Immigrants have a right to counsel in immigration court, but that expense is borne by the noncitizen. Because deportation is classified as a civil rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants facing removal are not afforded the constitutional protections under the Sixth Amendment that are provided to criminal defendants. Whereas in the criminal justice system, all defendants facing even one day in jail are provided an attorney if they cannot afford one, immigrants facing deportation generally do not have that opportunity.

Detained immigrants, particularly those held in remote locations, face the additional obstacle of accessing counsel from behind bars. Yet, in every immigration case, the government is represented by a trained attorney who can argue for deportation, regardless of whether the immigrant is represented.

The fact that so few immigrants in deportation proceedings are represented by counsel is important because having an attorney is associated with successful immigration outcomes. The data show that immigrants with legal counsel were more likely to be released from detention, avoid being removed in absentia, and seek and obtain immigration relief.

Immigration court cases are extremely complicated. Navigating through the rules and procedures requires an expert in immigration litigation. If you want to understand what happens in immigration court, schedule a consultation with an attorney who has experience in deportation proceedings.