The NQRP is the first program in the United States to provide appointed legal representation at the federal government's expense to a specific vulnerable population facing deportation. The NQRP was announced by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and DHS in April 2013, and coincided with Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, a class-action lawsuit seeking enhanced protections for detained immigrants with mental and developmental disabilities. In 2014, EOIR contracted with Vera to set up program services and to provide training, technical support, and program analysis.

Before the NQRP, detained, unrepresented immigrants with mental and developmental disabilities faced outcomes in their immigration proceedings that were often both unfair and inaccurate. These same immigrants were also at heightened risk for prolonged immigration detention, with some detained for years with no progress in immigration proceedings.

Moreover, the stakes of immigration proceedings for these immigrants are especially high—many have suffered persecution and torture in their home countries as a result of their mental disabilities, and most have no hope of receiving the treatment they need if they are deported. By affording a meaningful opportunity to be heard through highly-skilled Qualified Representatives (QRs), the NQRP works to secure equal justice for these immigrants while reducing inefficiencies in the Immigration Court system.

Vera contracts with legal services providers wherever NQRP services are needed. These legal service providers are typically non-profit organizations with significant experience advocating for detained immigrants. QRs have a diverse range of skills and experience that allow them to take a holistic approach to representing NQRP clients, including expertise in mental health law and practice; diverse language and cultural competence capacities; and expertise working with people with mental and developmental disabilities, women, and LGBTQ immigrants, and other specific populations.