DOJ freezes money for immigrant legal aid and resources


The U.S. Department of Justice just cut off tax money used to give legal advice to people in the country illegally. 

If someone in the United States illegally is arrested in Central Texas, they’ll be detained and processed through the court in San Antonio. Right now there are 27,000, according to Syracuse University. Around half don’t have a lawyer.

The DOJ froze funds for free basic legal advice.

“You can over-lawyer something and effectively prevent it from ever happening,” said Mark Pulliam, a conservative legal blogger in Austin.

Pulliam believes the services should still be available but only if nonprofits or lawyers foot the bill themselves. 

“But to make that a responsibility of the American taxpayer to defend the very people who have broken the laws to get here, to me, is ridiculous,” said Pulliam.

It’s one of many changes from Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the desired outcome of more and faster deportations for people here illegally. 

Since 2006, American Gateways used the money for legal workshops and orientations in the detention facility, as well as a help desk in the court.

One of the group’s attorneys, Robert Painter, just found out the contract is frozen. 

“Detainees and respondents before the court have basic due process rights under the constitution, irrespective of their nationality,” said Painter.

He thinks the program was crucial, “to help them get information about what was going on, because for a lot of people the immigration system is complex,” said Painter.

Legal groups like his will now search for outside money. 

Attorney General Sessions says last year more than 100 immigration judges were added to our southern border. He says the Justice Department is working with DHS to deploy more judges electronically and by video-teleconference to handle more cases. 

Sessions also set a goal for immigration judges to process at least 700 deportation cases a year. 

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