Vera Institute of Justice and National Partnership for New Americans: Gideon v. Wainwright Failed Its Promise

March 18, 2023

Michael Czaczkes

NEW YORK, NY —  Fairness to Freedom: The Campaign for Universal Representation, an initiative of the National Partnership for New Americans and the Vera Institute of Justice, issued the following statement in response to the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruled that states are required to provide defense attorneys to defendants in criminal proceedings who cannot afford lawyers themselves.

“In the 60 years since Gideon, the Supreme Court has upheld and greatly expanded the right to counsel to include children in juvenile delinquency proceedings, defendants facing misdemeanor charges, and adults at critical stages in criminal case processing or post-conviction proceedings who can't afford to pay for it themselves. However, this right is not yet afforded to people facing deportation in the immigration system, where the possible consequences are serious: detention, separation from family and community, and even death.

“Unlike in our criminal legal system, there is no public defender system for people in the U.S. immigration system. An estimated 80% of people fighting their cases from detention have not had representation. Even 60 years after Gideon, and even with the protection of Gideon, public defense in the criminal legal system falls short. We must learn from the mistakes in the criminal legal system and build public defense in the immigration system that combats the same systemic inequities that most severely impact immigrants with criminal convictions, poor immigrants, Black immigrants, and immigrants with mental health conditions. Establishing a federal defender system for immigrants is necessary now, and it’s imperative that this system learn from the limitations of Gideon. While we recognize Gideon v. Wainwright was a step in the right direction, we also recognize that it isn’t enough for immigrants facing the devastating consequences of deportation and recommit to working toward a more just system for all.”


Fairness to Freedom: The Campaign for Universal Representation was launched by the National Partnership for New Americans and the Vera Institute of Justice in April 2022 with a coalition of over 100 organizations, legal services providers. The campaign’s goal is to establish a federal right to representation for all immigrants facing deportation.