Securing Equal JusticeSupporting Immigrants

Legal Representation

People facing deportation can have a lot to lose. Many have lived here for years, some as legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens, and their families live here. More recent arrivals may fear returning to a country so dangerous they felt forced to flee. With all that’s at stake, the process of deciding their fate should be fair.

Our work with the federal government and with partner agencies across the country to reach immigrants in detention and educate them about the court process aims to make them better advocates for themselves and speed the process, sparing them prolonged confinement. Other programs provide pro bono legal representation to unaccompanied children and people with a mental illness.

Related Work

Implementing the Vision at the Local and State Level Summary

Advancing Universal Representation: A Toolkit for Advocates, Organizers, Legal Service Providers, and Policymakers

Universal representation—a public defender system for all immigrants facing deportation—is based on the fundamental belief that everyone deserves due process under the law. While a growing movement works toward a legally mandated and federally funded representation system, several counties, cities, and states have stepped up to fund deportation def ...

Publication
April 13, 2021
Publication

Immigrants Facing Deportation Do Not Have the Right to a Publicly Funded Attorney. Here's How to Change That.

Who would benefit from these legal defense services? Immigrants who are facing deportation but can’t afford an attorney would benefit from these legal defense services. Of the more than 1.25 million people with pending cases in the immigration court system, 500,000 lack representation. The lack of representation is particularly staggering for peopl ...

Blog Post
  • Erica Bryant
    Erica Bryant
February 09, 2021
Blog Post

A Federal Defender Service for Immigrants

Why We Need a Universal, Zealous, and Person-Centered Model

The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) recommends that the Biden administration draw from time-tested models, data, and knowledge to build a federally funded, universal legal defense service that provides universal, zealous, and person-centered defense to all immigrants. This federal defender service should be modeled on the criminal federal defender ...

Publication
  • Vera Institute of Justice
February 09, 2021
Publication

Building the Movement Summary

Advancing Universal Representation: A Toolkit for Advocates, Organizers, Legal Service Providers, and Policymakers

The movement for universal representation—the idea that every immigrant facing detention and deportation should have the right to a publicly funded lawyer if they cannot afford one—continues to gain significant momentum. As a result of local and state campaigns, more than 40 jurisdictions across the country now fund deportation defense programs. Wi ...

Publication
January 14, 2021
Publication

Rising to the Moment: Advancing the National Movement for Universal Representation

Years 1-3 of the SAFE Initiative

In 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice launched the Safety and Fairness for Everyone Network—now known as the SAFE Initiative or “SAFE”—to counter the fundamental and urgent injustices facing immigrants caught up in the nation’s immigration enforcement system. With roots in Vera's work for the past 15 years building the government-funded removal de ...

Publication
December 15, 2020
Publication