Launch of Program for Legal Representation of Detained Immigrants
Houston, TX (4/15/2022) — On Monday, April 18th, 2022, immigrant legal services providers, advocates and community members will hold a press conference to announce the launch of the Harris County Immigrant Legal Services Fund (ILSF), which will provide free legal representation for immigrant members of the county who are detained and facing the threat of deportation. As of February 2022, Harris County had the most residents with pending immigration court cases in the country.
Within Harris County, many immigrants and their families face the constant fear of arrest and deportation. The vast majority, even children, are not guaranteed an attorney to represent them in immigration court. Far too often, they must navigate the complex immigration legal maze alone, even though their lives and future are at stake. In Houston’s detention centers, 90% of people do not have a lawyer. The grave harm this imposes is immeasurable.
Damaris Gonzalez, the Immigration Rights Organizer with Texas Organizing Project (TOP) said: “Community members and the Houston Leads coalition have been demanding legal support for immigrant families for years. Black and Brown immigrants are more likely to be targeted, arrested, detained and deported at higher rates. This is why a program that provides free legal representation is critical.”
Legal representation ensures access to U.S. protection and can help prevent tragic family separation. Statistics show that people in detention are over ten times more likely to win their cases with a lawyer by their side in immigration court. For immigrant children, representation is even more impactful: they are 100 times more likely to succeed with a lawyer than without.
The long-term goal of the ILSF program is to create a system in immigration court where everyone who needs an attorney gets one: regardless of the strength of their case. With current funding, this program is first-come, first-serve. The organizations that will provide legal support are CHIRP, RAICES, KIND, Justice for all Immigrants, YMCA and Baker Ripley. Once the attorneys reach their maximum number of assigned cases, they may not be able to take on additional cases.
Community members can refer family members who are detained in a Houston-area immigration detention center to the program by calling 1-833-468-4664 (Monday- Friday, 9am to 5pm) or going online to the Community Portal at https://bit.ly/referILSF.
Elizabeth “Chiqui” Sanchez Kennedy, the Executive Director for the Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project (GHIRP), said, “GHIRP is thrilled to participate in Harris County’s ILSF program. This amazing initiative prioritizes access to due process and family unity for immigrant community members. Legal representation is a lifeline for individuals navigating the overly complex immigrant justice system, propelling clients to safety and stability.”
ILSF greatly appreciates the support of Harris County Judge and Commissioners to uphold its values grounded in community to protect the rights of its immigrant residents and neighbors, and its commitment to fair and affordable representation in legal proceedings that have life-altering impacts on families and communities.
What: ILSF Press Conference
Andrea Guttin, Legal Director, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC)
Damaris Gonzalez, Immigration Rights Organizer, Texas Organizing Project (TOP)
Elizabeth “Chiqui” Sanchez Kennedy, Executive Director, Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project (GHIRP)
Elba Huaman, Community Member
When: April 18th, 2022 at 11:30 am
Where: BakerRipley Gulfton Campus, 6500 Rookin St., Houston, TX 77074
Event Livestream: https://fb.me/e/6hGlUAbic