News & Views

The injustices facing immigrants and refugees – Washington Post Letter to the Editor

Regarding the Sept. 30 front-page article “Officials: ICE set to target ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions”:

Yet again, injustices facing immigrant communities have reached a tipping point. Immigrants have been confronted with the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic, decades of over-prosecution and over-criminalization and systemic racism compounded by politically motivated, ramped-up attacks on their safety and dignity. And now, escalating enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement means that more immigrants will be forced to navigate a complex legal system alone.

Unlike in criminal court proceedings, people facing deportation have no right to government-funded counsel. As a result, most defendants in immigration court — including 70 percent of people in detention — face steep odds. They’re also fighting for their lives as ICE continues to book thousands of immigrants into detention facilities with coronavirus outbreaks and deplorable health procedures. And release from detention is nearly impossible, even during this pandemic, without representation.   The devastating impacts of attacks on immigrants will outlast any federal administration. To keep communities safe and families together, local leaders should follow the lead of their peers in cities such as Philadelphia and Long Beach, Calif., and increase funding for deportation defense programs that provide a lifeline to immigrants and protect due process. They must send a message that amid heightened fear and enforcement, everyone in our communities will be protected.

Annie ChenNew York

The writer is director of the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Initiative at Vera Institute of Justice.