A media outlet reports that a review of the Department of Justice’s legal education program organized by the department itself for immigrants found that the people who participated in that program are on an average staying for longer periods than those who didn’t participate in the program. However, Vera Institute of Justice stated that the review had methodological flaws that were insurmountable.
The bone of contention is the Legal Orientation Program, a DOJ program that makes basic information on relevant immigration cases available to the immigrants who are in detention. The DOJ’s Executive Office in charge of Immigration Review contracts with Vera Institute For Justice, a nonprofit to offer the stated services. Vera Institute has the ABA commission on immigration as one of its numerous subcontractors.
The DOJ in April stated that it planned to suspend the program so as to review the program in a bid to know how cost effective it is. However, there was a widespread outcry even from ABA commission against that move, and the department ended up recommencing the program. However, it didn’t hold back on the proposed review.
The review’s first set of findings were made available on the 5th of September. It revealed that those detained immigrants who participated in the LOP spent longer period in detention. It also showed that there was a reduced likelihood that they got lawyers. It found that there wasn’t a great variation in the outcomes, but those in the program slightly had more hearings than others on an average. In addition resolving their cases took more time.
However, Vera openly expressed dissatisfaction with the findings as well as the manner through which the conclusions were made. Vera released a statement on September 5th after the release of the study, and stated that it was getting different findings in the study it had conducted at the request of the DOJ.
The institute added that it would make the results of its study available to the department the week after, but the public hasn’t been made aware of their findings.
As noted in the statement, the Institute pitched its tent with LOP and also promises to keep safeguarding due process and justice for everyone. The statement further added that about 84 percent of immigrants do not have any form of legal representation whatsoever and the LOP is most times all the legal information the immigrants can access.
The authors of the Justice department study added a caveat to the effect that the missing and incomplete data complicated the review. They wrote that the EOIR worked with alternative methodologies to make up for missing data and that there were confident in the alternative methodologies. However they noted that including the missing data could have increased the robustness of the study and influence the conclusions.
About Legal Orientation Program
The Legal Orientation Program makes group sessions available to immigrants where they get to know about rights available to them. Also, there are brief sessions for individual immigrants where they get to ask questions.
The program also organizes workshops to help the immigrants on certain topics and refer them to pro Bono lawyers. In immigration courts, the immigrants have no right to counsel appointed by the court since immigration issues are not deemed to be criminal offenses. As such, the session made available by this program is just one of the only available opportunities where unrepresented immigrants can understand the effect of their choices. The LOP came into existence in 2003 during the Bush led administration.
A study carried out by the Department of Justice in 2012 revealed that the immigrants who participated in the program spent an average of six days less in detention. It also showed that they finalized their hearings twelve days faster than those who didn’t participate, and that helped the government save $17.8 million annually. This September 5th study, on the other hand, showed that the participants spent longer period in detention and that it cost the government about $3,100 for each person.
Authors of this new study criticized the former study adding that even thought the study had undergone different reviews, the study was conducted by just one employee who wasn’t a statistician. The employee was also the overseer of the program. The authors of this recent study noted that they were not provided with a detailed methodology that was used for the 2012 report data and so couldn’t replicate the study or the findings of the study. They concluded that the department of Justice no longer places reliance on the 2012 study’s robustness.