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Seattle Non-Profit Group Sues to Continue Giving Immigrants Legal Help

A Seattle-based non-profit group is suing the Justice Department to block an order that requires the organization to stop providing immigrants with legal assistance. The Justice Department’s order, the group says, would force thousands of immigrants to go without legal assistance in their deportation cases.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), the group that challenged President Trump’s travel ban in court, filed suit on Monday in a Seattle federal court to block the order.

The group says the order violates its First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government.

The non-profit organization provides free legal representation to hundreds of immigrants facing deportation each year. The group also provides assistance with asylum applications and educates immigrants on their legal rights.

In fact, the organization was working on expanding its workshops just before the cease-and-desist letter was sent.

Raul Alvarez, development and communications coordinator at NWIRP, said in April that the group had “gotten dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of requests” for workshops. Since the presidential election, Alvarez has organized more than 60 workshops.

The “Know Your Rights” workshops are run by the NWIRP legal staff and are conducted in partnership with Perkins Cole, Microsoft’s Legal Department and volunteers from the community.

The Justice Department sent the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project a cease-and-desist letter last month, stating that the group cannot provide legal assistance without formal representation of a client. The department was referring to a 2008 rule, which was designed to curb attorney misconduct.

“By holding attorneys accountable for their conduct, this rule makes it possible for EOIR to impose disciplinary sanctions on attorneys who do not provide adequate representation to their clients,” said Jennifer J. Barnes, disciplinary counsel, in the cease-and-desist letter.

NWIRP met with the local immigration court’s administrator shortly after the rule was adopted. The group was able to meet the rule’s requirements by adding a notation to motions or applications tha the documents were prepared with the organization’s assistance.

The Department of Justice says the measure does not satisfy the rule’s requirements.

The group says the order “will deprive thousands of immigrants — including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children — of the chance to consult with a NWIRP lawyer to evaluate their potential claims for legal residence.”

Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said other immigrant rights groups provide similar services, but have not received a cease-and-desist letter.

“It’s simply mind-boggling to think this is the direction the government is going,” said Adams.

In the lawsuit, the NWIRP says the Department of Justice’s order gives the group “a Hobson’s choice: either NWIRP must commit to full legal representation of every immigrant in removal proceedings it presently assists (which is plainly impossible), or NWIRP must refrain from providing them any form of legal assistance – not even a brief consultation.”

The complaint filed by NWIRP says there are roughly 8,882 cases pending in the Tacoma and Seattle courts. The group is the primary provider of low-cost or free legal assistance to those who face deportation in Washington State.

“It’s hard to speculate on what is their motivation, but it certainly doesn’t conform to any sense of justice or fair play that you’re depriving literally thousands of people of any opportunity for legal assistance,” Adams told KING 5.

NWIRP was first established in 1984, with human rights groups and attorneys collaborating to provide legal assistance to those fleeing wars in Central America, Alvarez says. Since it first opened its doors, the non-profit has grown to serve more than 10,000 people from more than 135 countries. The group has 70 full-time staff members and over 350 volunteer attorneys.

A Seattle-based non-profit group is suing the Justice Department to block an order that requires the organization to stop providing immigrants with legal assistance. The Justice Department’s order, the group says, would force thousands of immigrants to go without legal assistance in their deportation cases.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), the group that challenged President Trump’s travel ban in court, filed suit on Monday in a Seattle federal court to block the order.

The group says the order violates its First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government.

The non-profit organization provides free legal representation to hundreds of immigrants facing deportation each year. The group also provides assistance with asylum applications and educates immigrants on their legal rights.

In fact, the organization was working on expanding its workshops just before the cease-and-desist letter was sent.

Raul Alvarez, development and communications coordinator at NWIRP, said in April that the group had “gotten dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of requests” for workshops. Since the presidential election, Alvarez has organized more than 60 workshops.

The “Know Your Rights” workshops are run by the NWIRP legal staff and are conducted in partnership with Perkins Cole, Microsoft’s Legal Department and volunteers from the community.

The Justice Department sent the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project a cease-and-desist letter last month, stating that the group cannot provide legal assistance without formal representation of a client. The department was referring to a 2008 rule, which was designed to curb attorney misconduct.

“By holding attorneys accountable for their conduct, this rule makes it possible for EOIR to impose disciplinary sanctions on attorneys who do not provide adequate representation to their clients,” said Jennifer J. Barnes, disciplinary counsel, in the cease-and-desist letter.

NWIRP met with the local immigration court’s administrator shortly after the rule was adopted. The group was able to meet the rule’s requirements by adding a notation to motions or applications tha the documents were prepared with the organization’s assistance.

The Department of Justice says the measure does not satisfy the rule’s requirements.

The group says the order “will deprive thousands of immigrants — including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children — of the chance to consult with a NWIRP lawyer to evaluate their potential claims for legal residence.”

Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said other immigrant rights groups provide similar services, but have not received a cease-and-desist letter.

“It’s simply mind-boggling to think this is the direction the government is going,” said Adams.

In the lawsuit, the NWIRP says the Department of Justice’s order gives the group “a Hobson’s choice: either NWIRP must commit to full legal representation of every immigrant in removal proceedings it presently assists (which is plainly impossible), or NWIRP must refrain from providing them any form of legal assistance – not even a brief consultation.”

The complaint filed by NWIRP says there are roughly 8,882 cases pending in the Tacoma and Seattle courts. The group is the primary provider of low-cost or free legal assistance to those who face deportation in Washington State.

“It’s hard to speculate on what is their motivation, but it certainly doesn’t conform to any sense of justice or fair play that you’re depriving literally thousands of people of any opportunity for legal assistance,” Adams told KING 5.

NWIRP was first established in 1984, with human rights groups and attorneys collaborating to provide legal assistance to those fleeing wars in Central America, Alvarez says. Since it first opened its doors, the non-profit has grown to serve more than 10,000 people from more than 135 countries. The group has 70 full-time staff members and over 350 volunteer attorneys.

 

About The Author
Jacob Maslow The senior editor of Legal Scoops, Jacob Maslow, has founded several online newspapers including Daily Forex Report and Conservative Free Press. He also works as an Online Marketing Consultant providing web marketing services.