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02/14/2019 | Building an Immigrant Justice Initiative, Immigrant Rights - Creating Deportation Defense

New Toolkit to Advance Universal Representation for Immigrants

On December 15, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) published “Advancing Universal Representation: A Toolkit.” Immigrants in US court proceedings, who are often detained and face deportation, do not currently have the right to government-funded lawyers. Instead, they must navigate the notoriously complicated and ever-changing labyrinth of immigration law alone against a trained government attorney. The report highlights that universal representation—publicly funded legal counsel for all—is more urgent now than ever before. Expanding universal representation programs in communities across the country is crucial to upholding due process for all people at imminent risk of deportation.

CPD, NILC, and Vera are working in close coordination to expand the national movement for publicly funded universal representation. CPD and NILC provide strategic support to local and state advocacy campaigns. In 2017, Vera launched the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network in partnership with a diverse group of local jurisdictions, providing strategic support to government partners, legal service providers, and advocates. Collectively, CPD, NILC, and Vera also coordinate at a national level, creating resources and space for advocates advancing universal representation to share, strategize, and learn from one another.

This report is the first component of a three-part toolkit (Modules 2 and 3 forthcoming in 2019) informed by CPD, NILC, and Vera’s experiences advancing the universal representation movement. These experiences have been guided by the expertise of advocates, organizers, legal service providers, and policymakers across the country who have led publicly funded deportation defense efforts. The toolkit is intended to equip these same stakeholders with strategies to make the case for implementing and sustaining universal representation programs. Download the full toolkit on our website.