In Defense of Deportation Defense

Michael Kagan
Date of Publication: 
November, 2022
Source Organization: 

Recent years have seen a growing momentum toward greater public funding for legal defense of immigrants fighting deportation. Yet, some recent scholarship argues that government-funded deportation defense carries the risk of legitimizing and entrenching an immigration enforcement system that should simply be abolished. As a result, some immigrant rights advocates are hesitating to support deportation defense. This essay argues that such hesitation would be a mistake. Of the 296,788 new deportation cases started in U.S. Immigration Courts in fiscal year 2021, the respondents in 80 percent — 237,672 people — had no lawyer. Data shows that lack of representation increases the likelihood of deportation. Legal defense is the most feasible means available right now to stop many deportations, and expanding deportation defense resources will strengthen the immigrant rights movement locally and nationally. Expanding deportation defense, according to the authors, should be a high priority for local and national immigrant rights advocates over the short- and medium-term future. Although “abolition” of ICE may occur at some point in the distant future, the author contends that the country has to respond to the present reality.

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Kagan, M. (2022, November). In Defense of Deportation Defense. Social Science Research Network.