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Deportation Defense in George Just Got Harder

June 28, 2024 (1 min read)

Lautaro Grinspan, The Current, June 28, 2024

"People held in Georgia immigrant detention centers will soon face new challenges in their search for lawyers to represent them in immigration court, a development that will likely doom many people’s chances of fighting deportation.  Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal and advocacy group, announced it will be unwinding an initiative that has been providing legal assistance to detained migrants in Georgia since 2017. That run will end by fall. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, SPLC lawyers were the only providers of pro-bono legal representation at the immigration court inside Stewart Detention Center, a privately-run jail in the remote town of Lumpkin, near the Florida border.  Those SPLC staffers, whose team within the broader nonprofit was dubbed the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, also worked with detained migrants in Louisiana. Georgia and Louisiana are the two non-border states with the biggest populations of detained migrants nationwide. Most migrants in custody are recent border crossers apprehended by Border Patrol.  “It was a shock to get the news,” said Erin Argueta, a Lumpkin-based SIFI attorney. “I feel great sadness for my colleagues, and I also feel terrible for the people detained. Our number was the only one they could call that provides pro-bono, direct service representation. It’s devastating to know that overnight, that that resource, which was never enough, is gone.”  “It will leave a huge justice gap,” added Monica Whatley, senior project coordinator at SIFI."