NWIRP v. Sessions


There is no right to an attorney in immigration court.

This means that for people facing the threat of deportation, they either have to somehow pay for an attorney out of their own pocket, or hope there is an organization that can help them.

That’s where NWIRP comes in.

While everyone at NWIRP wishes we could provide full legal representation to every community member facing deportation, given our limited capacity we can only fully represent a certain number of cases.

Therefore, for over thirty years, we have been trying to meet this community’s overwhelming need for legal assistance by providing community presentations, workshops, and individual consultations to help people learn their rights and identify what defenses against deportation are available to them. Just last year, we screened over one thousand people with pending deportation cases and over six hundred cases of people seeking to apply for asylum.

For the cases we can’t take on ourselves, we help in various meaningful ways: we help community members fill out applications, we help them file motions, and we provide some advice on how they can move on with their cases.

But recently, this important work was threatened.

On April 12th we received a letter from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), directed to Legal Director Matt Adams. The letter ordered us to “cease and desist” providing legal assistance to people facing deportation unless we submitted a formal notice of appearance in each case.

But submitting a notice of appearance is practically impossible for us to do. That’s because in immigration court, filing a notice of appearance means you have to take on that person’s entire case as their attorney throughout their deportation proceedings.

We don’t have the capacity to do that.

Therefore, in order to abide by the letter as presented by the EOIR, we have two options: take on thousands of cases we don’t have the capacity for, or stop providing ANY assistance to people which crosses the line into legal advice. Both options mean people facing the terrifying threat of deportation no longer are getting any help. We won’t stand for that.

That’s why we’ve filed a lawsuit challenging this order in federal court.

Our lawsuit, filed with the help of Davis Wright Tremaine, asserts that this order violates our constitutional right to free speech, impeding our ability to promote and defend the rights of immigrants in Washington State. In addition, our suit charges that the regulation the EOIR claims we are violating unlawfully interferes with the authority of Washington State to regulate the conduct of how attorneys in the state provide legal services.


Update: 5/17/2017

In the first hearing in this case, a federal court judge ruled in our favor, temporarily blocking the government’s attempt to stop us from providing help to unrepresented immigrants facing deportation.

Not only did the judge rule in our favor, he also applied the temporary restraining order NATIONWIDE so that non-profit organizations that help immigrants throughout the country can continue their work without risking sanctions from the government.

We are so grateful for the partnership of so many who make it possible for us to defend and advance the rights of immigrants at this pivotal time.


Update: 6/08/2017

On June 8, 2017, we filed a motion seeking to extend the judge’s temporary restraining order for the duration of this case—that is, requesting that the judge block the government from attempting to stop us from providing help to unrepresented immigrants in deportation proceedings until he issues a final ruling on the merits of our claims. We requested that the judge’s order continue to have a nationwide effect so that other organizations may benefit as well.

Our motion was accompanied by supporting declarations from 20 groups across the country whose assistance to immigrants is also threatened by the government’s actions, 12 law firms that partner with such organizations in that valuable work, and the mayor of Seattle, Edward B. Murray. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality filed amicus briefs in support of our motion.

The government has until 6/26 to file their opposition to our motion. The court has set oral argument on the motion for 7/24 at 9 a.m.

Read our motion for a preliminary injunction.

Read the supporting amicus briefs.

Read the supporting declarations: part one, part two, part three


Update: 6/30/2017

On June 24th, the government filed its opposition to NWIRP’s motion for a preliminary injunction. On June 30, NWIRP filed its reply in support.

Read the government’s opposition to our motion for preliminary injunction here.

Read the government’s supporting declarations here.

Read our reply in support here.


Update: 7/24/2017

On July 24th, Federal court judge Richard A. Jones granted our request for a preliminary injunction against the Department of Justice, allowing NWIRP and other non-profit legal providers throughout the country to continue providing legal assistance to unrepresented immigrants facing deportation. Oral arguments for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project were made by Davis Wright Tremaine lawyers Jaime Drozd Allen and James Harlan Corning. Preliminary injunction will remain in effect while the case continues to be litigated.

Update: 7/30/2017

Judge Richard A. Jones’ written ruling is available at this link.