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Trump And Sessions Want to Take Away Help for Immigrants Facing Deportation, as Seattle DOJ Case Shows

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If there’s any doubt that the Trump Administration wants to deport as many immigrants as possible, check out what’s happening in Seattle, where the Justice Department has ordered an immigrant rights organization to stop some of its legal work providing help for immigrants facing deportation. For now, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the order.

Judge rules in favor of pro-immigrant group against DOJ

Here’s more from the Seattle Times about the ongoing court case between the DOJ and the nonprofit Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP):

In a letter last month, the Justice Department told the group it must “cease and desist” providing certain legal assistance to immigrants unless it undertakes full representation of them in court.

Jones on Wednesday said the immigrant-rights group showed it would be immediately and irreparably harmed by the government’s action. The cease-and-desist order also would violate the organization’s constitutional rights, including to free speech, the judge ruled.

Most of the work of immigrant-rights group is its representation of clients, according to legal director Matt Adams. But it also offers lesser help, including preparing documents, to those representing themselves.

The group says it doesn’t have the resources to represent everyone, and the order would leave thousands of people a year without any help at all. People facing deportation are not entitled to an attorney the way criminal defendants are.

Is lawsuit a case of DOJ retaliation?

A major question that both the judge and NWIRP tried to have answered involves why the government wants NWIRP to stop its legal assistance work. The Department of Justice claims that it wants to protect immigrants from receiving bad legal advice — but could not prove that NWIRP is a source of that. NWIRP believes that the DOJ may be retaliating against the group for resistance work it’s done — which may be possible, considering Trump’s famously thin skin (remember, he tried to retaliate against “sanctuary cities” for protecting immigrants). From the Seattle Times:

In oral arguments, government attorney Victor Mercado-Santana said the regulation requiring attorneys to file a formal notice of representation before offering “advice and additional assistance” is intended to hold them accountable for misconduct and combat fraud by unlicensed legal practitioners.

But Jones repeatedly expressed skepticism. Did the government have any evidence that Northwest Immigrant Rights Project was providing poor representation or was deficient in any way at all?

“At this moment, I don’t have any information regarding that,” Mercado-Santana said. […]

During a court recess, the executive director Jorge Barón said his group has some of the same questions as the judge: “Why after all these years? “Why now?

He noted that both Seattle and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project have gotten a lot of attention in recent months for their support of immigrants and resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. Barón and other attorneys with the group, for instance, went to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after Trump issued his first travel ban and were instrumental in stopping immigrants from being turned away. The organization also filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the first and second travel bans, and has held countless “know your rights” presentations.

The government’s cease-and-desist order, Barón said, “gives us concern that this could be retaliation for those activities.”

Trump attacking help for immigrants facing deportation

While the judge’s ruling on this case in good news, the fact that the federal government is pursuing this lawsuit at all is troubling. Many immigrants facing deportation don’t have the resources to hire legal representation, so groups like NWIRP step in to help. Furthermore, on the Congressional side, ICE has announced that it will no longer issue stays of removal for undocumented immigrants named in private bills — and Republican legislation this week aims to restrict lawmakers’ ability to influence individual immigration cases altogether.

It really makes you wonder why the Trump Administration (and its Congressional enablers) seem to be so against the idea of legal assistance and other aid for immigrants facing deportation. If the Administration truly believed that it’s deporting “bad hombres”, as it keeps claiming, shouldn’t it have confidence that other parties reviewing these cases will agree?

Of course, the reality is that the Trump Administration is not focusing on “bad hombres” at all, but rather is deporting thousands of mothers, fathers, and community members who don’t deserve to be removed. This DOJ case and the attack on private bills makes it clear that the Trump Administration wants to deport as many immigrants as possible, and they don’t want anyone — advocates, lawyers, or members of Congress — standing in the way.