Under public and congressional pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program

April 25, 2018 – During testimony to the Senate Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would allow funding for the Legal Orientation Program to continue while the “efficiency audit” is ongoing. This is a relief to the agencies providing critical “know your rights” information to the more than 30,000 immigrants in 12 of Texas’ immigration detention centers. Sessions had previously announced that the program would end on May 1 while the audit took place.

The announcement means that the YMCA International Services will be allowed to continue its legal information program in the Houston area’s three detention centers, reaching more than 6,000 individuals per year. This program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for immigrants facing deportation in immigration detention centers, more than 80% of whom are without legal representation. Moreover, these programs improve the efficiency of the immigration court system and ultimately produce a net savings for taxpayers.

Nevertheless, the temporary cessation of LOP funding underscores the vulnerability of low-income immigrants, particularly those in detention and facing deportation.

Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative said,
While this is wonderful news today, we worry that we will be facing the same situation in the future if the DOJ’s audit does not support the continuation of the program. As a community, we need to recognize the importance of supporting programs that provide due process and information for immigrants facing deportation. The basic information provided by the LOP program should not hinge on a single funding stream, and the fact that this program could end anytime should motivate us to create additional programs and systems, such as our new Deportation Defense Houston project.

The Collaborative’s Deportation Defense Houston program will provide full representation to immigrants currently detained in the Houston region.

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