House to Consider Providing Immigration Detainees a Right to Legal Counsel

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House to Consider Providing Immigration Detainees a Right to Legal Counsel

Currently, if someone seeking to enter the U.S. is detained at a point-of-entry, he or she does not have the right to consult a lawyer. Under legislation being considered by the House of Representatives this week, that would change.

 

The House will be voting on The Access to Legal Counsel Act this week. Here is how VoteSpotter summarizes that bill:

 

To provide that anyone held or detained at a port of entry or a detention facility overseas with a right to see a lawyer or other person, such as a relative, within an hour after the inspection process begins.

 

This legislation does not provided a taxpayer-funded lawyer for a detainee, but does give that detainee a right to see a lawyer or a family member during the time they are being examined by immigration authorities.

 

The House is considering this bill in response to complaints by detainees at U.S. points-of-entry that immigration officials are not letting them see lawyers prior to them being denied entry into the country. They say that if lawyers could advise them of their legal rights, their situations may be different.

 

The Constitution provides that individuals in criminal cases can consult with attorneys. Immigration detention cases, however, do not involve criminal law. Those being detained currently have no right to see legal counsel. To obtain such a right, federal law must be changed with this type of legislation.

 

Those opposing the bill argue that allowing detainees to see legal counsel would slow the system down, overwhelming immigration agents and leading to a breakdown in the border crossing process.

 

The House of Representatives is likely to pass this bill, but the Senate is unlikely to consider it.

 

Do you think that individuals detained at U.S. points of entry should be able to talk to lawyers?

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