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The New York Times
August 13, 2019

‘It’s Like an Automatic Deportation if You Don’t Have a Lawyer’
By Mazin Sidahmed

Immigrants like Carlos are not necessarily entitled to a lawyer in immigration court. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to counsel in criminal proceedings, but the government argues that the right does not extend to immigration courts, which are deemed civil despite the severity of the consequences being considered. In a 2014 CNN opinion article, a nationally prominent immigration judge, Dana Leigh Marks of San Francisco, said the drama of immigration cases “often involves life and death consequences,” making them “amount to death penalty cases heard in traffic court settings.” There are some exceptions. For example, the federal government must provide a lawyer to immigrants with mental disabilities. But a large majority of people, including children, are not entitled by law to have such representation. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, there are now more than 300,000 pending cases in which immigrants are unrepresented, which leaves them facing highly trained government attorneys alone as they navigate complex immigration law.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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