There is no public defender for immigrants in immigration court. However, immigrants are allowed to hire a private or pro bono lawyer to represent them. Immigrants can also use other immigration legal resources for help.
In criminal court, there are public defenders, or rather, government-appointed counsel, to represent anyone facing criminal charges. But for immigrants in immigration court facing deportation, there are no public defenders. There are also no free lawyers appointed by the government for immigrants applying for immigration status for example through a family member.
That doesn\’t mean immigrants aren\’t allowed to have a lawyer represent them for immigration issues. Thee law allows immigrants to hire a private lawyer or work with a pro bono lawyer at a non-profit organization to represent them as long as it is at \”no expense to the government.\”
Using a Private Immigration Lawyer
If you can afford to pay for a private immigration lawyer, it is worth considering paying for a private immigration lawyer because most non-profit organizations providing free legal services to immigrants have long wait lists due to having limited resources.
If you hire a private immigration attorney you want to make sure that person is actually a licensed lawyer in good standing with a State Bar Association and that they maintain their license with continuing legal education. One of the best resources to check this information is through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) lawyer search. If the immigration attorney is a member of AILA, that is also a great way to check and make sure the person is actually a lawyer and not a notario fraud. To read more about notario fraud, click here. You can also check out the government’s list of lawyers who have been disciplined and make sure you do not work with a lawyer on that list.
Free or Low Cost Immigration Legal Help
There are several websites available where you can search for immigration legal assistance or immigration legal resources in your state or region.
- Immi.org – you can type in your zip code and search a network of over 1,000 nonprofits in English and Spanish for an organization near you that that can assist you for free or at a low cost
- The federal government also has a list of recognized organizations and accredited representatives and pro bono legal service providers that are listed by state
Free Online Immigration Legal Resources
If you are not able to pay for a lawyer or find a free lawyer to help you with immigration issues, you can still empower yourself with information through the many free immigration legal resources are that available online.
- Citizenshipworks.org is a free online service that helps you apply for citizenship. Citizenshipworks will tell you about any potential problems with your application and connect you to the help you need, either online or in person. The website will also tell you about what documents you need to submit and what to expect after you apply.
- Immi.org has a quiz that you can take to better understand your immigration options. According to the website, the quiz should take between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on your answers. At the end, you will receive personalized results that explain some of your immigration options. You can print these results to bring to a meeting that you have with a lawyer to make it easier and faster for them to help you.
- Learn about U.S. immigration law at the Immi.org Learning Center
- You can make a plan to help you and your family prepare in case you have an immigration problem. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center also offers a family preparedness plan.
- Inmigo app – a comprehensive resource providing up-to-date, relevant and need-to-know information for people working in the immigrant integration space; for community members to learn about immigration law and civil rights, access study materials to prepare and apply for citizenship, and connect to local nonprofit legal service providers
- Oportunidad app – information on legal resources, managing your finances, applying for health insurance, and registering to vote
- Women Step Forward – this website offers legal help and options for more information
- Resource on steps to take now to avoid losing custody of your children if you are detained by ICE– Amharic, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and French
- ACLU videos on what to do when interacting with ICE – you can view these in English, Spanish, Urdu, Arabic, Haitian Creole, Russian, Mandarin
- ACLU resource on what to do if immigration agents (ICE) are at your door and a version in Spanish
- Information about your rights if you have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Information about your rights if questioned about your immigration status
- Information about your rights at airports and other ports of entry into the U.S.
Other Ways Immigrants Can Get Help
In addition to immigration legal resources, there are many other types of resources out there that can help you develop more stability. For example, there are many great tools to organize your money and build wealth and books about personal finance.
By improving your personal finance knowledge and education, you can find ways to save more money to hire an immigration lawyer to help you with immigration issues. You will also be in a better position to be able to afford the fees to apply for immigration status or citizenship, if you are eligible.