CCA Responds to Halt of LOP for Immigrants
Catholic Charities Atlanta Responds to the Halt of the Nation’s Legal Orientation Program for Immigrants
ATLANTA, GA (April 16, 2018) – Catholic Charities Atlanta (CCA), was recently informed that the Department of Justice has indefinitely paused the nation’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP). This takes effect with only 20 days’ notice, on April 30, 2018.
Since 2009, and with support from the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), CCA attorneys from its Immigration Legal Services program regularly present group legal orientation sessions to thousands of detainees every year at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA and Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA. This program is funded by the United States Department of Justice with the intent to improve the immigration court process. These legal orientation sessions provide comprehensive explanations about immigration court procedures along with other basic legal information to large groups of detained individuals.
CCA’s Immigration Legal Services Senior Director, Amy Haer, states that, “It was upsetting to learn that the Department of Justice is terminating the Legal Orientation Program with only 20 days’ notice. As an attorney who first worked with LOP close to a decade ago, I personally have seen the difference that this program makes in detainees’ lives. I am proud of the work that Catholic Charities Atlanta has done both at the Stewart Detention Center and Irwin County Detention Center over the years.”
A 2012 Cost Savings Analysis report conducted by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) “found that detained aliens’ participation in the LOP significantly reduced the length of their immigration court proceedings. On average detained aliens who participated in the LOP completed their detained immigration court proceedings an average of 12 days faster than those who did not participate in the LOP. After deducting the cost of providing LOP services for these participants, the provision of LOP services resulted in net savings to the government of more than $17.8 million.”
While detainees are entitled to an attorney in immigration court, the government does not provide one. According to Vera, “84% of detained individuals in removal proceedings receive no legal representation. The LOP fills a critical gap in this system by providing access to justice for thousands of individuals each year.”
Vanessa Russell, CCA’s CEO, comments that, “The LOP has provided an act of dignity to those in the deportation process by informing and educating them of the process and their options. This important work has allowed the detainee to work with their family in making more informed decisions about their immigration status and has allowed officials in the detention centers to close cases more quickly – a win for both parties.”
Catholic Charities Atlanta is just one of 18 agencies in 16 states that offers LOP to detained immigrants facing deportation. They are the only agency in the state of Georgia that participates in this program.
Catholic Charities Atlanta hopes that the government will quickly reinstate the LOP as well as revisit their new immigration policies and funding priorities that continue to threaten the human dignity of the poor and vulnerable. As Pope Francis said, “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”
About Catholic Charities Atlanta Catholic Charities Atlanta provides supportive services that enable families to overcome barriers and achieve self-sufficiency.
For more information about Catholic Charities, please visit https://catholiccharitiesatlanta.org or call 404.920.7759.