Reversal Comes Two Weeks After Announcement that Programs Would be Terminated
Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress that the Department of Justice will continue the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and Immigration Court Helpdesk program, which provide basic legal information for immigrants facing deportation without lawyers. The announcement, during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting today, is an about-face from the Department of Justice (DOJ) statement two weeks ago announcing the programs would end.
Today’s reversal is a victory for due process, fiscal responsibility, and immigrant rights. Yet, it is a victory that came at a cost, as our nation was forced to confront the lengths to which this administration will go to expedite deportations at all costs.
As a provider of LOP and help desk services, NIJC remains baffled as to why our nation’s chief legal officer ever would have considered ending these programs. A 2012 DOJ study found the LOP program generated savings in efficiency as well as cost savings of nearly $18 million annually. A 2017 study commissioned by the DOJ similarly recommended the program's expansion as a means of improving efficiency in the immigration courts. But the most important reason we are grateful for these programs’ continuation is they represent the very least that our nation must do to protect the due process rights of immigrants who are locked up in remote jails and who are facing deportation to countries where they may face death, harm, or permanent separation from their loved ones.
We will continue to fight for the Legal Orientation Program, the Immigration Court Helpdesk program, and access to counsel and due process rights for all immigrants facing deportation.