Legal Scholarship
 

Abstract

Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund. Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund. Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund. Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund. Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund. Eighty-four percent of immigrants appearing before immigration judges are unrepresented. Immigration judges are overwhelmed with the dual role of adjudicating cases and serving as counsel to pro se individuals appearing before them. In addition, due to the rising costs of retaining a lawyer, immigrants are turning to immigrant consultants. These incompetent and unscrupulous individuals are preying on vulnerable immigrants and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. In addressing unmet legal needs for immigrants, most advocacy efforts for immigrants regarding the acquisition of competent representation focus on persuading the courts that immigrants appearing before an immigration judge have a constitutional right to government-paid counsel. This tactic has repeatedly failed. This Article, however, explores an alternative strategy -- expanding immigrants’ access to qualified and trained nonlawyer representatives. Increasing access to these accredited representatives would provide immigrants with accurate counsel and advice about the availability of immigration relief; reduce backlog and delay in the immigration agencies; and ensure the individual has a competent advocate demanding fair adjudication of his or her application for immigration relief. In order to accomplish these objectives, the Article puts forth a federal legislative proposal on how to expand the current number of nonlawyer representatives so that every indigent immigrant in need of representation is guaranteed a government-funded representative; creates an interagency taskforce to investigate and federally prosecute individuals who are defrauding immigrants; and makes engaging in the unauthorized practice of law a federal crime. The proposal also provides a plan for funding this new initiative including establishing a dedicated immigrant victim rights fund.

Publication Date

9-1-2012

Journal Title

West Virginia Law Review

Document Type

Article

Additional Information

Abstract available from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2414009