Statement of ABA President Hilarie Bass re: DoJ’s suspension of Legal Orientation Program funding:
The American Bar Association is deeply disturbed that the Department of Justice has arbitrarily decided to abruptly suspend funding for programs that provide critical legal information and assistance to adults held in immigration detention centers around the country.
The Legal Orientation Program, whose funding will end on April 30, has a track record of effectively saving the government millions of dollars a year in immigration court and detention costs while providing due process and dignity to individuals involved in the immigration court system.
As part of the Legal Orientation Program, the ABA ProBAR program has provided information sessions and services to thousands of immigrant detainees at the Port Isabel Detention Center in South Texas since 2003 and through the Immigration Justice Project in San Diego, Calif., since 2008. Through orientations, workshops and other presentations, ABA staff members ensure that unrepresented detainees receive accurate and timely information about their legal rights, including their right to an interpreter, the right to present evidence in their cases and the right to appeal.
The Department of Justice suspended funding of these programs pending a cost-benefit analysis. Similar studies in the past have clearly demonstrated these programs are effective and save the taxpayers millions of dollars. Dismantling these valuable programs, even on a temporary basis, eviscerates due process and eliminates transparency and humanity in our immigration system. The American Bar Association calls on the Department of Justice to continue funding this important program at its current level and urges Congress to ensure appropriate funding as well.