A Message from Judge Shira A. Scheindlin

Dear Volunteers,

For over twenty years, I served as a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Every day, I had the privilege of seeing a hallmark of our justice system unfold before me: the right to due process and a fair hearing.  It is a value about which we can be proudest as Americans. 

Sadly, however, hundreds of thousands of people pass through one corridor of our justice system without a fair hearing: in immigration court, there is no right to appointed counsel.  For detained immigrants, the problem is particularly acute: over 80% of immigrants detained pending removal proceedings are unrepresented, with little chance of successfully navigating the complex terrain of immigration law.  The criminal defendants who appeared before me would not have stood a fighting chance had they not had an attorney by their side. 

This is why I decided to launch the American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP) after leaving the bench—because counsel can make all the difference.  Represented immigrants are ten times more likely to prevail in their cases than those who lack representation.  With immigrant detention on the rise, AIRP seeks to recruit attorneys from the private bar to take on pro bono representation of detained immigrants—a population that receives pro bono counsel only 2% of the time. 

Together with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council, AIRP is a partner in the Immigration Justice Campaign. The Justice Campaign provides volunteers with top-notch training and mentorship from leading experts in the field. Through the Justice Campaign, volunteers have access to new, innovative resources to support their work, including: 

  • An online immigration training hub, with a host of training resources—from introductory webinars and CLEs to treatises, exemplars, and sample briefs;
  • An experienced removal defense attorney hired exclusively to answer inquiries from pro bono attorneys handling detained cases; and,
  • A group mentorship circle, where an experienced immigration attorney guides volunteers handling similar cases, and volunteers can learn from their peers.

There is much more to share about our program, which has been featured in articles like this one in The Nation and which has enjoyed the support of firms like Quinn Emanuel, Ballard Spahr, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Morrison & Foerster, Holwell Shuster, and Constantine Cannon among others.

We invite you to join us as we strive to bring justice and dignity to detained immigrants.

Sincerely yours,

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin

Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin (U.S.D.J. Ret.)

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