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Congresswoman Grace Meng

Representing the 6th District of New York

Meng Urges Attorney General to Continue Legal Orientation Program for Detained Foreign Nationals

Apr 11, 2018
Press Release
Congresswoman makes demand in letter to Jeff Sessions; also calls for answers if program is halted
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to continue the Legal Orientation Program, a Justice Department initiative that offers legal assistance to detained foreign nationals facing deportation.
 
In her correspondence, the Congresswoman also demanded answers should the program be suspended, asking Sessions for all documents and communications ahead of his planned testimony before Meng and other members of the Appropriations Committee on April 26th. 
 
“I am deeply troubled to see reports that the Department of Justice is planning to suspend this important program that has been critical to ensuring that detainees know their rights, and understand the immigration court process,” said Meng. “This decision is part of a larger pattern of attacks by this Administration on immigrant communities. According to the Justice Department, the Legal Orientation Program has been a success. Its own website highlights that the program has helped detained individuals, and that it has had positive effects on the immigration court process. Ending this critical program would be extremely misguided. I urge Attorney General Sessions to continue it.”
 
Reports about the suspension of the Legal Orientation Program first appeared last night.
 
Click here to view Meng’s letter to Attorney General Sessions. The text of the correspondence is below.
 
-------------------------------------------------------
 
April 11, 2018
 
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
 
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
 
According to reporting in yesterday’s Washington Post, “U.S. immigration courts will temporarily halt a program that offers legal assistance to detained foreign nationals facing deportation while it audits the program’s cost-effectiveness.” Respectfully, but forcefully, if foreign nationals continue to be deported then the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) should be continued as well.
 
I have heard rumors that you may allow LOP to lapse altogether at the end of this month. Again, I strenuously urge you to reconsider such a decision.
 
According to the Department’s own website: 1
 
“Experience has shown that the LOP has had positive effects on the immigration court process: detained individuals make wiser, more informed, decisions and are more likely to obtain representation; non-profit organizations reach a wider audience of people with minimal resources; and, cases are more likely to be completed faster, resulting in fewer court hearings and less time spent in detention.”
 
The evidence for the continuation of this program is clear in the agency’s own public statements. Should you choose not to fully reinstate LOP prior to your appearance before the House Appropriations Committee on April 26th, I ask that you provide my office the following no less than 72 hours before you testify:
 
  1. all documents and communications relating to the halting or eliminating of LOP;
     
  2. all existing analyses of the effectiveness of LOP;
     
  3. all communications between or among officials from the Department of Justice, and any other office or entity inside or outside of the government regarding the halting or elimination of LOP; and
     
  4. all documents, communications, and analyses relating to the impact that halting or eliminating LOP will have on detained foreign nationals.
     
    Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to discussing this with you in more detail on April 26th.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Grace Meng
    Member of Congress