January 27, 2014 STATEMENT-LIRS Applauds Introduction of the Immigrant Detainee Legal Rights Act

Washington, DC January 27, 2014— Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Ted Deutch’s (D-FL) introduction of the Immigrant Detainee Legal Rights Act, H.R. 3914, which expands and codifies the successful Legal Orientation Program for migrants in detention. Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Marc Veasey (D-TX) have also signed on as cosponsors of this bill.

Migrants in detention must represent themselves in immigration court far too often- at least 85 percent of this population lacks legal representation. This population includes incredibly vulnerable individuals, such as survivors of torture, elderly persons, and many persons with serious mental health issues. Immigration detention facilities are often located in areas far from detainees’ family, attorneys, and other social services providers. The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review currently operates the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice and non-governmental organizations to provide detained migrants at 25 of the approximately 250 detention facilities across the United States basic legal information about the immigration system and their rights. While not a substitute for legal representation, LOP helps migrants to make informed decisions regarding their cases. LOP helps to mitigate the isolation of detention by providing detainees with basic information on forms of relief from removal, how to accelerate repatriation through the removal process, how to represent themselves without an attorney, and how to obtain legal representation. LOP has also been shown to reduce case processing times and costs.

The Immigrant Detainee Legal Rights Act requires the Department of Justice to implement LOPs in every detention facility that houses immigrants. The bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security and U.S. Attorney General to make LOP presentations available to all detained migrants within five days of being taken into custody. The legislation also requires legal orientation presentations to be provided in the five most common languages spoken by individuals detained in each facility to overcome language barriers that frequently prevent unrepresented, detained migrants from understanding their rights in the immigration process.

“LIRS is proud to work to ensure migrants in detention fully understand their legal rights and options, and we partner with a network of legal service providers across the country to make this possible,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “Making this basic information available to detainees should be the law of the land, and expanding LOP presentations would be a great step toward ensuring that we protect due process and the most vulnerable migrants.”

Started by Lutheran congregations in 1939, LIRS walks with migrants and refugees through ministries of service and justice, transforming U.S. communities by ensuring that newcomers are not only self-sufficient but also become connected and contributing members of their adopted communities in the United States. Working with and through over 60 partners across the country, LIRS resettles refugees, reunites children with their families or provides loving homes for them, conducts policy advocacy, and pursues humanitarian alternatives to the immigration detention system. For more information, please visit www.lirs.org.

If you have any questions about this statement, please feel free to contact Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy at (202) 626-7943 or via email at bnystrom@lirs.org.