Detention of Immigrants

We must address the injustices of our immigration detention and deportation system.

Imagine you are a child fleeing violence, or seeking to reunify with your relatives in the United States. You are crossing the border when the US government arrests you. Despite your age, you are treated like a criminal, locked in detention, and separated from your family.Not only must you endure conditions that the federal government itself has found inhumane, but you must also defend yourself in immigration court alone because the United States does not recognize your right to a lawyer even if you cannot find one.

This is the reality that hundreds of thousands of adults and children face each day. It is the result of an immigration system designed to dehumanize and criminalize people, not welcome them with dignity.

The US immigration system is an arrest-to-deportation pipeline rooted in racism.

Our nation’s immigration laws were created and founded explicitly in racism and xenophobia. The past three decades have been marked by an ever-expanding immigration detention system, and an immigration enforcement regime that criminalizes people of color and funnels people from the criminal legal systems into detention and deportation. As a result, our immigration system serves as a form of “double punishment” for people who pass from one legal system to another, compounding the racial disparities and injustices in both.

Just as Black people are more likely than white people to be targeted by police, Black immigrants are also disproportionately vulnerable to immigration enforcement. And since one-in 10 Black people living in the United States are also immigrants, we’ve created an arrest-to-deportation pipeline that is ripping families apart and putting people’s lives in danger.

To end mass incarceration we must end the detention of immigrants.

Every adult and child facing immigrant detention and deportation should have legal representation

Unlike the criminal legal system, which guarantees the right to an appointed lawyer under the 6th Amendment,  there is no such right for people facing detention and deportation even though the stakes are just as high.

Among deportation cases that began in FY 2016 or later, 70 percent of people with detained cases were unrepresented. As of January 2022, there are more than 1.6 million pending deportation cases in the immigration court system alone, with more than 800,000 lacking legal representation.

Lawyers make a big difference. Studies show that immigrants with attorneys are 3.5 times more likely to be granted bond (enabling release from detention) and up to 10 times more likely to establish their right to remain in the United States than those without representation.

Achieving freedom and dignity for all.

But ending the detention of immigrants has never been more achievable. Vera is bringing its unique experience to build a federal defender program for people facing deportation to help end detention and ensure legal representation for all. Through our Advancing Universal Representation initiatives, we seek to end mandatory detention, shrink ICE’s budget, and make any closures of detention facilities permanent, while also establishing universal representation, or the right to a public defender for all people in deportation proceedings.

Key Facts

percentage of people in detention from 2016 or later who had no attorney.
number of pending cases in the immigration court system
the likelihood of immigrants with attorneys to establish their right to remain in the United States versus those without representation