Study: detained immigrants 5.5x more likely to prevail with lawyer

12/01/2015, Report, Immigration

A comprehensive study by UCLA Professor Ingrid Eagly and Steven Shafer of over 1 million immigration cases made some stunning findings on the lack of counsel in immigration cases and the dramatic impact of having a lawyer.  From the abstract:


This Article presents the results of the first national study of access to counsel in United States immigration courts. Drawing on an extensive data sample of over 1.2 million deportation cases decided between 2007 and 2012, we find that only 37% of immigrants overall, and a mere 14% of detained immigrants, secured representation. Nationwide, only 2% of removal respondents obtained pro bono representation from nonprofit organizations, law school clinics, or large law firm volunteer programs. Barriers to accessing counsel were particularly acute in immigration courts located in rural areas and small cities, where almost one-third of detained cases were adjudicated. Moreover, we find that immigrants with attorneys in immigration court do better: after controlling for numerous case and respondent characteristics that could affect case outcomes, our regression analysis reveals that the odds are 15 times greater that an immigrant with representation, as compared to one without, sought relief, and 5.5 times greater that they obtained relief from removal. In addition, we show that involvement of counsel was associated with certain gains in court efficiency: represented respondents did not use valuable court and detention time to seek counsel, they were more likely to be released from custody, and, once released, were more likely to appear at their future deportation hearings. This research provides an essential data-driven understanding of immigration representation that should inform current efforts to expand access to counsel, while improving court efficiencies.