We envision a legal system where all immigrants in removal proceedings are entitled to fully exercise their due process rights and receive affordable legal representation.
Washington Immigrant Defense Network (WIDEN) provides funding and support services for lawyers representing low-income detained immigrants to increase the capacity and quality of available legal services. We work with attorneys who specialize in immigration, and we provide volunteer and training opportunities for non-immigration attorneys who want to help. We also offer volunteer opportunities to non-attorneys who want to help immigrants in need. By increasing the capacity and quality of legal services for detained immigrants, it will be possible to dramatically increase the range of services provided to detained immigrants.
WIDEN is a non-profit that provides support to immigration removal defense lawyers to expand the quantity and quality of legal services available to detained immigrants. Widen accomplishes this in two ways:
1. By raising money to help pay low-bono fees to immigration attorneys who would otherwise not be in a position to take a detained case.
With personal and professional resources stretched thin, WIDEN believes that this small measure of compensation will open the door to a dramatic increase in the number of attorneys who can take these critical cases.
2. By grouping Immigration attorneys with volunteers who want to help, but lack the specialized knowledge to help independently.
By providing non-specialists with guidance, we help increase the capacity of immigration attorneys by giving them volunteer hours to draw on, and we also work to train non-specialists, so they are better able to help now and in the future.
WIDEN’s services are designed to ensure that every immigrant in removal proceedings will one day receive legal representation.
In 2016, 37.6% of immigrants at Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) received legal representation. In 2017, the number of immigrants receiving representation dropped for the first time in a decade to 33.8%. After the first quarter of 2018, the number of represented immigrants at the NWDC has fallen further to 31.4%. The downward trend of represented detained immigrants is projected to worsen under President Trump’s Executive Order Number 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (Jan. 25, 2017) and subsequent orders. For example, EO 13768 eliminated existing priority lists for immigrant removal proceedings and dramatically reduced the availability of bonds to arrange release while in proceedings.
Immigration lawyers provide considerable pro bono services, but the complexity and cost of representing immigrants in removal proceedings make it infeasible to fulfill the increasing representation demands with traditional solutions. In order to increase the availability of services to detained immigrants, it is necessary to increase the capacity of experienced immigration lawyers.
The primary bottlenecks to increasing capacity to provide additional legal representation are experience, affordable support services, and the ability of detained immigrants to afford legal services.
The currently limited capacity of existing immigration defense providers to take more cases and the increasing numbers of detained immigrants coupled with the increased emphasis on rapid case processing is reaching crisis proportions. Additionally, while there is considerable interest from non-immigrations lawyers and non-lawyers who want to help with the problem, the highly specialized nature of immigration law makes it difficult for them to contribute without a structure or hands-on management.
As a result, it is necessary to seek out and implement innovative solutions to increase the capacity and quality of available legal services for detained immigrants.