Judge Blocks DOJ Order to Restrict Legal Aid for Immigrants

May 18, 2017

A federal judge in Seattle has temporarily blocked a Justice Department order that called on a local immigrant-rights organization to stop some of its legal work. His ruling also applies to similar groups around the country.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones ruled Wednesday after oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by 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.

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