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Women at detention center denied legal counsel

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Maryland immigrant rights activists likely reacted with dismay when they learned that several Central American women who were seeking asylum in the United States said they were denied their right to legal counsel when facing deportation. Legally, even if they receive a deportation order, immigrants are supposed to have the right to a lawyer in the United States.

The women making the claim were all housed at a detention center in Dilley, Texas. Once there, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was supposed to provide a legal rights presentation, but several say they did not receive it. One was taken there from her home in Atlanta after being told she had no right to legal counsel. Two were taken into a room at Dilley with other woman and told the same thing. Another one said that she only received the presentation after her lawyers got her a stay of deportation.

The issue of women and children coming from Central America to avoid drug and gang violence continues to be a problem. Senators are working on a bill that will provide government-funded lawyers for unaccompanied children as well as people fleeing torture and violence. There will also be centers opened in Central America where people can apply for asylum rather than having to make the trip to the United States.

Immigration law can change rapidly and be difficult to understand, and it is unlikely that people will know their rights or what avenues are available to them without the assistance of an attorney. This is not only the case for people seeking asylum. People who want to remain in the country for family reasons or who may have valuable job skills might also want to speak to an attorney about their options.

Source: Reuters, "Exclusive: Immigrants arrested in U.S. raids were misled on rights to counsel," Julia Edwards, Feb. 12, 2016

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