Right to an Attorney? Recent Moves Should Make Legal Representation More Accessible for Non-citizens
US citizens often consider access to an attorney a given and as a result, many citizens may not know that those going through the immigration process may not have that same right. The Department of Homeland Security has received pressure by immigrant rights groups like the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association to ensure that immigrants trying to navigate the complex waters of the American immigration system have access to adequate legal counsel. US Citizenship and Immigration Services is beginning to make changes to do just that.
Many immigrants cannot afford to hire a private attorney, but even those who can or are provided with a pro bono attorney do not have the same level of representation as one may expect. Given the challenging nature of the process and the fact that USCIS officials can use their authority in a significant way, having an attorney present that can help determine when questioning is inappropriate is very important.
USCIS Revises its Standards
Until now, immigrants were not permitted to have an attorney with them during their interview with a USCIS official. Attorneys will also be able to provide USCIS officials with documentation to help their clients’ cases. Many immigrants complain that they don’t know when questioning goes beyond what is allowed. Now, attorneys will be able to object when these situations arise. While the new guidelines are being implemented, the American Immigration Council will be making sure that the rules are being adhered to. It is yet to be seen whether or not the other arms of immigration enforcement will follow the lead of USCIS is opening up immigrant access to attorneys.
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