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Cook County PDs to Provide Representation in Immigration Court

September 16, 2021 (1 min read)

Mauricio Peña, Block Club Chicago, Sept. 15, 2021

"The Cook County Public Defender’s Office soon can represent non-citizens in court regardless of immigration status, a victory for advocates who have fought for more legal representation in deportation proceedings.  Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle joined other officials and immigrant rights organizers Tuesday to celebrate the signing of the Defenders For All Act, which Gov. JB Pritzker signed last month.  The Defenders for All coalition — a group of more than 40 organizations and community groups — pushed for the law and a new immigration unit within the Public Defender’s office dedicated to these cases.  Cook County is the third jurisdiction, after San Francisco and Alameda County, California, to offer representation to immigrants facing deportation. The law moves Cook County closer to creating a more “welcoming place for everyone to call home,” Preckwinkle said.  Public Defender Sharone Mitchell said the law allowed the office to respond to the needs and concerns of Chicago’s immigrant communities. It goes into effect in January.  “We know individuals who go to immigration court without a lawyer are far more likely to get a worse outcome. Not because of some fact in their case, but solely because they don’t have a lawyer…We want to change that,” Mitchell said. ... Around 70 percent of people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody do not have lawyers and are forced to defend themselves against experienced attorneys, said Hena Mansori, who will lead the public defender’s immigration unit.  This new law aims to “even the playing field” by taking on these cases and “hopefully improving the system for all,” Mansori said."