Pramila Jayapal, other lawmakers introduce Fairness to Freedom Act

This legislation establishes the right to legal representation for individuals facing removal from the United States who are unable to afford it. 

Washington, D.C: Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), and Grace Meng (NY-06), and, along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Cory Booker (NJ), introduced the Fairness to Freedom Act. This bicameral legislation establishes the right to legal representation for individuals facing removal from the United States who are unable to afford it. 

This historic piece of legislation is endorsed by over 170 groups and co-sponsored by Reps. James P. McGovern (MA-02), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Greg Casar (TX-35), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), and Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) in the House and Sens. Alex Padilla (CA), Edward J. Markey (MA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Jeff Merkley (OR) in the Senate. 

Unlike in the criminal legal system, people facing removal proceedings in the US do not have a right to legal representation if they are unable to afford it. As a result, most immigrants who are unable to afford a lawyer must represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Over 1 million people, including both adults and children, are currently facing deportation in immigration court without legal representation, while many more are removed without representation in summary proceedings that take place outside of the courtroom. 

“It is plain wrong that every day, noncitizens with limited English proficiency and little or no knowledge of America’s complex immigration system are forced to defend themselves against removal proceedings without legal representation. The consequences of these proceedings can be devastating, separating people from their children, families, and communities in the United States,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres.  

“Immigrants have always been an integral part of New York, contributing to the growth and strength of our state,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “However, they are being deprived of the fundamental right to due process, basic fairness and human dignity. That’s why I’m proud to champion the Fairness to Freedom Act.” 

“The Fairness to Freedom Act is important and necessary legislation that will improve our broken immigration system by ensuring legal representation for immigrants facing deportation,” said Senator Cory Booker. “All people, regardless of their immigration status, should have the right to our nation’s foundational principles: fairness and due process under the law. I am proud to join my colleagues on this bill that would ensure no person is left to navigate the complexities of immigration court proceedings without legal representation.” 

“America is and always has been a nation of immigrants, and sadly we have been letting our immigrant communities down,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng.  

“Immigration removal has life altering consequences but because they are civil in nature individuals are currently not entitled to an attorney,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement. “Due process and the right to an attorney are fundamental cornerstones of our legal system – and should be for all who have cases before it. By ensuring that all immigrants are able to access universal representation, we can take a major step toward restoring fairness, dignity, and justice to immigration proceedings.” 

Image courtesy of thesatimes

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