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national qualified representative program

A Case for a Public Defender Model

ImmDef’s Adult Representation Project (ARP) represents immigrants in detention who are entitled to court-appointed counsel because of serious mental disorders that render them unable to represent themselves. This model of court-appointed counsel in immigration court is possible thanks to Franco v Holder, a class action lawsuit and settlement. 

This settlement was the first time any U.S. court ruled that a group of immigrants is entitled to government-funded legal representation. It is an important first step toward the goal that ImmDef and other  immigrant rights organizations have been working toward for years: a public defender model of representation in immigration court that guarantees everyone facing an immigration judge receives an attorney to represent them.

Adults with mental health issues are among the most vulnerable immigrants because they often cannot understand, let alone defend themselves in, their deportation hearings.

Our team zealously advocates on behalf of our clients while they are imprisoned in remote federal facilities. We continue to represent them once they are released to their families or guardians in their local communities.


Due to the complex criminal and immigration issues which often come up in the representation of people with mental health issues, it is notable that ImmDef has on staff former public defenders with significant expertise in the cross-section between criminal and immigration law. ImmDef’s expertise in dealing with complex criminal issues further allows us to efficiently and effectively manage our clients’ cases while detained, and to advocate for bond or relief even in cases with significant criminal histories. We also have a strong relationship with our local public defender offices, which can be extremely helpful in streamlining the process to timely obtain criminal records for our detained cases.

ImmDef employs a full-time case management associate tasked with linking our clients to social services resources and providing triage in times of crisis. Our case management associate is responsible for maintaining relationships with community-based providers, putting together release plans, and connecting our non-detained clients with services.



ImmDef's NQRP team stays in communication with the client’s relatives and/or friends who can support the client with following up with their treatment services.  The case management associate follows up with the relatives and the community-based services when necessary. Finally, for our clients who lack family support and who are transient, we have allowed an open-door, drop-in policy, which has allowed us to maintain constant contact with the client and ensure that they are getting the services they need.

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