Public defender coalition calls for immigration reform

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A coalition of public defenders from across the country, including Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, are demanding that the incoming Biden Administration take action on immigration reform.

"I can imagine many of my clients who are sitting over there facing a criminal case are very fearful of deportation based on if they get convicted," Campanelli said.

The Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice put forth a 10-point plan that includes calling for a one-year moratorium on deportations, pathways to lawful immigration status, ending immigration detention, defunding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
and a federally-funded universal representation program.

"Some individuals are able to find private attorneys depending on their financial resources, but it is difficult for a lot of them: Folks who haven't had much money to begin with, who don't have savings," said Hena Mansori, who is the attorney supervisor for the immigration unit at the Cook County Public Defender's Office.

Mary Meg McCarthy, the executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, said statistics show detained individuals with a lawyer are five times more likely to prevail in their case. NIJC provides a variety of services for immigrants including legal representation. McCarthy is hoping for policy changes with the next president.

"We have just seen unprecedented attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers the past four years and now is the time to have a really transformative vision of how our immigration system works and how we welcome individuals," she said.

Will Jones is a Race and Culture Reporter at WLS-TV.
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