Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, with a group of 21 senators, today called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to restart the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) after it was reported last week that the Department was temporarily suspending the Program. Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice, which manages the program through a contract, held information sessions for 53,000 immigrants in more than a dozen states across the country, including in Colorado at the Aurora Detention Center.
“The decision belies the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) stated goal of reducing the backlogs in our immigration courts,” the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Halting LOP and the ICH [Immigration Court Helpdesk Program] will severely undermine due process for people who are facing deportation but cannot afford an attorney. These include asylum seekers, families, and other vulnerable people who have extremely limited understanding of U.S. immigration law.”
A 2012 DOJ study found that detained immigrants who received advice from LOP completed their court proceedings more quickly, and therefore spent on average six days less in detainment than those who did not seek help from LOP. This yielded the government a net savings of more than $17.8 million annually.
A copy of the letter is available HERE.