Human Rights First Partners with Dechert LLP, Aldea PJC to Provide Representation to Refugee Families Detained in Pennsylvania

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today announced that it will partner with Dechert LLP and Aldea – The People’s Justice Center to provide free legal representation to refugee families detained at Berks County Residential Facility, a family detention facility in Pennsylvania.

“Human Rights First has provided free legal representation to people seeking protection in the United States for decades. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s assault on the asylum system has made this assistance more necessary now than ever. We are excited to pair our expertise with the help of Dechert and Aldea PJC to aid vulnerable families who are languishing behind bars,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Barnard.

The initiative at Berks is part of Human Rights First’s Freedom for Detained Refugees Project, in which the organization will: partner with law firms across the country to provide pro bono representation to detained asylum seekers; challenge the Trump Administration’s detention policies in court; and, press Congress to conduct oversight and protect refugee families from incarceration.

“Ensuring access to justice for all has always been a cornerstone of Dechert’s pro bono program. Dechert is eager to join forces with our community partners, Aldea PJC and Human Rights First, in helping detained immigrant families navigate the complexities of the immigration system. Our attorneys will provide high quality legal advice, pro bono, so that families can pass their interviews and be released from detention,” said Paul S. Lee, pro bono counsel at Dechert LLP.

Last month, in response to the public backlash against President Trump’s family separation policy, his administration announced that it would expand the use of indefinite detention of refugee families rather than separate them at the border. This announcement came despite mounting evidence that shows that detention, even for limited periods of time, is harmful to the health and development of children.

The Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, which has been in operation for more than 15 years, is one of three family immigration detention centers where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains families.

“For years, volunteer attorneys and advocates with Aldea PJC have offered pro bono representation to families detained at Berks, filling a void in accessible legal representation to families detained in Pennsylvania. We welcome this collaboration between Aldea PJC, Human Rights First, and Dechert, which will provide every family with better access to the resources needed to face the increasing obstacles for immigrants seeking asylum protection,” said Bridget Cambria of Aldea PJC. “The federal government has stated a desire to increase the detention of families. The State of Pennsylvania has not indicated that it will stop Berks County from detaining children or expanding the facility. Aldea PJC, Human Rights First and Dechert are ready to step up to meet the needs of immigrant families affected by these unnecessary detentions.”

Human Rights First notes that detention of asylum seekers is wholly unnecessary to promote court appearance rates. The organization’s reporting shows that immigrants appear for their immigration court hearings at high rates, particularly when they have legal representation, case management support, and accurate information related to the court process. Families and children with legal counsel are in compliance nearly one hundred percent of the time. Data shows, for example, that 98 percent of  children in immigration proceedings whose cases initiated in 2014 and who had obtained counsel were in full compliance with their court appearance obligations as of December 2017.


Published on July 24, 2018


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