More than half – 58 percent – of defendants facing deportation hearings in immigration courts do not have legal representation, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the courts, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Immigration advocates looking for a solution for the problem say they are hampered by the complex nature of immigration laws, making it hard for lawyers in other areas to take on pro bono cases effectively. Advocates say that the only way to solve the attorney shortage is a public defender-type program.
Unlike in criminal courts, immigration court proceedings do not come with the constitutional right to legal counsel.
This issue comes as the federal government vowed to increase raids and other measures designed to apprehend people living in the United States illegally. The Washington Post reports that most of the immigrants detained – including hundreds detained at a single Mississippi plant last week – are not charged criminally.