Officials praised program giving legal advice to immigrants that DOJ plans to suspend: report

Officials in the past praised a program offering free legal advice to detained immigrations that the Justice Department of Justice (DOJ) plans to temporarily halt for a review.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a government memo obtained by The Washington Post dated Nov. 30 called the Legal Orientation Program an effort to “assist all parties” in cases.

“Experience has shown that [Legal Orientation Program] attendees are positioned to make better informed decisions, are more likely to obtain legal representation, and complete their cases faster than detainees who have not” gone through the program, Tae Johnson, assistant director for custody management at ICE, said in the memo, according to the Post.

{mosads}The program, created under former President George W. Bush, is meant to make sure detained immigrants are aware of their legal options, according to the memo.

NPR reported earlier this month the Justice Department would temporarily halt the program. 

The department told the Vera Institute of Justice, the organization behind the Legal Orientation Program and the Immigration Court Helpdesk, that funding for the program will be suspended as the officials review its effectiveness. The contract for the program expires April 30.

More than 50,000 people use the program in dozens of ICE detention centers across the country, according to the institute.

The department last reviewed the program in 2012, finding that 94 percent of those detained who used the services on or before their first hearing spent 11 fewer days in detention and completed the proceeding 16 days faster than those who did not use the program.

The program costs about $6 million annually. The 2012 review found it creates a net savings of about $18 million for the federal government.

An immigration court spokesman defended the decision to review the program, saying the information ICE used in its memo was old, according to the Post.

The report comes amid a crackdown on immigration by the Trump administration. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Justice Department would set quotes for immigration judges and begin evaluating them on how quickly they close immigration cases.

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