The legal challenges faced by those accused of violating immigration law can provide a window into the larger challenges of immigration reform.

People detained for violations of immigration law are often left the navigate the legal system on their own. Writing in the New York Times, Ian Urbina and Catherine Rentz explain,

Fifty years ago, the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright required state courts to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants who could not afford lawyers. But people who are detained do not typically have lawyers because immigration law, unlike criminal law, does not provide a right to counsel. Immigrant detainees are allowed to hire lawyers, but more often than not, they cannot afford counsel or are shuffled through the system before they have a chance to find help.

This 2017 story from Latino USA explores the legal challenges faced by those that have been detained.

Reflection Questions

  1. Begin your reflection by taking the time to reflect in writing. You might use the see-feel-think-wonder routine to structure your thoughts.
  2. The detention is just one part of the system of immigration law and enforcement, take the time to map the larger system with the people, parts, and interactions thinking routine. You might also use the iceberg diagram strategy to develop an understanding of the relationship between the debates over legal representation for detained immigrants the larger discussions of immigration and immigration reform. 
  3. After mapping the system of immigration law and enforcement, try the who benefits thinking routine to reflect on the consequences of the current system.
  4. Changes to immigration policies and laws are often hotly debated. Discussion about these issues across media is often filled with polarizing language, misinformation, and prejudice. Yet, many people recognize the need for change. Consider using the people, system, and wedges routine to explore what change might look like as well as the challenges that might get in the way.
  5. To conclude the activity, use the three whys routine to help understand the significance of this story. 
  6. Another entry point to the larger story of immigration reform is what the Migration Policy Institute calls a Crisis within a Crisis: Immigration in the United States in a Time of COVID-19. Read more to understand how COVID-19 provides a window into immigration discussions in the U.S.

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