Public Defense for Immigrants
August 14, 2019
Dear Sr. Mary Ann:
I have been thinking about you. With the help of the CHM community, we have raised over $300,000. With that money and contributions from the Denver Legal Fund and a couple of foundations, the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network now has the equivalent of six full-time lawyers providing individual representation to immigrants at the GEO private prison. While that is a substantial increase from the half-time lawyer when we started the fundraising effort, it is not enough to meet the need for legal representation for imprisoned immigrants.
Under the current federal government's policies, there are even more immigrants detained on a daily basis at the GEO facility and in the 280 private prisons scattered throughout the country. Nation-wide, there are now over 55,000 immigrants held in these prisons on a daily basis.
The only solution to this problem is to create a nation wide public defender program funded by the government like the system of legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. But to have a chance of creating such a system, we will have to establish a constitutional right for indigent detained immigrants similar to the one created by the U.S. Supreme Court for criminal defendants in Gideon v. Wainwright 56 years ago. Without establishing this constitutional right, the current federal government will not put in a dime. To that end, I spent some time last week putting together an information packet, which I sent to a very successful law firm in Washington, DC to see if they would undertake such a case. I had a brief conversation with the founder of this firm who expressed interest in this project, but in fairness to him I thought I should give him sufficient information for him to understand the difficult path it may be to get such a right recognized in this time in our history.
I am impressed how you have kept the passion for justice at the forefront of the CHM community's mission.