Dems want detained immigrants to be informed of their legal rights

Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) have proposed a bill that would require U.S. officials to ensure that immigrants who are detained are made fully aware of their legal rights.

The Immigrant Detainee Legal Rights Act, H.R. 3914, establishes an Office of Legal Access Programs, which would educate illegal immigrants about their rights. The program would also help detained immigrants make "informed and timely decisions regarding their removal and eligibility for relief from removal."

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The bill and its sponsors say this would increase efficiency and reduce the costs associated with immigration proceedings.

"Far too often immigrants are taken into court with no understanding of why they are there or what is happening," Foster said Thursday. "Not only is this an egregious violation of a person's most basic rights, it is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars when courts are not able to proceed.

"Providing information on legal rights is fundamental to our Democracy and should not be optional."

Deutch added that it makes "no sense that immigrant detainees have certain rights guaranteed under U.S. law and yet there is no mandate for detention centers to actually inform individuals of those rights."

Foster and Deutch said only 25 detention centers provide any legal orientation programs for detainees. The bill would require the U.S. Attorney General to develop a plan for making sure all of these centers have legal orientation programs.

Those programs would have to make sure that information about legal rights is presented in English and the five most common native languages spoken by the detainees.

Under the bill, the secretary of Homeland Security would have to ensure that legal orientation programs are available to all detained aliens within five days after they are detained. Officials would also have to inform detainees of the basic procedures of an immigration hearing, and their rights in those hearings.