Letter to Vice President Biden from APBCo
Dear Mr. Vice President:
I write on behalf of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (“APBCo”), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and several leading legal services organizations with which our law firms work to provide pro bono representation to children and families in immigration proceedings.
Last month, in a meeting at the White House, you appealed to law firms, bar associations and non-profit legal service providers to step up their efforts to represent children and families seeking asylum or other relief after being taken into custody along the United States/Mexico border. Your call for “trained lawyers” to increase legal representation in asylum and other immigration proceedings provides key leadership on one of the most critical challenges relating to the children seeking protection at our borders. We are writing to offer recommendations for what the Administration can do to help facilitate legal representation for these children and families.
For many years, our non-profit legal and pro bono organizations have partnered with the nation’s leading law firms to provide pro bono representation to asylum seekers and other immigrants in their immigration proceedings. Additionally, in recent years, we have been working hard to provide representation to unaccompanied immigrant children trying to navigate the complexities of our legal system. Many of us now are striving to significantly expand our efforts to provide pro bono legal representation for immigrant children and families who lack counsel to help them navigate our asylum, immigration and family court proceedings. One of our organizations, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, consists of the pro bono leaders of many of the nation’s leading law firms. We wholeheartedly agree with you that counsel makes a difference and that the government has a role to ensure that representation is effective.
Your request of us cannot be achieved, however, if the federal government (including the Department of Homeland Security and the immigration courts) does not address unnecessary barriers that impede pro bono lawyers’ ability to provide effective and efficient counsel to these populations. In order to realize our mutual goal, we urge the Administration to consider the impact of a number of policies and practices that are currently impeding access to counsel and making it more difficult for the U.S. legal community to answer your call to provide pro bono legal services. We suggest that the following steps should be taken: