Originally published by The Washington Post
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council will consider special appropriations to fund legal representation for residents in immigration detention. The April 23 editorial “Keeping detained immigrants in the dark” rightly lauded this proposal. However, the editorial was wrong when it questioned whether it is sensible to fund legal representation for immigrants with criminal records. The good-vs.-bad immigrant narrative is a toxic and dangerous trap. “Liberty and justice for all” has no carve-outs.
Detained immigrants are a particularly vulnerable group. They are often housed in remote locations and face inhumane treatment in detention facilities. Nationally, only 20.6 percent of detained immigrants have counsel. The number lacking representation is likely to grow because of increased immigration enforcementand new Justice Department guidance that discourages court continuances so that immigrants can find counsel. Whether detained immigrants have counsel is often the determining factor in whether they fight their case, are released from detention and are deported.
The Montgomery County Council should pass the special appropriations and remove the criminal-conviction carve-out provision. In doing so, it will ensure that all detained immigrants have a fair shot to fight their case.
Nickole Miller, Baltimore