For Immediate Release
Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Glenda M. Aldana Madrid, Staff Attorney, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Seattle, WA – Today, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Department of Justice from preventing the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project from providing legal assistance to unrepresented immigrants facing deportation. United States District Court Judge Richard A. Jones issued his ruling after hearing oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by NWIRP.
Nine days ago, NWIRP and partner Davis Wright Tremaine LLP filed NWIRP v. Sessions in district court. The suit challenges an order from the Department of Justice instructing NWIRP to “cease and desist” from providing limited services to unrepresented immigrants in deportation proceedings.
There is no right to a public defender or appointed counsel in immigration court. Consequently, the majority of people do not have attorneys to represent them in deportation proceedings. Given this grave need for legal representation and NWIRP’s inability to provide full representation to all who seek legal assistance, the cease and desist order threatened to preclude the a significant number of immigrants in deportation proceedings from receiving any legal assistance in their cases.
Judge Jones agreed that NWIRP was likely to succeed on the claim that the Department of Justice’s action would violate NWIRP’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, as it would limit their work-resulting in many immigrants having to face deportation proceeding without any legal help. He temporarily enjoined DOJ from enforcing its cease-and-desist order against NWIRP and from similarly targeting other nonprofit organizations around the country.
In response to the judge’s decision, NWIRP executive director Jorge L. Barón said, “We are pleased by today’s ruling from Judge Jones and pleased that he issued this temporary restraining order on a nationwide basis so other non-profit organizations can continue their work without the threat of being sanctioned.”
Oral arguments for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project were made by Davis Wright Tremaine lawyers Jaime Drozd Allen and James Harlan Corning. They stated that the DOJ’s regulation, which purportedly seeks to ensure that people receive ethical counsel, would actually make them more vulnerable to notario fraud.
“Immigrants will be deprived of legal services and they will have no place else to turn,” Corning said. “Of course the ideal would be to provide full representation to every immigrant in every setting . . . We don’t live in that world.”
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until the court rules on a motion for a preliminary injunction. The parties involved in the case are required to propose a briefing schedule for this motion within two days.