immigrants acquired legal counsel, compared with two-thirds of non-detained immigrants. Those behind bars suffer unsafe conditions, sexual abuse, and—far too often—death. The agency flouts congressional efforts at oversight. ICE now jails asylum seekers for the duration of their proceedings, regardless of individualized risk factors.

For immigrants who are able to win release from detention, their legal struggle is only just beginning. The U.S. immigration system is confusing and dehumanizing, all too often depriving individuals of protection and the rule of law. Individuals are either placed on disfavored expedited court dockets, giving them insufficient time to find legal representation, or forced to wait years for their cases to be heard by an immigration judge. And even for individuals with the strongest cases, the likelihood of receiving protection often depends not on the merits of their claims but on the judge to whom they are assigned. In some jurisdictions, judges who exhibit blatant bias and institute unlawful local rules deny nearly 100% of asylum cases each year. And under new immigration court policies, judges are rewarded for completing cases quickly, incentivizing rapid case denials and resulting in widespread due process violations. As a result, thousands of individuals and families who should be granted protection are instead deported back to the dangerous conditions that caused them to flee for their lives.