4

Jeff Sessions Reverses Course, Will Allow Legal Training for Detained Immigrants

Sessions says the DOJ won't suspend the Legal Orientation Program, which provides legal advice to detained immigrants.
Sessions says the DOJ won't suspend the Legal Orientation Program, which provides legal advice to detained immigrants.
Shutterstock.com/mark reinstein
^
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that the Department of Justice has changed its mind about suspending legal orientation trainings at immigration detention centers.

In operation since 2003, the Legal Orientation Program serves 53,000 people a year in 38 detention centers around the U.S., providing a legal crash course to detained immigrants who are going through court proceedings, most of whom do not have a lawyer, since counsel isn't supplied as it is traditionally under criminal law. For most detainees, it's the only legal information they receive before going into an immigration courtroom and advocating for themselves, including in deportation cases. 

The DOJ caused an uproar when it recently decided to suspend the program, drawing ire not just from nonprofits that administer the legal trainings but also critical comments from municipalities including the City of Denver and members of Congress such as Jared Polis.

But today, April 25, Sessions suddenly reversed course. The news came in comments he made before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

"I’d like to address one matter that I know is important to the committee: the Legal Orientation Program," Sessions said. "I have expressed some concerns about the program, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review has expressed its intent to pause two parts of the program pending the results of a formal review of the program. I recognize, however, that the committee has spoken on this matter, and, out of deference to the committee, I have ordered there be no pause while that review is conducted. I look forward to evaluating the findings and will be in communication with the committee when they are available."

Because the Legal Orientation Program had already been proven to save the DOJ $4 for every dollar it spends — since advising detainees streamlines the court process — Mekela Goehring, executive director of Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocacy Network, a nonprofit that trains immigrants in Colorado's only detention center in Aurora, had previously told Westword that the decision to end the program "flies in the face of common sense."

Today, after Sessions's comments, she added, "The near disappearance of the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) is a call to action for all of us who care about the rule of law and justice for immigrants in the United States. RMIAN is thrilled that the Department of Justice has reversed its decision and is now doing the right thing by allowing the Legal Orientation Program to continue. However, we know this battle is not over. RMIAN will continue to fight for the rights of our fellow community members ensnared in civil immigration detention in Colorado and ensure this vital lifeline continues well into the future."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.