Universal representation campaigns are part of the larger immigrants’ rights movement and should be grounded in shared values and goals. From the outset, coalition members should have an understanding of core allies’ other advocacy priorities. Key stakeholders may be working to advance other long-standing pro-immigrant policy goals—such as abolishing detention, eliminating collaboration between immigration authorities and local law enforcement, workers’ rights, or equal access to driver's licenses—and will want to gauge how and when to prioritize resources for universal representation without compromising momentum on other initiatives. Assessing the viability and timing of a universal representation campaign will depend on this broader understanding, something that will strengthen the effort by aligning interests from the start.

With few exceptions, building a grassroots effort led by those who are most impacted—in working toward any immigration policy goal—will help build power in the community and lay the groundwork for future campaigns. Advocates for universal representation can promote the critical importance of legal counsel while recognizing opportunities for collaboration with movements that also seek to foster due process and achieve other justice-related goals.

Because many political leaders on the local level have committed to protecting immigrant communities, it is important to think strategically and long term about how to make the most of opportunities to bring about broader change. Some advocates who have successfully demonstrated the harmful, inequitable, and often insurmountable repercussions of detention—on individuals, families, and communities—have made two demands: they have called for local funding for deportation defense and an end to local governments’ contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house detainees.[]Cindy Knoebel, “Detention Abolition & Universal Representation Share Common Goal,” IMM Print: A Project of Freedom for Immigrants, February 7, 2019, https://perma.cc/67GR-T826. These are complementary and important goals that are potentially difficult to achieve contemporaneously in the same jurisdiction.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma, local coalitions working toward each objective should maintain open dialogue with one another, commit to taking direction from those most directly impacted, have clear decision-making processes in place, and work to find areas of alignment. Consider framing universal representation not only as an end goal in and of itself, but also as an important short- or medium-term objective to help achieve the longer-term goal of ending detention. For example, because legal representation is so strongly associated with high court-appearance rates, a system of genuine universal representation may help significantly reduce or entirely eliminate the perceived need for immigration detention.[]Berberich and Siulc, Why Does Representation Matter?, 2018, 2.

Ultimately, it is best to coordinate the fights to abolish immigration detention and to guarantee universal representation at the local, state, and national levels. The collective struggle for immigrants’ rights should strive to honor and achieve the visions of both movements, resulting in the right to counsel for immigrants facing deportation and the end of detention altogether. Achieving these outcomes can help shape an immigration system that is grounded in values of fairness and human dignity. The shared goal is to end an unjust mass enforcement and incarceration system.

Identifying the best path forward in jurisdictions with intersecting campaigns for immigration reform

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