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County Organizations Condemn Montgomery State’s Attorney John McCarthy for Fighting Against Access to Justice

ROCKVILLE, MD – Half a dozen organizations gathered today outside the State’s Attorney’s office in Rockville, to condemn the state’s attorney for fighting to ensure that incarcerated immigrants are denied legal representation. The Montgomery County Council introduced a special appropriation bill that would have provided funding to CAIR Coalition to represent upwards of 90 detained Montgomery County residents in deportation proceedings.

Unlike the criminal justice system, immigrants fighting deportation are not provided with lawyers to help navigate our nation’s immigration courts. In New York City, providing lawyers to immigrants made them 1,100 percent more likely to win their case. In the Baltimore Immigration Court, which hears cases for Montgomery residents, only seven percent of detained immigrants without attorneys win their case.

Under the original compromise language, county residents would be disqualified for approximately 20 serious offenses. The State’s Attorney ballooned the list of offenses, tripling the total number of exclusions to over 60. Under the new proposal, CAIR Coalition would be prohibited from representing county residents with minor offenses, including traffic, property, financial, and substance abuse offenses, even if those residents were survivors of domestic violence or trafficking; or likely to be tortured or persecuted in their home countries if deported. These exclusions functionally cripple the program, preventing the CAIR Coalition from representing nearly 3/4ths of all potentially eligible county residents.

George Escobar, Senior Director of Services, CASA: “The Trump administration is engaged in a systemic campaign to criminalize and stigmatize the immigrant community to justify a record-breaking number of arrests, immigration raids, and separation of families. By undermining this special appropriation, the State’s Attorney is enabling the Administration’s destructive policies; exacerbating the criminalization of black and brown bodies; and failing to keep Montgomery County families together. We emphatically urge the State’s Attorney, as an officer of the court, to support the expansion of legal representation for county residents and their U.S. citizen families.”

Joanna Silver, MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition: “Our coalition, which represents ten different Montgomery County organizations and hundreds of Montgomery County residents, rejects the notion that some individuals are more worthy of due process and humane treatment than others. We are outraged that our county’s lead prosecutor, an elected official who is not a member of the County Council and has no expertise in law, declared by fiat his requirements, furthering the toxic narrative perpetuated by our President of immigrants as bad, undesirable, and irredeemable people. Our council members are now deferring to him, over the advice of immigration experts, including former immigration judges and attorneys who have argued against criminal exclusions. This is unacceptable.”

Nick Steiner, Equal Justice Works Fellow, ACLU of Maryland: “The State’s Attorney’s opinion about who should and should not get adequate representation in immigration court is dangerous given our country’s current climate of criminalizing a group of people for seeking a better life. The immigration system results in consequences that can be as devastating as the criminal justice system for the individual being deported, with most immigrants having no representation to speak of. Without a lawyer, only seven percent of detained immigrants win their case in Maryland’s immigration court, while having the help of a lawyer quadruples their chances of being able to stay home with their families. Due process in immigration court should not be handed out to those our State’s Attorney deems worthy before trial, it should be given to every detained immigrant from Montgomery County and is an opportunity for the County to show its commitment to our immigrant community and an impartial court system. ”

Lori Severens, DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, Montgomery County: “As people of faith, we cannot stand by and watch families being torn apart due to lack of legal representation. We fought for the special appropriation alongside many others because it offered immigrant families a chance to be treated fairly and stay together. But the unprecedented, crippling list of exclusions denies far too many families that opportunity.”

Katie Stauss, Takoma Park Mobilization: “As residents of Montgomery County concerned with being good neighbors and making our county a welcoming place, we are truly distressed that the State’s Attorney, elected to help uphold the law, does not think all people deserve lawyers. Lawyers help those in detention make a complete case for why their lives, their family ties, their economic contributions, their rehabilitation, and other factors make them legally eligible for deportation relief. Lawyers also protect detainees from abuse. We can’t understand why a jurisdiction like Montgomery County would want people who can’t afford lawyers to be hung out to dry.”

Previously, over 30 Montgomery County and Maryland organizations, including religious, civil rights, and grassroots groups issued a letter opposing the exclusion of county residents. Read the full letter here: http://bit.ly/MoCoOrgLetter